Montalbano benefit to be held Saturday at Cuba youth games

Christine Yearwood
Republican Staff

CUBA — Ethan Montalbano, 8, son of Jake and Rebecca Montalbano of Cuba, was diagnosed with Leukemia in April of 2019. 

This Saturday, March 19, beginning at 9 a.m., Cuba Youth Town League Basketball (CYTLB) will hold a fundraiser to raise money for his medical expenses. There will be homemade baked goods for sale, a silent auction and a percentage of the concession sales during the games will also be given to the family.

Ethan is currently in the beginning, maintenance phase of his treatment plan and will be receiving treatment over the next two years. He currently takes oral chemotherapy everyday at home and once a month he has to go to Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, to have port-accessed chemotherapy administered to him.

During treatment, Ethan’s family has to be cautious when it comes to him being in contact with germs. He also has bone restrictions because his immune system is compromised. He recently spent a couple of weeks in the hospital because he had a virus and it depleted his immune system. Since the start of the 2019-20 school year, Ethan has had to miss school three separate times, just for being in the hospital.

When Ethan is able to attend school he “arrives to class ready to learn and always has kind words to say to his peers. He is part of (their) everyday activities just like his friends,” according to his teacher Renee White. “He does not draw attention to his illness. His illness does not define him, his strength and courage does.”

One of his biggest challenges has been the loss of his hair. 

“Ethan used to have bushy, bushy hair,” said one of his classmates, Hope McGee. “But now, since he has been diagnosed with cancer, he has to wear a hat or a cap.”

His father says he had long hair and did lose it. However, it is growing back thick and long and Ethan is becoming more comfortable at home not wearing a hat.

Ethan’s bravery has served as an inspiration to his family and many of his classmates and school administrators.

“He constantly amazes his entire family with the bravery that he shows just dealing with everything on a day to day basis,” said his father. “Not only that, but also how he deals with it being a dangerous situation. He knows that he has Leukemia.”

Cuba Elementary School (CES) Principal Kim Shockley said the administration’s goal, when they found out about Ethan, was “to provide him with the same experience the other kids have and to make school a place for hope and healing, a place where he is happy to be.”

She stated they strive to give him a great experience. Shockley and assistant principal Joe Cross often will have banter with Ethan regarding his favorite sports team, the New England Patriots. Ethan is an avid football fan and his favorite player is Tom Brady. 

During the school’s recent Pennies for Patients fundraiser through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, over $1,900 was raised in his honor. Proceeds do not go directly to the family but rather fund research for families like his.

CES nurse Haley Grayson told The Republican, “Ethan is strong willed and doesn’t give up. He pushes hard to stay in class with his peers.”

She described him as “a sweet kid.”

According to Nikki Valadez, director of the  CYTLB, one of the reasons the league is putting on this event is because “the Montalbanos never say no to anything. They are always willing to volunteer and it’s the least [the league] can do.”

His treatment plan is expected to end around the age of 10. Since the Leukemia was caught early on, his treatment is promising. Doctors are confident with proper care, after treatment he will be able to live a normal life as a healthy child with no restrictions. 

Local businesses are being asked to help by making a donation to the auction or a monetary donation. To donate, contact Valadez at 573-418-7834 or Heather Silva at 573-205-7006.

Anyone seeking more information or wishing to follow Ethan’s journey can do so by following Super Ethan’s Super Adventures Facebook page.