Community rallies around Arroyo Grande boy with cancer

clambert@thetribunenews.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Phinneus “Phinn” McKenna, a second-grader at Ocean View Elementary School, has been diagnosed with primitive neuroectodermal tumors.


Students, teachers and staff at Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande will wear green Tuesday in support of a second-grade student recently diagnosed with cancer.

Eight-year-old Phinneus “Phinn” McKenna has received dozens of visitors to his hospital room at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital-Stanford in Palo Alto, including his principal, teachers and the school custodian.

His mother, Jill McKenna, is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, including teammates on his basketball, football and baseball teams.

Recent fundraisers have raised about $5,000, which will go toward medical expenses not covered by insurance and living expenses for his family.

An all-day fundraiser is planned Tuesday at Cool Cat Café, 198 Pomeroy Ave. in Pismo Beach, where Jill McKenna works as a server. (Her fiancé, a tile setter, is taking care of Phinn’s siblings as well as his own children.) Twenty percent of the proceeds will go to the family.

The Kiwanis Club of Greater Pismo Beach will host a fundraiser at Ocean View Elementary on March 8. In addition, a “Team Phinneus” account has been set up at SESLOC Federal Credit Union.

“I just want to let everyone know that everything they’re doing is helping Phinneus to reach his goals every day, to succeed,” McKenna said. “It is because of them that Phinn is doing so well.”

Phinn started complaining of neck pain while on a family trip to Disneyland during winter break. His condition later started to deteriorate; he was tired and pale, lost his appetite and had double vision.

After several trips to local hospitals and a neurologist, Phinn was transported to Palo Alto and diagnosed with primitive neuroectodermal tumors, cancerous tumors that can develop in or spread to the brain or spinal cord.

He now faces six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Sarah Butler, principal at Ocean View Elementary, started crying Monday as she described how the community has rallied around Phinn.

“You ask him who is best friend is and he says ‘everybody,’ Butler said. “We really look forward to him coming back.”

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