Pennies From Heaven -
Jay Thompson has been married to his wife TJ for 26 years and
is the proud father of 4 daughters (ages 10 - 19). He is a passionate
musician and has been an athlete most of his life. He just celebrated
his 25 year mark with the phone company and his 45th birthday.
Jay also has ALS which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is a progressive,
neurodegenerative disease for which medical scientific research
has yet to find a cure. ALS affects motor neurons which reach from
the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles
throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor
neurons in ALS eventually leads to the muscles' death.
Jay is confined to a wheelchair and his wife and family have been
providing round the clock care for him for months and months. When
Pennies from Heaven heard how difficult it was for TJ to help her
husband shower, we discovered that having a specialized shower
chair would make the daily procedure substantially easier for her.
We also discovered that this piece of equipment was not covered
by the family's insurance and was out of reach for them financially.
Pennies from Heaven, thanks to our generous donors, stepped in
and purchased the chair directly from the manufacturer.
Hi, we are the Solie
family; David, Merilee, Emily, Margaret, Abigail, Daniel, and Grace. We
live in Northern Wyoming; 50 miles from the East Gate of Yellowstone
National Park. We enjoy doing things as a family like camping,
fishing, hiking, and enjoying music.
Our only son, Daniel, was diagnosed with epilepsy
at the age of three. His seizures are difficult to control
with medicine and though they don't happen daily, they must be
stopped with medicine, which often leads to an overnight stay in
the hospital. After
he "failed" on three medicines--that means the medicines
didn't stop seizure activity--he became a surgical candidate. We
have gone through several sets of tests, some in Denver (500
miles from home) and others in Detroit (we had to fly). They
are narrowing down the "focus" of the seizures--where
they originate in the brain--so that they hopefully can remove
There is a good chance of cure with this kind of
brain surgery. The
surgery will be done in Denver and we would like to take the whole
family down for the approx. 2 weeks needed.
That is where Pennies-from-Heaven came
have been able to give us funds to use for
gas and travel expenses. Because they were very
generous, I think we can do it. Now the older
children won't have to stay home with friends feeling anxious and
worried about their little brother. Instead, we can be together
as a family as the Lord leads us on this path.
This gift has been an unexpected and so appreciated surprise. We
praise the Lord for the faithful love of those who run and donate
to Pennies From Heaven.
Thank you all so much!
With love in Christ,
David, Merilee and Children
In the summer of 2006, the lives of Heather Bates and
her four children were changed in an instant when Terry Bates
(husband/father) died instantaneously of an abdominal aneurism. Terry
and Heather were serving as missionaries to Fiji and had been
there for the past 13 years. Their children (ages 13 – 4),
although American citizens, viewed Fiji as their home. Within
two months of the reality of their father's death, they had relocated
back to the States and are beginning the process of building
a new life for themselves.
Diamonds in the Rough heard
about this family and how, while in Fiji, Terry and his children
had begun learning the game of golf. Because they were so limited
in what they could bring back to the US, the golf clubs didn't
make the trip. Diamonds in the Rough has since
purchased clubs and equipment for the 3 older Bates children
and has financed lessons for them at the 500 Club Golf Course
in Glendale, AZ.
When Heather talked to her children about the possibility
of taking up golf once again, she reported, " I
talked to the kids and the golf lessons are definitely a go! My
oldest had to think a bit first, but the other two both immediately
said 'great.' Aaron (my 8 year old) especially was excited
about it! Thanks, Diamonds in the Rough!"
Megan and family.
Back in May of 2005, Megan Nordin
(the homeschooling mother of three boys) began to experience
numbness in her left leg. Three months later, two bleeds were
found within her spinal cord. At the time she was told that there
was nothing that could be done and that it should get better on
its own. By November the numbness had progressed to her right
side and a referral was made to a neurosurgeon. Two weeks
after seeing the neurosurgeon, she was in surgery. The
doctors, concerned that failing to operate would result
in progressive deterioration and eventual paralysis, had to remove the
slow bleed within the spinal cord. After surgery the numbness had
increased and the mobility in her right leg was greatly affected.
Megan and her family received much support from her parents
and members of her church congregation. She also began a
physical therapy regimen, but was frustrated that her recovery
Pennies from Heaven heard of Megan’s situation and
after an extended interview, purchased an elliptical trainer for
her home so that she could exercise more frequently and throughout
the day in order to build up her endurance and strength.
