BRANDON - Moriah Barnhart's world went into a tailspin in May when her 2-year-old daughter was rushed to the emergency room sick and convulsing. Within days, she learned her toddler had become the victim of a rare type of brain cancer.
Nearly three months later, Barnhart, her daughter, Dahlia and 9-year-old son, Daylon, have taken up residence in Memphis so Dahlia can receive treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. But as a single parent with no job at the moment, Barnhart is struggling financially.
Enter Richard Smith, a retired Christian music promotor from Mulberry who specializes in organizing benefit concerts. Smith received a call from his cousin, Amanda Courtney, of Brandon, asking him to pitch in once again.
Smith has organized a gospel concert for Aug. 10 at the Fellowship Baptist Church, 106 Rolling Hills Blvd., in Valrico, to help offset expenses for the Barnhart family.
The concert takes place at 6:30 p.m. and is free. A love offering will be collected and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Barnharts, Smith said.
Gospel musician Amanda Massey and the groups Shekinah Knights and Obadiah will perform.
Smith said he especially wanted to help out in this case because he knows Barnhart is a single mom struggling to make ends meet.
Little Dahlia had initially been taken to Tampa General Hospital, then transferred to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital where she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. By the time she got to St. Jude's and underwent two weeks of tests, the cancer had spread to her spinal cord, confirming it was very aggressive, her mother said.
While St. Jude's is picking up a large portion of the medical expenses, Barnhart is working to get Medicaid coverage for some expenses. But, the rest is up to her. "We expect to be here at St. Jude's for the better part of the next year," she said, calling from her temporary home near the hospital in Memphis. She plans to enroll Daylon in Florida Virtual School, so she can keep him with her, while tending to Dahlia.
For those who cannot make the concert, but would like to pitch in, call Pastor Bob Stone at (813) 763-4703 or Smith at (863) 943-4173.
"I just believe in trying to help where you can," Smith said. "All the groups I work with do benefits for free. One of the groups, Obadiah, has been doing benefits with me for probably 30 years.
"We are there for the benefit, but also there to lift up the name of Jesus and put a foot forward and show that God's people can do more than say they care," Smith said. "They can show they care by doing something."