Our journey to Life’s Better Together has been a series of life events that looking back are bright arrows pointing us in this direction beginning with my first husband Aaron, receiving a rare diagnoses when our son was only 2 years old. Upon learning of his condition we were told and read that this could be a very non-invasive case of Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma, that he could live a long and healthy life and have only minor complications along the way, that it normally never crosses into the lymph nodes – but after a year of severe infections and embarking on lengthy radiation and chemotherapy plans, we made the decision to move closer to family to have help with our young son. After just a few years of his diagnoses and invasive chemotherapy, weeks of full-body radiation treatments, we were told to call Hospice and that he would not survive. During all this turmoil, we were incredibly lucky to be surrounded by family and have help with doctor’s appointments and treatments and babysitting during lengthy stays in the hospital. I never had to worry about paying my bills, or cooking, or cleaning or even mowing the yard for that matter, I always had someone to do it without asking. I am not naïve enough to know that not everyone has this luxury. When a parent, or even a child, is undergoing treatments there are countless hours spent away from work, there are hundreds of dollars spent in travel – none of which is covered by insurance.
Fast forward to 2012, my husband Matt and I stumbled into a fundraiser an hour south of our hometown. What we thought was a fundraiser for a local arts program, turned out to be a large group of families who for the last decade had come together to watch the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to celebrate Christmas. They would pool their money together and find a few local families to whom they could donate funds to assist in their financial stress while their child was busy battling an ongoing illness. It was the big orange bright shining sign – it was fate – we were meant to be here, we were meant to carry this message home with us and we were meant to begin Life’s Better Together!
Armed with the knowledge of my experience and taking away what we learned at the event we wanted to build our own non-profit providing assistance to families who not only have a child battling a serious illness, but also families who have a parent suffering with an ongoing ailment. We formed a board of close family and friends and truthfully it was not a difficult sale to anyone. Most of the responses we received were astounding “tell me how I can get involved and how I can help.” Matt and I decided we wanted all monies raised to be directly distributed to the families so we have endured and will continue to endure all administrative costs. Our board is active and together we have built a list of groups and individuals who can not only provide financial resources that people need, but also mow yards, clean homes and cook meals. We have pooled together all of our different skill-sets and have formed a wonderful network of assistance.
We have a group of volunteers ready to take action for families in need – whether it is paying their mortgage, a new set of tires, taking care of their pets, cleaning their home – by combining our different talents we are able to do so much more together. “I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. But together we can do great things.” –Mother Theresa
In Memory of Aaron Neel