In Megan’s own words, “Since January, I have greatly
improved in my physical strength, and I praise God for His mercy
and providence throughout this adventure. Many, many thanks
to Pennies from Heaven for your loving and very generous
gift. When the offer was made, I could hardly believe it. Our
whole family has been blessed, knowing that there are people out
there willing to help those they don't even know personally.”
and family with their new refrigerator.
After moving into a new rental, Johnny and Michelle Aiello
and their 3 children (ages 4, 7, and 13) discovered that
they were without a refrigerator (as that was not part of the rental
agreement). This would be an inconvenience under most
circumstances, however Johnny is in the advanced stages of cancer
and the added stress was taking its toll on the family and especially
Michelle who is currently the only "breadwinner." One
of our "Partners in Blessing" (who happens to be a colleague
of Michelle's from work) brought this adverse situation
to the attention of Pennies from Heaven . Within
a week's time, Pennies from Heaven purchased the refrigerator
and arranged for rush delivery. Subsequently, friends
and acquaintances from the church and the community came
and filled up the refrigerator for the family. Although Michelle's
husband's health continues to decline, the family is better able
to deal with the realities of day-to-day life.
Fernanda in the standing frame, 1st try 24 minutes!
Fernanda, Jake and Andrés during one of
our weekend walks.
On Saturday, July 3, 2004, 9 year old Fernanda Hernandez suddenly
complained of a headache, started to cry, stood up and then slumped
over, and began to drool out her mouth and slur her speech. Her
parents immediately called 911, and she was transported to a nearby
hospital where they performed a CAT scan determining she had a
severe blood clot in the right hand side of her brain. She was
then transported to a regional center – a move which most
definitely saved her life! The pediatric neurosurgeon there immediately
performed surgery to remove the blood clot.
A year later, Fernanda is at home receiving various therapies and round the
clock care. Her family has been helped by their church and the community at
large as they help Fernanda work toward regaining her ability to move on her
own and speak. Fernanda is the second of four children (ages 13, 5, and 6 months).
When Pennies from Heaven heard that in April
of 2005 the Hernandez Family was heading from their home in Morgan
Hill, CA to Oakland, CA (about 75 miles away) for a surgery to
replace some of the bone that was taken from Fernanda’s skull
last year to relieve head-pressure, a contribution was made ( as
part of our Miles Away/ Hearts Together Program)
to help defray the cost of gasoline, eating out etc.
Paxton at Henry Cowell Redwoods
James & Kaleen Swanson welcomed their daughter Paxton into
their lives in
August of 1993. At birth she was 4 lbs. 12 oz. At 8 months she
grand mal type seizure where she lost consciousness which caused
damage. The doctors also discovered that she has a chromosome anomaly,
believed to cause growth disorders and cerebral palsy. She has
suffer from seizures varying in duration and severity. She does
talk, or feed herself. Her motor skills are scattered to about
a 6-9 month
old level. With the care and love she gets from her family she
is happy and
content. It has been a challenging 12 years so far, but having
enriched their lives and given them compassion for others.
With the generous donations of Pennies from Heaven contributors,
Swanson family (Dad, Mom, Paxton, and her two brothers) was able
to take a
summer trip up the coast from California to Roseburg, Oregon to
family. Because of Paxton’s special needs, camping isn’t
an option, and the
family was able to make the trip, stay in motels along the way
and enjoy a
Cathryn (front center), with brother Robby (far
Cathryn Achilles is 13 years old and has Ataxia-telangiectasia
debilitating genetic disorder for which there is no cure). She
in May 2000 after a seven year search to find out why she wasn't
Children with AT experience a growing loss of voluntary motor skills.
become dependent upon wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Their
systems are usually compromised, and they often suffer from respiratory
infections. They have a one-in-three chance of developing cancer
especially susceptible to leukemia and lymphoma. Cathryn had a
surgically placed back in 2000 in order to get liquids more safely,
her swallowing was greatly hampered by loss of muscle control.
longer gets liquids by mouth). Cathryn has a hard time writing,
walking, and sitting still. She is schooled at home, so that she
can go at
her own pace and that her special needs can be adequately addressed.
