In April 2013, Leah Merklin, now 4, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. This past June, the local girl was awarded a membership in the Mix ‘n’ Match Creamery Forever Club, giving her and her sister, Norah, 2, free ice cream for life.

Photo Credit: SARA VANDEPAS - Bethany Merklin cuddles with her two daughters, Norah, left, and Leah. Leah has a rare brain tumor.Now the Milwaukie community is throwing a party for Leah. Rock 4 A Reason will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 at the Good Roots Community Church, 1908 S.E. Courtney Ave.

Leah’s mother, Bethany Merklin, said her daughter’s tumor is “a mean one. The tumor becomes an interwoven part of the brain stem and affects breathing, balance and walking.”

The bad news: There is no cure, and fewer than 10 percent of children with it survive two years from diagnosis.

The good news: Through research, Leah’s parents discovered that cannabis oil will slow the growth of the tumor. And Leah’s last MRI in July showed “no growth whatsoever since her MRI in January,” Bethany Merklin said. She and her husband, Erik, obtain the cannabis oil legally through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. The oil must be ingested, so they sandwich it between Cheerios, and Leah eats the substance three times a day.

The really good news: The Milwaukie community has a chance to come together to help Leah and her family with the costs of her medical care.

Serious fun

“September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so this is the perfect event to raise awareness and have some fun at the same time,” said Oak Grove resident Jody Schreffler, one of the organizers of the event,

Local business owners, Portland DJ Ron Rouse, local band Chris Carpenter & The Collective and Good Roots Community Church will host the outdoor concert and fundraiser.

Among the businesses that are donating time will be Pronto Pizzeria & Kitchen, selling grilled pizzas and market-fresh salads; Schoolyard Farms, a nonprofit, educational farm offering build-your-own-salad for children; Painted Lady Coffee House, selling coffee, Italian sodas and pastries; and Mix ‘n’ Match Creamery, whipping up batches of custom-made ice cream.

Other activities include a henna tattoo lady and a professional photo booth from Sara Evans Photography.

For the adults, Wine:30 Bar and Duffy’s Irish Pub will set up a beer and wine garden, and 100 percent of the proceeds from Pabst and Breakside Brewing will go directly to the Merklin family.

The band will play from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and they will take requests for a donation; 100 percent of the proceeds from a silent auction, featuring locally procured items, will go to Leah’s family.

Community support

Schreffler noted that the silent auction will feature about 40 locally donated items, including lunch with Milwaukie Police Chief Bartol at the station for four kids and a birthday party visit from Oak Grove firefighters.

Another auction item involves the chairs of four of Milwaukie’s neighborhood associations, Island Station, Linwood, Hector Campbell and Lake Road.

“They have teamed up together to offer a morning of yard work at your home. From mowing and edging to weeding and raking leaves, you provide the tasks, they’ll provide the labor for three hours,” she added.

“This is almost like a festival; like a celebration of Leah’s life,” Schreffler said.

She pointed out that everyone is donating their time. Some businesses will have to close in order to be part of the event.

“This event is so Clackamas County-oriented, and it just shows how strong our community is,” Schreffler said.

“We are so excited about the fundraiser. It’s really overwhelming, all the love and care being poured out for Leah and our family. It’s truly amazing to see so many strangers come together for something so good,” Merklin said.

She added, “We just want to send out a huge thank you to everyone in this community who has sacrificed their time and energy to put this on for us, especially Jody Schreffler. There are truly no words to explain what this means to our family and how much we will be able to provide for Leah.”

Merklin said Leah and her family will be at a booth at Milwaukie’s First Friday event on Sept. 5, along with the Good Roots Community Church, to promote the fundraiser and shine a light on childhood cancer. People are invited to come down and meet Leah and visit many of the businesses that also will be at the fundraiser.

People who cannot attend Rock 4 A Reason can go to Leah’s GoFundMe account at to make a donation.

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