Community Support

Community rallies behind 7-year-old leaving to undergo brain tumor treatment

Supporters sporting pink T-shirts and balloons line Main Street last week to cheer on 7-year-old Ella Hembrook. The Stoughton girl is battling a rare brain tumor, and a family friend organized a surprise sendoff for the family as it prepared to go to Boston for special treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. [Photos by Derek Spellman]
Ella Hembrook’s brain tumor was discovered last year after a routine eye exam.
Derek Spellman

Families took to Main Street last week in a show of support for a young Stoughton girl battling a rare brain tumor.

Small crowds wearing pink shirts and waving balloons turned out Wednesday, June 19, to bid farewell to 7-year-old Ella Hembrook, who was bound for Boston to undergo eight weeks of special treatment for a tumor discovered last year. The surprise send-off, in which Hembrook and her family traveled down Main Street amid cheering crowds, was organized by family friend Katie Bridgwater.

“We’ve been planning it for weeks,” Bridgwater said. “We wanted to do it before they left (for Boston).”

Kevin Hembrook, Ella’s father, said he took both his girls to the eye doctor last year after he switched health insurances. That optometrist noticed swelling in Ella’s optic nerve and referred them to an ophthalmologist, who in turn referred the family to American Family Children’s Hospital, where an MRI found the tumor.

Ella has already had two surgeries – the first in February 2012, the second six months later. Kevin Hembrook said three months ago another MRI showed the tumor was growing again.

The family has headed to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital for a special kind of proton beam radiation treatment there.

“Nothing is 100 percent, but I am hopeful,” Kevin Hembrook said.

Friends, meanwhile, have been rallying to the family’s support.

Three families organized garage sales earlier this month. Teachers and parents from the Stoughton Area School District responded with T-shirts, donations, ribbons and cards of support. St. Ann’s Church also helped. Verona-based Leisure Threads donated T-shirts for the sendoff. Donations have been flowing in from all over, and an account to help the family has been established at Blackhawk Credit Union.

Bridgwater said she has known the Hembrook family for three years through the Stoughton Center for Performing Arts, where Ella dances and Bridgwater’s daughter dances. When she heard of the Hembrook family’s plight, she took to Facebook to start a group to help them.

“It just kind of blossomed from there,” she said.

She wanted to organize a send-off and fundraiser, she said, to support the family because of how long they will be in Boston. Both before and after the sendoff, supporters sold T-shirts and bracelets to benefit the family and also took donations.

All the support has been welcomed, Kevin Hembrook said.

“We’ve had just awesome support from the community,” he said. “It does make things just a little easier.”

How to help

Donate a gift card, cash or cards of prayers to any of the following locations:
• Katie Bridgwater, 1309 Moline St., Stoughton
• Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts, 515 E. Main St.
• Donate through PayPal
• Drop off or send checks made out to the “Ella Bella Cinderella Fund” at Blackhawk Community Credit Union at 1525 U.S. Highway 51-138
• Use donation boxes at Stoughton Tumblers, the Performing Arts Center and Next Generation
• Follow Ella Hembrook’s progress via the family website at
• For more information, contact Katie Bridgwater at 719-9160 or email kbridg

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