One of the newest members of the Inheritance of Hope family plans to come back as soon as she can. Dionna Koval turned in her volunteer application just weeks after participating in our NYC Legacy RetreatⓇ this past November. Before their retreat, Dionna and her son Diego, 17, were understandably nervous and unsure of what to expect. “I told him to just give it a chance,” she shared, “I didn’t know what it would be like either, and we decided we would just see how it went. The first night, Diego said, ‘I kind of like this,’ and afterwards on the way home, he hugged me, thanked me, and said it was one of the best trips ever.”
Meet families impacted by Inheritance of Hope!
While most people were eating leftovers or searching for Black Friday deals, on the day after Thanksgiving in 2016, Tracy Higley was diagnosed with de novo stage IV metastatic breast cancer. This was her first incidence of cancer, thus the label “de novo,” a less common variant of the disease.
“Overwhelmed” would be an understatement in describing how she and her family felt. “We were reeling,” Tracy said. Approached a few months later by a breast cancer survivor at a basketball game, Tracy learned about Inheritance of Hope and considered applying. She remembers feeling hesitant, “I didn’t feel like I needed it, and didn’t want to take another’s spot. I also didn’t want to put my kids through this sad thing. But, then I talked to Betsy at IoH, and even without meeting her, I felt so comfortable. I knew this organization really cared about our family.” Tracy, her husband Troy, and their blended family of three children attended the Kendra Scott-sponsored Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ to Orlando in January 2018.
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.
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|
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.”
Spencer Reid represents an exciting direction for Inheritance of Hope: He is one of two recent hires that were served on a Legacy RetreatⓇ as a child of a diagnosed parent. “The start for my family with IoH was when we were served in May 2015,” he remembers. “My mom had Metastatic Breast Cancer, and not only was it a great, impactful trip, but the timing was very important for us, because my mom passed away just a month later. Our Legacy RetreatⓇ was the last thing we did together as a family.”
In our final installment of this series, Co-Founder and CEO Deric Milligan talks with Communications Manager Angie Howell about his memories, and what has changed in the past ten years.
IoH: What are some of the memories that stand out to you the most from the August 2008 Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George?
Deric: I remember each of the families and the instant connection we all felt because we were going through similar situations. The bond was simply incredible, and unlike anything I had ever experienced. One of the participants, Mark Contreras, had ALS. I remember his incredible strength and peace. Even though he struggled to speak, everyone was patient in allowing him to finish his thoughts. I remember riding the Comet, a wooden roller coaster, time after time with Mark Heinzelman as if there wasn't a care in the world, even as he battled cancer. I remember Shannon Dodd gleefully riding rides with sons Jakob and Tae just over a month before she died.
The Heinzelmans--Sue, Mark, Jessica, and Robbie--were one of seven families on our first Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George in New York during the summer of 2008. Our Communications Manager, Angie Howell, recently caught up with mom Sue to hear how the family is doing now. Mark passed away in October 2009, but Sue wants other families to know that “There is hope for the future.”
|The Heinzelman Family in Lake George, New York|