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Musical prayers

Classmates at Lil’ Lighthouse Preschool send cards, pray for student recovering from removal of a brain tumor.

January 21, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

The 5-year-olds at Lil’ Lighthouse Preschool at Lighthouse Coastal Community Church in Costa Mesa bow their heads each afternoon to recite a simple prayer.

“Thank you for our healthy bodies,” one line in the prayer goes. The children recite in unison, sitting on the carpet of the church chapel with red and blue book bags still strapped to their backs.

The children ask daily about their absent classmate, Julian Dunn— a happy-go-lucky 5-year-old with an infectious smile who is interested in cars and loves to play with his friends, said Lil’ Lighthouse teacher Michelle Rieke.

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Surgeons extracted a tumor about the size of a golf ball from Julian’s brain in an emergency surgery a few weeks before Christmas. The boy is back at home after a seven-week stay in the hospital and three surgeries, but doctors say Julian must undergo a rigorous 55 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.

“They pray for him every day and make him cards, but it’s hard for them to understand how sick he really is,” Rieke said. “Even though he’s not here, he’s still a part of our class.”

Children from Lil’ Lighthouse will sing at a concert in March to help Julian’s family pay for his medical expenses. Julian’s father, Richard Dunn, is looking for other young musicians to play in the concert, which he envisions as an annual event that will help other families dealing with cancer. The inaugural Jammin’ for Julian concert is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 21 at Newport Mesa Church.

“We want to take one negative and turn it into five positives,” Richard Dunn said. “We couldn’t possibly imagine how difficult it would be for any family to go through this without any faith or support group — it’s a life-changing experience. More than just medical bills, we want our boy to survive.”

As Richard Dunn looks back at photographs of Julian taken just before doctors found a large tumor lodged in the lower back part of his brain, he notices now that his son looked gray and weak.

Julian was throwing up and complaining of headaches for weeks. He wasn’t eating and kept losing weight, said Julian’s mother, Andrea Dunn.

“The last few days before we found out, it was really like ‘what is going on here,’” she said.

Julian is usually a gregarious, outgoing child, Andrea Dunn said.

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