In the fall of 2016, Melinda Hodge had a routine, normal mammogram. Six months later, a lump was discovered at her yearly well visit, and she was subsequently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Scans showed that it had already spread to her brain and bones, and she was told she had 18 months or less to live. 18 months to do all the things she had planned and hoped to do, and 18 months to pour as much love as possible into her three daughters, ages 16, 14, and nine at the time.
When asked why she gives her time to Inheritance of Hope, Dionna Koval quickly and confidently replied, “Because you gave my son the hope I wanted him to have.” Now, she has committed to share that same gift by volunteering for IoH. Living with metastatic breast cancer, Dionna is in good company. Tracy Higley, Melinda Hodge, and Tarah Harvey share the same diagnosis and dare it to determine their outlook. Along with Kendra Scott and IoH, they work to inspire hope in others affected by the disease.
Lauren Latimer vividly remembers her introduction to Inheritance of Hope, “When my mom first told me she wanted our family to go on an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ, I was like, ‘Sorry. That doesn’t sound like fun. I don’t want to go on a cancer retreat.’” The Latimers--mom Karen, dad Rob, Lauren, and her sister Anna--attended the January 2016 retreat to Orlando over their daughters’ objections. Lauren, at the time 17, admits that her mom guilted her into going. Now a repeat IoH volunteer, she is more than happy to concede, “A depressing ‘cancer retreat’ is the exact opposite of what IoH is. By the end of the weekend, the volunteers and other families were my family, and I didn't want to leave. And, that is the consensus of everyone who comes on a retreat.”
Since the Strebe family attended an Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ in February 2014, Jon and Donna have only missed a handful. Between the two of them, they have volunteered at 12 retreats. That’s worth repeating--a dozen Legacy Retreats!
|The Strebe family at their Legacy RetreatⓇ in February 2014|
A chance click of the mouse led Bob Sauer to Inheritance of Hope (IoH), but his involvement since then has been nothing short of dedicated. While scrolling through charity partners on the Marine Corps Marathon website, Bob came across the IoH logo and double-clicked to learn more. He later received a bib through the marathon’s lottery program--meaning he could run without supporting a non-profit sponsor--but Bob was already hooked, and even decided to double his initial fundraising goal for IoH! By race time, Bob was leading Team IoH in fundraising for the Marine Corps Marathon, and funded two children on our November 2018 New York City Legacy RetreatⓇ.
Almost two years ago, Cristina Tebolt, described by her husband Seiji Shiraishi as a “city girl,” visited New York City for the last time. Having lived there before the couple married, Cristina was in her element. The Big Apple was decked out for the holidays, and Cristina could not have been happier to be a part of it. Through an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ, Cristina, Seiji, and their children Karina and Oliver were treated to a boat tour, the view from Top of the Rock, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and more. As important as these precious memories will always be, the Tebolt-Shiraishi family gained something else invaluable--a support system of other families all facing the terminal illness of a parent.
Elise Barrett has sound advice for caregivers who are walking the same path she has walked: “One of the things I had to learn over and over again is that human capacity is limited,” she recently shared. “These experiences take more out of you than you can replenish, and you can’t blame yourself. You are going to be compromised. You are not going to be able to always be patient, be loving, plan, or make meals. Whatever your thing is, you might not be able to do it. It is so important to normalize that uncomfortable truth, and to find ways of accepting it, and to discover ways of adapting. There will be many seasons, and letting each season be what it is can be what survival looks like.”
Holli Brown calls Inheritance of Hope “the most intentional charity we know,” high praise from this recipient of the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of over 4,000 hours she has given as a volunteer. Holli, a flight attendant with Southwest Airlines, and her husband Josh, a firefighter, recently served together on an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ in California, something the couple has wanted to do ever since they were introduced to the organization in 2011. The Browns have been involved in international mission trips, local community projects, and also run their own non-profit organization pairing veterans suffering from PTSD with service dogs. IoH, though, has a special place in their hearts because of how the organization served Josh’s sister, M’Leigha Graham, and her family. According to Holli, “Without IoH, never in a million years would they have been able to do what they did with M’Leigha being so sick.”
Geoff Lewis was 31 years old, engaged, and a new business owner when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2007. For eight years, he “fought like hell,” according to his younger brother Josh. A hard-worker and optimist until the very end, Geoff passed away in March 2015. He left behind his wife Sandy, six-year-old daughter Landyn, and their nephew Wayne, whom the couple was raising.
|Geoff (center), Josh, and their Dad in NYC|
Luke Milligan on the Importance of Legacy Gifts and Videos his mom Kristen left for him
Luke Milligan, the middle child and only son of IoH Co-Founders Kristen and Deric Milligan, knows how much his mom loved him. Kristen made sure her presence and love would be felt through gifts, videos, and letters long after her premature death forced her to leave him at a formidable age.