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In Loving Memory of Kristen Milligan

Today we grieve the death of Kristen Milligan, co-founder of Inheritance of Hope.  Kristen died on Friday, October 26, 2012.  Hers was a life well-lived.

After retiring from her first career of training guide dogs for the visually impaired and deaf-blind to become a full-time mom, Kristen was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer in stage 4 on March 18, 2003 -- her 30th birthday.  For the next 10 years, Kristen was dedicated to helping families navigate life-threatening illnesses, beginning with her own children.  She wrote A Train's Rust, A Toy Maker's Love to communicate about illness and death with her then four-year-old daughter Ashlea, two-year-old son Luke, and seven-month-old daughter Rebecca.  She wrote another book for children and one for adults about her experiences.  Kristen also was a poised speaker who shared her story with audiences around the United States and internationally.

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Meet the Tripps

Russ Tripp and his 27-year-old son, Jeremiah, are active members of the Inheritance of Hope community. Jeremiah has volunteered at three Legacy Retreats®, and Russ gives testimonies at IoH events. Both say Inheritance of Hope has deeply impacted their own lives, inspiring them to volunteer and share the experience with others.

The year 2010 was challenging for the Tripp family. Anne, Russ’s wife and Jeremiah’s mother, was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer in February. The disease had already metastasized,

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Meet the Fortins

When the Fortin family from North Carolina -- Steve, Maureen, and their three children -- attended the Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat® at Disney World in January 2011, Steve was in good health.

“He often says he feels funny because he was the healthiest sick person there,” Maureen said.

Steve uses a prosthetic leg after an amputation due to a sarcoma tumor.

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Meet the Contis

The Conti family of New York still looks at their photo album from the Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat at Disney World in January 2011.

“I’ve even looked at it just recently,” said Angela, 45. “We still cry over it, but it’s happy tears now because my husband just found out not too long ago that he’s completely cancer free.”

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Meet the Lanhams

Larry Lanham, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Madison and Maggie raise sheep and cattle on their 38-acre farm in Corbin, Kentucky. Larry has worked the same job providing housing for the elderly for 26 years. However, the last five years have been anything but stable for the Lanham family.

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Meet the Felkers

Before last summer, neither 17-year-old Seth nor his 13-year-old sister, Mandie, had ever been on an airplane. Yet in June of last year, the entire Felker family from Alliance, a small town in northwest Nebraska, boarded a plane to Disney World in Orlando, where they enjoyed a Legacy Retreat unlike their usual family road trips in the Midwest.

“Believe it or not, this was the first family vacation we’ve ever had,” said Mark, father of the four Felker children.

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Meet the Blevins

The Blevinses are made of tough stuff.

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Meet the Heinzelmans

The Heinzelman family attended Inheritance of Hope's first Legacy Retreat, which took place at Lake George, New York, in the summer of 2008. Three and a half years later, the family has fond memories of the weekend.

Yet the Heinzelmans are getting by without Mark, their husband and father who died of cancer more than two years ago at age 42.

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Meet the Grahams

Imagine pinching your nose shut and breathing only through a coffee straw.

"It feels like you have asthma and emphysema," said M'Leigha Graham.

The average human trachea, the windpipe that carries air to the lungs, is 15-20 millimeters wide. When Graham sought medical treatment in 2010, her trachea was measured at 4 millimeters wide - about the width of a coffee straw. 

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Meet the Fields

The Fields family from Vicennes, Indiana, had plenty of challenges already. Lisa had been battling a kidney disease and diabetes, and her 14-year-old son Isaac was diagnosed with kidney disease.  Then Ollie found himself unable to continue driving trucks and left his job.

“Life didn’t look good at that point,” he said.  “We just knew my health was disintegrating.”

Doctors found a grapefruit-sized tumor

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