Thursday, March 19, 2015

JACOB’S FUND :: “You never think it’s going to be you…” The heartbreak of heart defects

Liam, post surgery
USA :: It was this little face on a friend’s Facebook page, pleading for medical assistance, that caught TRTP Vice President Sonya’s attention. She clicked on the picture to learn about Liam, an infant who will be fighting an up-hill battle his entire life due to a life-threatening congenital heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot (TET).

Sadly, The Red Thread Promise is VERY familiar with Tetralogy of Fallot as it has touched our lives directly through the loss of both Jacob Noah Beachy and little Ping from China. The family’s story struck a chord with us, an instant connection, and we knew down to our core that we had an obligation to help.

Newborn Liam, before surgery
“I loved you before you were born.” ~ Maureen Hawkins

At mom Kara’s 20-week ultrasound, the couple were given devastating news that their unborn son had a rare and serious congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. This young couple’s life was soon consumed by bi-weekly echocardiagrams, visits with the cardiology team, surgical team and much more frequent OBGYN appointments.

To add insult to injury, three weeks before Kara’s maternity leave, her company unexpectedly chose to part ways with her as they appeared not so understanding of her family’s predicament and the time these appointments took from her job. Once again, Kara and Edward were devastated and terrified. The specter of certain and serious health problems their unborn son would suffer coupled with the suffocating onslaught of cumulative medical bills that could not be paid from their single income overwhelmed them. 
“My husband and I continue to lean on God and our faith, trusting things would work out while we try to hold it together emotionally...fearful of what lies ahead for our family and our youngest son.” ~ Kara

Mom and Dad and their newborn son
Not the birthday his parents expected.

When Liam arrived in September, a whirlwind of medical teams took over his care during his three weeks in the NICU - very expensive care and another blow to the family’s finances. October and November were spent establishing a routine for this precious, but fragile, infant. Then one night in early December Liam stopped breathing in his mother’s arms. Frantically, Kara prepared to perform CPR on the kitchen counter, her 7-year-old watching, while paramedics were en route. 

Dad getting ready to hand Liam over to the surgical team,
the scariest moment of this young couple's lives
That fateful night marked the beginning of a month-long stay at Texas Children's Hospital and an immediate open heart surgery. Several times the couple thought they might lose Liam; he had to be intubated, and faced  unknown respiratory issues. Birthdays, Christmas, and New Year's were spent in the hospital... all-the-while doing their best to attend to Liam’s 7-year-old big brother. The mountain of medical bills grew ever higher.

Thankfully, on January 10, 2015, Liam was released from the hospital after receiving a pacemaker. But his journey is far from over and definitely not an easy one. 

At just four months of age, Liam is a high risk for practically everything. Due to his compromised health, he is unable to be vaccinated so his family is virtually isolated from outsiders so as not to introduce any type of germ or virus to their home. Only a tiny core group of people are allowed around Liam and every precaution is being taken. 

Over the next year, Liam will face multiple monthly appointments with specialists to monitor his condition and plan for future treatment. Eventually, Liam will receive a pulmonary valve replacement and additional surgeries are anticipated throughout his life. 

Kara and Liam

How you can help.

You know us. We couldn’t just read about this child, talk to his mother at length, and walk away. We have committed to helping the family with current and future medical care for Liam. We also had some unexpected fun baby shopping (not a usual thing for us!) to provide items that Liam will need over the next year: cases of specialized formula, diapers and some fun things as well. 

Please help us support Liam’s journey to a healthier heart. Gifts in his name are fully tax deductible.

Checks can be sent to:
The Red Thread Promise
249 N. Belfield Ave, Havertown, PA 19083
Simply put the word “Liam” on the check’s memo line.

By credit card (click on PayPal button - no PayPal account necessary)
If you donate online, kindly send an email to stating how you want your donation allocated.

Thank you for your continual support of children in need of medical intervention via The Red Thread Promise. Paying it forward.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

USA / CHINA :: A ramp for Laila

Laila at home
We love Laila Mei, a beautiful, feisty, four-year-old Chinese girl and her American forever family whose story we first shared with you last year when we funded the purchase of her first manual wheelchair! Leila Mei’s story of foster care, adoption, misdiagnosis followed by a heartbreaking diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a progressive genetic neuromuscular disease, had us on an emotional roller coaster.

What we came away with, though, was HOPE for the future as we continue to love and support this family, watching Laila grow and prosper. You, The Red Thread Promise community, made Leila’s much-needed wheelchair a reality.

The road to independence

Now, as winter yields to spring, an organization in Laila’s family’s community has committed to provide skills, tools, and manpower to build a ramp/deck on the back of the family house for Laila to go in and out independently in her power chair!

Building will begin on March 28, 2015.

