Aldon Blom liked Ring Pops, hearing stories and helping his grandmother.
After his time was cut short as a toddler, he’s now providing inspiration for his grandmother’s project to make gift bags for children dealing with the rare cancer that took Aldon’s life.
“This is my way to pay it forward to other families and to honor my grandson,” Lisa Blom said.
Aug. 19 marked one year since Aldon was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), and five months since he passed away at the age of 3.
DIPG is a tumor found at the base of the brain and, while there isn’t a lot of research about the condition, it is known to be inoperable and most commonly found in children, said Josh Blom, Aldon’s father. Radiation and steroids are the only treatments for the tumor.
Aldon called his grandmother “Gigi,” which provided the name — Gigi’s Goodie Bags — for Lisa Blom’s effort to bring a little joy into the lives of children dealing with an illness they can’t understand.
Josh — who lives in Harrisville with his wife, Taylor — is the son of Lisa and Frank Blom, of Pine Township. Aldon received the first official goodie bag in late 2019, when he visited Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Lisa Blom sewed a Mickey Mouse bag and filled it with some of Aldon’s favorite things — activity books, a puzzle, coloring supplies and toy cars. She has since made about three dozen bags, which have been mailed all over the country to children with DIPG.
She said Aldon and a similar project – “Jars of Hope” made in memory of a young girl who also had DIPG — have provided inspiration for Gigi’s Goodie Bags.
Lisa Blom said she remembered how excited Aldon was to receive surprises, including a monthly package from an Ohio woman who didn’t know his family, in the mail.
“Kids love getting stuff in the mail,” Blom said.
She sews up to six bags a week, using colorful patterns from fabric stored neatly in her sewing room, which is also filled with bins of “goodies.”
Each bag has multiple pockets, features the child’s name, and is packed with fun items like toys, coloring books, stickers, markers, story books, dolls and candy. There are also letters and cards for the child and their parents.
Every bag also contains echoes of Lisa Blom’s grandson.
“One of Aldon’s favorite candies was a Ring Pop...He loved to have a story read to him,” she said.
The sewing room, where Aldon liked to spend time, is decorated with thank-you cards and artwork from bag recipients, a chalkboard with the next names on the list, and photos of Aldon.
Lisa Blom said she has found other children with DIPG through social media and several charitable foundations, and has gotten wonderful feedback. Some of the children’s videos and photos are shared on the “Gigi’s Goodie Bags” Facebook page.
“I love it. I love this unicorn. I love everything you got me. Thank you,” a girl named Addison said in one video as she excitedly looked through her bag.
Some of the Gigi’s Goodie Bag items are given by donations, and the Bloms said they are thankful for those who have reached out.
Some of those donations and more of the support has come from Aldon’s Army, a group that formed after Aldon’s diagnosis.
The family is working on making Aldon’s Army a nonprofit organization to raise awareness and funds for to fight DIPG.
The Bloms have connected with other families affected by DIPG, and Blom said it’s comforting, both for the Bloms and other families, to know that there are others experiencing the same ups and downs.
“No one knows what DIPG is until it happens to you,” Lisa Blom said of its rarity.
The family said Aldon received amazing care at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, in spite of the outcome.
The treatment began with radiation, which helped Aldon for a while before the tumor began growing again. Aldon was too young to understand what was happening, said Lisa Blom, who called the tumor a “monster” of a disease.
It is resistant to chemotherapy and typically causes difficulties with speech and walking plus facial drooping, she said, pointing out a photo of Aldon with a half-smile.
Lisa Blom, who helped take care of Aldon when her parents were at work, said making Gigi’s Goodie Bags help her work through her grief. While she still misses her grandson, her project and the help it gives other children facing the same challenges, is good for her too.
“It gives me a purpose,” she said.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the Aldon’s Army group is planning a walk to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Sept. 26 at Grove City Memorial Park.
For more information about Gigi’s Goodie Bags or to make a donation, visit “Gigi’s Goodie Bags” on Facebook.