Stepping Up

A young kid dressed as a king standing next to a cake that says "Sayonara Cystie! We love you Marlow!"
First grader Marlow Manion celebrated with friends and family before undergoing brain surgery in 2023. The party, called “Marlow’s Sayonara Cystie,” highlighted the community support for Marlow and his family.

aising kids is the biggest blessing and maybe also the biggest challenge many parents will ever face. Along the way, we parents need and appreciate the support of our neighbors in Mt. Lebanon. Turns out it really does take a village to raise a child, as the saying goes.

My family is so fortunate to have our neighbors, Karlyn and Eric. Our kids are the same ages, and we became instant friends. Karlyn walks my son, Jude, to school with her daughter every morning. One day, she even made an extra trip back to the school when Jude stepped in a puddle and needed dry shoes. Talk about going the extra mile for your neighbors!

I’m not alone in experiencing a village feel in our Lebo neighborhoods. Kara and Patrick Manion moved to Mt. Lebanon in 2009. They have two children, Patton and Marlow. Kara is a Mt. Lebanon native and serves our community in a variety of meaningful ways. An active member of the PTA, Kara has been a homeroom coordinator every year since her older son, Patton, was in first grade.

In July, 2022, the Manion family unexpectedly found themselves needing support from the Mt. Lebanon community. Marlow, a rising first grader at Washington Elementary School, seemed unusually exhausted. When Kara took him to the emergency room, his medical team found a large brain cyst. Doctors were concerned and ordered an emergency MRI, keeping him intubated in the ICU until they developed a plan. At this time, the cyst was believed to be benign. Marlow also tested positive for COVID-19, so he was sent home to recover and regain strength before surgery. After Marlow recovered from his illness, the team ultimately delayed the surgery.

In the meantime, the effects of the tumor worsened and Marlow passed out in school that October. Kara found herself rushing to the school in a panic. Fortunately, her neighbor, Heidi Nevala, volunteered to help in any way she could. Heidi brought Marlow’s special blanket to school for his ambulance trip to the hospital, which Kara says “instantly calmed him.”

Marlow in a hospital bed with his older brother laying next to him
Marlow recovered in the hospital after his cyst removal, with his brother, Patton, by his side. The surgery was a success.

Doctors scheduled his surgery for February, 2023, to remove the cyst and correct the displacement it caused in Marlow’s brain. Kara and her family made preparations and in turn, the family’s neighbors, friends and classmates rallied in support of Marlow. Kara and Patrick planned a special party for Marlow, meant to give him play time with friends before having to take a break from play after surgery.

Called “Marlow’s Sayonara Cystie,” the party drew members of Marlow’s first-grade class at Washington, his first-grade teacher, Tina  Mahan, and the principal, Brook Webb. Washington PTA president Breanne Makatche made a shirt for Marlow for the event. A large group of family and friends met at Mt. Lebanon Park and enjoyed cake, bubbles and most of all, spending time with their friend Marlow to honor his wishes.

At the party, one of Marlow’s neighbors, Sarah Dugan, organized a chain of well wishes to give to the family. Sarah passed out pieces of paper to Marlow’s classmates for them to write encouraging messages. She then arranged the links of paper into a chain for Marlow.

The family received many other gestures of goodwill, including cards from Washington and Mellon students, a cash gift from a group of Lebo moms to cover boarding their dogs, assistance from their church, Sunnyhill Unitarian Universalist, and help with child care from Audrey Bode.

Marlow’s surgery was successful as expected and today he is a bright, friendly and much-loved part of the community. Speaking of the support the family received, Kara says “We are grateful for our community. They lifted us up with meals, donations, support and care. We can never thank everyone for the grace and comfort that they showed our whole family.”