The ramp will provide Laila the freedom to safely enter and exit her home, play in her backyard, and enjoy the independence every child needs. Leila’s family is responsible for paying the costs of materials - $1000.

Recently however, due to the extensive time for appointments and advocacy that is required for Laila's care, Mom was forced to choose between her job and income or the complex needs of her family. Without her secondary income, saving the funds for the ramp is out of reach.

We need you

And that is why we bring this need to you, our supporters. Your contribution to Leila’s wheelchair ramp will make a huge difference in Leila’s quality of life. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to The Red Thread Promise and designate it for "Laila" to help build an accessible ramp for this special girl?

Donations can be made by check or PayPal.

Credit Card: Please go to our website and click on HELP, DONATE and the PAY PALYou do not need a PayPal account to donate. Designate: Laila

Checks can be mailed to:
The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Designate: Laila

Thank you Red Thread Promise community for your continued support.

Additional info about Laila

Laila (lower right) and family

Thursday, February 5, 2015

HAITI :: FOOD UPDATE :: Everyone deserves to eat

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 
EVERYONE deserves to eat. 
Today and every day.
No exceptions.

Thanks to your generous support, we have raised over $6,000 to provide food for students at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti! That means YOU have provided 8,000 meals to these sweet kids! What an accomplishment, thanks to your big hearts.

When we contacted St. Vincent’s Director Fr. Sadoni to tell him the good news he said:

WONDERFUL! The only thing we have now in our store is some bags of rice and beans. If we find this money, we can buy more rice and beans and other things like vegetables and meat to complete the meals for the children.
While our mission is to serve these children with medical care, we can not ignore their plight and need for nutritious food. They need—no, DESERVE—to be eat healthy food on a regular basis so they can get the best possible outcomes from surgeries and other medical care that we provide.

Until a permanent food source is set in place, The Red Thread will continue to raise funds for food to sustain the children. The cost for three meals is just $2.25 per child per day! Kindly allocate your donations with “SV food”.

THANK YOU for your generosity. 

~ Sonya Yencer, VP

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kyle, Kyle, Ride and Smile

Kyle and Kaylie hand-in-hand at Hilltop Equestrian Center 

Life is different with Kyle. 

It’s a kind of different that many other families understand, though. And those are the families Jacob’s Fund serves. 

Kyle is one of “our kids;” he receives hippotherapy at Hilltop Equestrian Center in West Alexandria, Ohio. Kyle is 8-1/2, but his severe autism means he and his entire family are “stuck in toddlerhood.” He’s still nonverbal and, though a tall boy from two tall parents, he still needs his diapers changed. Unable to communicate, he often becomes frustrated.

Stressful? Yes. Challenging? Certainly. And to be honest, sometimes sad. But Kyle isn’t a burden, as his mom, Kelli explains. Her blog about life with Kyle is titled “Not Just Anyone” because Kyle is not just anyone, but an exceptional blessing.

Little sister, Kaylie, pushing Kyle in his stroller

Your support
So what has your support for this exceptional blessing meant over the last year and a half, and what does it mean as he continues hippotherapy at Hilltop Equestrian Center?

Well, we’re rooting for Kyle to become verbal, both for the delight of hearing him communicate and because it will greatly lower his frustration level. And since he’s been receiving hippotherapy, he’s begun to enjoy vocalization and he has started to refer to people and objects using the same vocalization each time. He’s also recently learned to wave “Bye.”

Hippotherapy reinforces Kyle’s learning at his new school for children with autism. Amy, his therapist, is excited about Kyle’s progress. “He’s made so much progress! Especially with sequencing and attention to task. Now we’re working on letter identification.”

Kyle and Dad

Kyle is delighted by his favorite videos, riding under bridges and through tunnels, eating pizza, laughing and screaming as his family makes calls on him with the referee penalty flag he got for Christmas. He enjoys his special needs Sunday School class (and the elevator ride he takes to get there). And he delights in giving hugs and affection, sitting on Mom and Dad’s laps. When Daddy tickles him and “wrestles” with him, his laughter delights his family as well.

And he’s a speed demon, always wanting his horse to go faster. Amy, his therapist, has had to change his horse because he needed more horsepower. 

Kyle’s progress is exciting. His continued hippotherapy is an essential part of his ability to make gains with verbal, mental, and musculoskeletal skills.

Your support helps Kyle move forward, be it with the great speed that Kyle loves to ride or in smaller increments. You play an important role as you continue to support Kyle and all our Jacob’s Fund kids.

We’d love to hear your ideas on how we can work together to reach more people like you, who support children with disabilities through hippotherapy and therapeutic riding. Just click on Post a Comment and give us your ideas.

Monday, January 19, 2015

HAITI :: Not just one, but TWO!

