Sometimes really good things come from the very worst of situations like this story on compassion in action. Two families stricken with the same type of leukemia, a blood disorder cancer, decided to bring awareness to the devastating disease by surprising a Sioux Center, Iowa family during an interview with Action News Reporter Nancy Naeve Brown who was in on the whole thing.
Grant Vietor and his wife Bonita say they can finally see the finish line. On March 19th, 2010, this well known Sioux Center high school coach, teacher, and father of three (Moriah 14, Isaac 10 and Christian 7) says his life changed forever. The 44 year old was diagnosed with acute leukemia and spent most of the spring at Avera McKennan hospital. They thought I was here to do a story on how the family stayed at the Walsh Family Village; they were in for a surprise.
(In the middle of my "fake interview", in walks Rodney and Kerry Lamfers carrying an oversized check, along with Marianne Plucker and her children and grandchildren, members of the Avera McKennan Foundation and some of Grant's nurses.)
The Vietors became the first recipients of the Compassion in Action Fund. $1,000 to use as they wish set up through the Avera McKennan Foundation by two families: the Rodney Lamfers family from Sioux Falls and the Alvin Plucker family from Chancellor. They know all too well the battle, hardship and impact of leukemia.
Rodney Lamfers says, "When I was diagnosed in August 2009 with Leukemia MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndromes) it was a long road. I spent 93 days in the hospital and I was told I would be out of work for at least a year. Well, money was the least of our concerns. Friends and family helped and quite people I don't even know came forward to help. They held a golf benefit and gave us gift certificates which we are still using. The support was overwhelming for us and now that I'm feeling better I thought we should consider working with the foundation to establish a fund. The Pluckers just happened to be thinking about doing the same thing and so we've been working on this for the last 2 months. We just really want to bring awareness to others about what you go through when you have leukemia. I'm 36 and have had a stem cell transplant and am 50 pounds lighter, but I'm getting stronger everyday."
Rodney's wife Kerry says, "It's given him a purpose the last couple of months since he can't work, so it's been great to see that. It's been good for him."
Rodney was the Pluckers accountant so they followed his story closely on CaringBridge. Alvin Plucker was diagnosed 10 years ago with Leukemia MDS, but died 10 months after that diagnosis came. One of his daughter's Sheila Phillips spoke on behalf of the family.
Sheila says, "Rodney's story touched our heart and once we realized he was going to be ok we thought this fund would give us the opportunity to help other families like Rodney. We want to try to make a little bit of a difference and make it a little easier."
The gesture alone is already making an impact.
Bonita Vietor says, "It's overwhelming. It's great to have so much support when you are going through this. It's nice to know people who have been through this. We are also so grateful to Avera and all the wonderful nurses and doctors and staff. I'm really at a loss for words. We are very thankful. It's such a nice surprise."
Grant Vietor says, "I'm not a real emotional person but through this whole ordeal I am thankful everyday for the things I have. I try to cherish everything the best I can."
Three families all caught off guard by a devastating cancer, forever connected by compassion. Thanks for letting me be a small part of this!
Mark you calendars for September 14th Golf Benefit at Spring Creek Country Club. If you are interested in participating in the golf tournament on September 14th to benefit the Compassion in Action Fund please visit www.compassioninactionsd.org for registration information.