TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Heyl: Family thankful for today, and ones that follow

Submitted
Trey, Bella and Joe Mitlo of Penn Hills

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
 

Jay Mitlo insists that he and his family are blessed. The words startle.

They aren't what one would anticipate hearing from someone whose 5-year-old son is terminally ill. But Mitlo, 43, of Penn Hills values preconceived notions about as much as he values pity and sympathy for his situation — very minimally.

“Everyone has their own story. Everyone suffers,” he said. “My heart breaks for all the people who pretend like nothing ever is wrong, like they always have it all together. My heart breaks for them because they're lying.”

The harsh truth for Trey Mitlo, of which he remains mercifully unaware, is this: He has lived longer with a cancer diagnosis than he lived before receiving one. He has had all the standard treatments for the disease. Doctors say he probably has only months to live.

Difficult days are ahead. Before they occur, Mitlo and his wife, Rachel, want to provide a week of fun for Trey and his two older siblings.

“We want him and Joe and Bella to just be normal and laugh and live a little,” he said. “We don't want their next memory of Trey to be that of him dying. We're not ready for that.”

Two years ago, Trey visited Disney World in Orlando, Fla., an opportunity the Make-a-Wish program made possible. Jay and Rachel want him to experience that again, with his brother and sister, but Disney vacations aren't exactly as inexpensive as a weekend trip to Erie's Splash Lagoon.

So two weeks ago, the Mitlos started a fundraising campaign at FundAnything.com. They sought to raise $8,000, which they figured was enough to pay for a week for the family at Disney.

“The response was unbelievable,” Mitlo said. “It was humbling, and at times it was comical, how much we jumped up from hour to hour. We hit our goal at 7:30 the next morning.”

Mitlo theorizes that donations rolled in so quickly because of his community involvement. He is the former executive pastor of Rolling Hills Church in Penn Hills. He has coached Penn Hills High School volleyball teams and is the public address announcer for other school teams.

As of Tuesday, people donated more than $19,000. Mitlo labeled the amount “staggering and a little awkward” because the family raised more than enough for the trip. The extra money will cover expenses related to Trey's illness, he said.

They leave the first weekend in April for Orlando. The Mitlos won't tell the kids until it's time to leave.

“This trip is as much about Joe and Bella as it is about Trey,” Mitlo said. “It's about celebrating life. We're going to celebrate every minute we're down there.”

After that? Mitlo doesn't dwell on it.

“We have today,” he said. ”That's all anybody has, really.”

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
  2. Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
  3. Gameday: Pirates at Reds, Aug. 2, 2015
  4. Architecture: Visionaries saw buildings but not the political surroundings
  5. East Liberty native steps off Broadway to bring ‘Kinky Boots’ home
  6. Inside the Steelers: QB Jones continues to get majority of snaps
  7. Road Trip! Destination: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  8. Western Pa. prosecutors zero in on human trafficking; legislation pending
  9. Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
  10. Zimbabwe suspends hunts amid outcry over lion’s death
  11. Pittsburgh Glass Center exhibits new wares that reinterpret antiquities