Stephanie and Wes
Drumroll please... 

Guess which adorable toddler is FULLY FUNDED for BOTH of her club foot surgeries with Dr. Bheki (West TN Haiti Partnership)? 

Oh yes, that would be sweet little Wes

Thankfully, Wes and mother Nadine are now in a more 'permanent' home after moving around from place to place. We are praying for this same, stable environment to continue during and following both of her surgeries, to help maintain the pair's physical comfort and emotional support during this time of change.

From Stephanie, on the ground in Haiti (CPR-3): 
Wes is defined by joy every time I see her lately. She has reverted to the happy self she was when I first met her over 6 months ago. Wes loves saying 'dadada', occasionally 'mama', and a 'bah' sound when she comes over to kiss you. Her emotions are finely in tune with her mother's; her joy is an indicator that Nadine is also doing well. We are all encouraged by the investment of time, talent and prayers being poured into and over them!  
I'm always on the edge of my seat as I observe her unbalanced walk. Each step is a near fall as she does her best to move around. I just love her perseverance and know that this strong personality will endure these surgeries and rehabilitation! 
We are prayerfully looking forward to surgery number one and watching God's plan emerge for her.
Donations are still being accepted in Wes's honor. Although she is fully funded, there are SO many children just like her that are still in need of surgery. Your continued support, in Wes's name is deeply appreciated by those who will receive treatment due to your generosity.

Donations can be made by credit card (via our PayPal link - you do NOT have to have a PayPal account! Click the "continue" link beside the credit card icons) OR by sending a check to:
The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Please specify WES in the subject line. If there is no subject line, send an email to and denote your gift. THANK YOU!

Read more about Wes: 

Friday, December 5, 2014

HAITI :: Maybe it's not about them...

Proud teacher with her students
So often we go on a mission experience to help... to show compassion... to do something good for someone else... to show love. We come with expectations of how we will serve and the impact we'll make. 

We've got it all figured out in advance. We may not know every detail of how every moment will play out, but we have our checklist of what we have to do for "them" and if we can check those things off our list, we can label the trip a success.

But what if the trip isn't about "them"? 
What if it isn't about the good we'll do for others? 

What if the trip is about "us"? 

What if the circumstances that unfold provide the team bountiful opportunities for personal and spiritual growth? What if the importance of the experience isn't in the "doing" but rather what is being done to us? 

What if the relevance of the trip lies in the details that don't make the headlines (i.e. how many children served, how many teeth pulled), but those that strengthen the fabric of our souls? What if those minute events change our perspective and expand our hearts, far beyond the scope of this single trip? 

Could it be that our presence in Haiti had a deeper relevance than simultaneously operating a medical and dental clinic for children with disabilities in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? By all means, those things are important, even critical. To alleviate a person's physical pain so they can live more comfortably and in a better state of health is both compassionate and loving.

But what about the other less glamorous moments? The times when we weren't doing anything on our assigned lists. 

When Phillip played with a child with a cleft palate sporting
a bigger brighter smile than all of us combined...
When John patiently had his hair braided...
When Auguste, a blind child, "brailled" Sonya's face...
When a boy with no hands learned to draw with his feet...
When Claire taught a child to play...
When Jaden had the chance to comfort a crying blind child...
When we fed crackers softened in infant formula to a 6 yr old
who will never hold up her own head...
When we performed the corniest rendition of 10 Little Monkeys
Jumping On The Bed for St. Vincent's students...
When a boy spontaneously started break dancing...
When the bell choir played Oh Suzanna for Dr Susan
When a teacher danced with a group of elementary students
to the sound of Claire's singing and guitar

Maybe it's these moments that we are meant to have and reflect on when we re-enter our busy lives outside of Haiti. Maybe it's the strong faith and joy that we see in so many underprivileged and underserved children that keeps us coming back for more. 

Maybe, just maybe, they are here to heal US, not the other way around.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

HAITI :: So close to walking; Wes's last obstacle to receive her first life-changing surgery

Nadine and little Wes
It’s hot this Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince when our driver, Jonas, picks Jaden and me up for the drive to Bercy, some sixteen miles to the northwest. But then again, it’s always hot in Haiti.  

Bercy is Wes’ home. This is our first meeting with the sweet-faced eighteen-month-old we’ve only seen in photos. It’s important for The Red Thread that this meeting goes well, not just with Wes, but also with her teenage mom. While our immediate goal is to get Wes clubfoot surgeries on both of her little feet, our ongoing goal is to establish a long-term relationship with this little girl and her mother.  

Wes will need care and follow-up after her surgeries for the best possible outcome. This is The Red Thread’s way. We make every effort to meet and build a relationship with parents or caregivers of the children we help so we can better understand the child’s needs and meet them as a team. Each little one is precious to us, just like our own children, and we seek the best possible care for them.  

