Passion to give back
Brandon Mayforth is forever grateful to a dedicated doctor at Dayton Children’s Hospital who never stopped searching for the cause of a mystery illness that threatened to end his life.
“I’m here because of Dayton Children’s,” Mayforth, a sport management senior, told a group of classmates during his presentation for HSS 358, Sales and Fundraising in Sports. “Dayton Children’s never gave up, even after other larger, more well known hospitals did.”
Mayforth’s presentation about his rare intestinal disease and the Dayton Children’s gastroenterologist who diagnosed it took place during a philanthropy “tournament” that concludes the course each semester. Students select a community organization they want to support and deliver a presentation to classmates, a panel of judges and sport management professor Peter Titlebaum about their choice. The top finishers earn money donated in their name to their chosen cause. Mayforth, the fall 2016 overall winner, won $500 for Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Close to $1,000 went to four community organizations this year, thanks to the students and the University of Dayton’s Gary Mioli Leadership in Community Fund. The fund honors Gary Mioli ’79, who dedicated his professional life to leading young people both on and off the football field as a teacher and coach in Park Ridge, N.J. In 2014, at the start of football season, he died unexpectedly at the age of 57.
In spring 2016, the Sport Management program in the Department of Health and Sport Science, along with Mioli’s family, friends, former classmates and students, established a platform at his alma mater to honor his legacy of service. They started the fund through the University’s Division of Advancement, providing a fundraising vehicle to give students the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in their communities by becoming advocates for 501(c) 3 organizations whose service holds personal meaning.
The fund has an initial goal of raising $100,000 by 2020.
The Mioli fund was designed with a classroom component in mind, and the philanthropy tournament helps students hone their sales and fundraising skills while contributing to a good cause in Mioli’s honor.
From 18 candidates in the fall 2016 class, Mayforth and juniors John Brown, Katy Doder, and Molly Metress were named finalists. Brown, who finished second, won $250 for Mission Partners Guatemala. Doder advocated for the Alzheimer’s Association and Metress for the ALS Foundation, both of which received $100 donations.
Mayforth captured the top prize by sharing his personal connection to Dayton Children’s. As a sixth grader, Mayforth began experiencing significant stomach distress a family doctor couldn’t treat. There were no warning signs or symptoms to alert anyone to the issue.
Mayforth’s family went to Dayton Children’s and met with gastroenterologist Adam Mezoff, who ran a battery of tests to determine the cause of Mayforth’s illness.
“I would just wake up one night and the pain was there,” Mayforth told the class. “It would last 2-3 months, and in the worst case, it lasted five months. No medicine could help it.”
After months of pain, his symptoms would disappear just as quickly as they arrived. But they’d inevitably return, leading to more lengthy episodes of extreme stomach pain. Mayforth said he often couldn’t sleep, sometimes staying up for 48 hours doubled over in pain, and missed significant amounts of school.
While Mezoff remained determined to research and find a solution after all tests came back negative, Mayforth visited three of the largest hospitals in Ohio for treatment, all to no avail. But Mezoff, now chief medical officer and vice president at Dayton Children’s, kept working, and eventually found the answer by examining a past test for a different result.
Mezoff discovered Mayforth had superior mesenteric artery syndrome, a disease in which one’s arteries compress the intestines. Only 400 cases have ever been reported, putting Mayforth in rare company. In extreme cases, if not caught and treated, patients could starve to death.
Mayforth got the diagnosis during his first year at UD, a time period in which he carried a 1.67 grade-point average and landed on academic probation. After receiving treatment, he was able to attend class regularly and study without pain. He has since made the honor roll and is on track to graduate.
“My personal experiences with Dayton Children's gave me the passion to want to give back, as a way of thanking them for all they have done for me,” Mayforth said. “I think it’s important to have these kind of resources available and keep them well funded, because you can't predict when you, or someone you know, will need a place like Dayton Children's.”
And thanks to the University of Dayton, the Sport Management program and the Mioli Fund, Mayforth found a way to show his appreciation, and help other children who walk through the hospital’s doors.