The O'Leary family knows about gardening: It takes patience and nurturing for little seeds to grow to fruits and vegetables in their garden at home.
Now, says father Patrick O'Leary, they are applying this same patience as son Dillon-Patrick, 11, slowly recovers in Children's Hospital Oakland where he was admitted May 6 after becoming violently ill and collapsing at the start of a Pleasanton Foothill Little League game. Dillon, who was always healthy, played pitcher, catcher and third base for the Phillies, as well as basketball.
"He was ready to play a baseball game, and he came to me and said, 'Dad, my head is ready to explode,'" recalled Patrick O'Leary.
He started to the car with Dillon, picking him up and quickly driving the short distance home. Although Dillon was conscious, his dad could tell something was terribly wrong.
"I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me," O'Leary remembered. "We pulled up to the place I lived, and I screamed for someone to call 9-1-1 immediately."
Dillon was airlifted to Children's Hospital, where he was tagged with the code name Borax 57 -- a customary move for hospital officials to help track patients in the heat of an emergency.
Since then his parents, Patrick and Karina, have taken turns staying at the hospital along with his sister Ireland-Sky, 13.
Dillon is out of his induced coma, his father said, and continues to undergo medical procedures as he improves.
"They expect a great recovery, they just don't know how long -- it may be weeks or months. But he's definitely there," O'Leary said. "He's starting to point for his sister. We have 'yes' and 'no' cards, and his eye tracking is becoming better."
He also noted how suddenly life can change.
"Hug your kids one more time," he advised other parents.
As friends and neighbors have rallied behind Dillon, Borax 57 has morphed into a superhero persona, and supporters gather under the banner of Dillon Strong.
The GoFundMe website "Prayers for Dillon" set up by his uncle, Richard Pawlasek, has raised more than $41,000 from 453 donors, with contributions coming from individuals, groups and fundraisers. The Top Hatters motorcycle club was in downtown Sunol when members learned about a nearby lemonade fundraiser and invited the kids to set up at their event.
Next door neighbor Bree Gomes is in charge of a big fundraiser being held later this month, Aug. 30, at Barone's Restaurant in Pleasanton. Folks will bring their own picnics to enjoy. No-host bar available.
Fun will include a DJ and local "American Idol" contestant Maddy Hudson. Comic artist Lawrence Iriarte will do live superhero sketches, including Borax 57. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children, and there will be prize drawings. The full ticket price and raffle proceeds go toward Dillon's cause.
"We were able to get stuff donated from the Warriors and the Giants," Gomes said. "Lots of people are doing raffle prizes, and 100% of the proceeds are going to their extensive medical bills."
Gomes lives next door to the O'Leary family and said Dillon's absence is strongly felt.
"He used to play basketball at all hours, night and morning," she said. "The whole neighborhood has been hit hard with this."
Patrick O'Leary made the same point.
"This kid goes to Sunol Glen Elementary -- there are only 280 kids there," O'Leary said. "He is missed. He has touched so many people's lives, he is amazing."
O'Leary reported that doctors removed a blood clot from Dillon's cranium but have found no cancer, no tumors and no infectious disease. Although they have their hunches as to what happened, the illness will probably go down as undiagnosed, O'Leary said.
Even during their early vigil, Patrick and Karina made sure that Dillon's tube feedings were organic.
"We've been raising our kids on organic food so it is the only thing we can advocate for our son," O'Leary said. "Good food heals. It's proven. I believe that's why our son is advancing."
Their organic eating habits don't preclude the family from eating occasional fast food or junky cereal, he noted. "We have chocolate syrup in the house; we have fun," he said. "We're teaching the kids a good balance."
Patrick O'Leary gives updates on the Dillon Strong Facebook page.
"We want to thank God for the blessings he continually provides for us in this challenging time," he wrote recently. "We have been seeing improvements every day and his mind is starting to work with him and his body."
O'Leary said his years of gardening have been a good preparation for this time.
"I tell people that's why we garden, it teaches us patience," he said, as they feed and water the seeds, then the seedlings, then the fledgling plants. "Dillon is our garden right now."
What: Dillon O'Leary Fundraiser -- Dillon Strong, a gathering for celebration, community, hope and healing
Who: Friends of Dillon O'Leary
When: 3:30-7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 30
Where: Barone's Restaurant, 475 St. John Street
Tickets: $10 adults, $8 children. Cabana rental for $99 includes six tickets. VIP tickets are $40, which include table reservation, meet and greet with Maddy Hudson and an autographed photo. 100% of the ticket sales go to the cause. Contact Bree Gomes for tickets at (510) 557-2079 or email@example.com or purchase at door.
Other: Attendees will bring their own food. No-host bar available.