In return, all we ask for is the parent or caregiver’s consent to treatment, open communication throughout the process, and the family’s active participation in the child’s care.  

As we turn onto National Route 1, we are amazed at how quickly the urban concrete cityscape of Port-au-Prince slips away, revealing open spaces and banana, palm, and beautiful flowering trees. Goats, rams, and the occasional cow or donkey dot the landscape around us. We drive through Canaan, an area that formerly housed a mountainside of tents housing displace people following the earthquake.

Passing through several small villages we get our first glimpses of the Haitian coast and the stunning blue waters beyond, places that would surely lure tourists if it were not for the surrounding poverty. Addresses are not always easy to find in Haiti, but after carefully searching, we find the driveway for CPR-3, turn down the dirt road and into the compound.  Here, we’re warmly greeted by Amanda, one of the CPR-3 team coordinators, holding her infant daughter.

After a brief tour of the facility, Amanda and I get to the heart of the matter while we wait for Wes and her mother, Nadine, to arrive: what are our two organizations—The Red Thread Promise and CPR-3—going to do for little Wes? What will our intervention on her behalf look like? How will this partnership work to afford this child full use of her feet? How will the expenses—$4,000 for both feet to be repaired—be covered? 

Soon Nadine arrives with little Wes in her arms. This little one is just as adorable in person as she is in the photos we’ve seen! Sweet eyes, chubby cheeks, and a tiny tongue that likes to peek out from between her lips makes Wes extra huggable! Nadine, on the other hand, is apprehensive and reserved, donning the typical emotionally-barren face so common among Haitians when dealing with strangers. 

Nadine, Wes, Sonya, Amanda and baby Adilyn
So we do what we do best - we begin to build a relationship with Nadine. As I ask questions and get to know Nadine, Jonas and Amanda gently put the young mother at ease. Before long, Nadine begins to share bits and pieces of her personal life: Wes’s near drowning, her current living situation (bouncing from family member to family member), Wes’s absent father, and Nadine’s own concerns about her daughter’s development. We listen and, in turn, share our hearts for the betterment of this young family.

I stress how much we care about both MOTHER and her child - our intervention is to help this young family as a unit, not just Wes, so they can both thrive in their own country. If Wes’s feet are corrected, it will lift a burden off both Nadine (as caregiver) and Wes as a community member. I explain that our goal is to help Wes develop into an independent child, capable of eventually living on her own. If we are able to correct her feet so she can walk normally, her future will be vastly improved, allowing her mobility that she may not otherwise have. I tell Nadine that we want her active involvement in her daughter’s care; that she will not be a bystander, but rather a partner in all appointments, surgeries, follow ups and physical therapy. And I encourage her to stay close to CPR-3 as they are her main support system on the ground.

Nadine and Wes leading Sonya, Jaden and Jonas to her aunt's home in Bercy
Nadine listens attentively, answering all of my questions, and even agrees to take us to the home where she is living, with her aunt and many cousins. When we approach the small cinderblock home, her family brings out the few mismatched chairs they have so we can be comfortable. We settle into this warm display of hospitality, playing with the children and talking.


We are so grateful for our meeting with Nadine and for the opportunity to be a part of Wes’s care. We are also thankful for the opportunity to partner with CPR-3 in meeting this young family’s medical and spiritual needs.

Wes’s 1st surgery is scheduled for January 2015. Her last obstacle is to raise $2,000 for her first club foot repair. Dr. Bheki Khumalo (West TN Haiti Partnership) has graciously committed to performing the surgery FREE OF CHARGE! However, The Red Thread Promise must cover fees for her pre-op tests, anesthesia, the rental of a sterile surgical suite, the nursing and surgical staff, and Wes’s follow up care all of which are unavoidable.

We can change Wes’ life now and create a future in which she can live independently and care for herself; this is doable. Think of it: if a single church with a congregation of 2,000 people each gave $2, BOTH of Wes’s feet could be repaired, changing the course of this child’s life forever. 

CPR-3 and The Red Thread Promise need your help today to proceed with Wes’s treatment plan. So far, $300 of the $2000 needed for her first clubfoot surgery has been raised for her care. We need to secure the remaining $1700 by December 31, 2014 to ensure that Wes can receive this life-changing surgery in January. An additional $2000 will be needed to correct her other foot later in 2015.

Now is the time to show Wes that we really do care. Donations in her name can be made to The Red Thread Promise via PayPal (button on sidebar) or check (address in upper right). Please write "Wes" in the subject line when possible. If there is no subject line, please email Kathy and let us know how you want your donation specified. With your support, we can change the course of this little girl’s life.

Wes's adorable little feet