Cathyrn’s dad is a pastor of Grace Bible Church in Hollister,
CA. and told
us, “At this point in time, we seem to have a handle on the
to Cathryn's care. As you might expect, Blue Cross and CCS have
medical side of things. The church I pastor has taken care of deductibles
and the cost of the insurance. It is the nickel-and-dime stuff
us tied up -- your web site described the scenario very well --
some vacation and daily expenses. And in some ways, we are still
financially from the purchase and renovation of a wheel-chair accessible
five years ago. So as to our needs: everything's covered yet money's
Pennies from Heaven stepped in and as part of our "My Brother's
program handled the expenses for Cathryn’s younger brother
Robby (who has
had to be quite patient while his sister gets a lot of attention)
Little League in the fall of 2005. Also, even though Cathryn’s
school her at home, there are expenses that go along with that.
from Heaven has picked up Cathryn’s tuition costs for this
Carl (2nd from right) with his family at Alcatraz.
Back in 2003, Carl Pelaez suffered 2nd & 3rd degree burns across
his face and left hand after an accident sent him to the emergency
room. Since then, he has had 4 surgeries -- some to restore normal
body functions and others for cosmetic purposes. Throughout it all,
he and his family have weathered the storm with a strong faith in
God and His provisions.
One of the consequences of the enormous medical and related expenses
has been that the family had not been able to enjoy a vacation or
outing together. Over the Christmas vacation 2004, Pennies from
Heaven was able to purchase an outing for the entire family of 5
-- a day in San Francisco -- going to Alcatraz and having dinner
out together, as a way to bring about some normalcy in their lives.
Here is what Gary and Sandra Pelaez have to say about their outing:
Dear Pennies from Heaven,
It was such a blessing to be able to experience and thoroughly
enjoy something our whole family had been wishing for, for quite some
time. In spite of the heavy rain that fell that day, we will treasure
the memories of being together as a family for ever.
For ever grateful,
Gary & Sandra Pelaez
Jordan Belcher (18) was injured in a car accident on the night
of January 18th, 2004. She was driving her best friend and her
nephew to his house when she struck gravel and hit a guard rail
on a 55 mph two-lane road. After hitting the guardrail, she tried
to correct the car and slammed into a cliff. Her head hit the airbag
and her body was transported forward into the windshield and back
into the seat, causing a coup-contra-coup injury with shearing
to the brain and injuries to her chest. Although undetected for
two weeks, Jordan's chest injuries developed into a three phased
infection/fungus of strep, staph and mucor and she lost all the
skin and muscle from an area about a foot wide and six inches high
just below and above her right collarbone.
Jordan (a year later and after numerous surgeries) is now at the
Ronald McDonald House where she is transitioning out of the hospital
into outpatient therapy, outpatient living and all that goes with
it. After living in the hospital for about a year and after having
learned how to take care of Jordan's needs in that setting, her
dad being trained on going “solo” and managing all
her rehab and medications on his own, working to set up support
systems and extended help. Although many have contributed to a
fund that was set up for Jordan, the financial burdens have been
great. Her dad, Kerry, has begun a CD and book project which he
hopes will facilitate bringing in the necessary extra capital that
Jordan’s care will entail.
Pennies from Heaven decided to help this family by making a contribution
towards the production of this CD that features Jordan playing
the piano on six songs that she either wrote or co-wrote before
her accident. Also, a book, Jordan's Journey, is in the final stages
of preparation – another device to help defray financial
needs while at the same time, encouraging and guiding others in
Our Services Director has a referral network that places Pennies
from Heaven in touch with families that need the sort of assistance
we specialize in. Through an organization that sponsors retreats
specifically for families with special needs children, we
were put in touch with the Bowman family of Pennsylvania. Here
is their story:
On Christmas Eve 1998 Jeff and Holly Bowman and their two
sons welcomed a baby girl Meaghan into their family. After
about a year or so, Mrs. Bowman began to notice some speech delays
and walking problems that had her seek out her pediatrician's advice.
She was assured that what developmental issues she was bringing
to his attention were merely things Meaghan would outgrow. Two
years later, another diagnosis came with words like "cerebral
palsy" and "autism." Like many in similar
situations, the Bowmans began the process of learning about conditions
they had known little to anything about while trying to cope with
the new realities of their daily lives. In Mrs. Bowman's
"Meaghan is extremely sensory sensitive, meaning certain sounds
scare her so badly that she just screams, and she is very sensitive to
touch -- if someone touches her lightly on the back she gets very upset.
She has issues with smell and is constantly seeking oral stimulation,
making us constantly worried about her choking. She sees doctors and
therapists every month and has made HUGE strides in her learning, as
a result of the special education team in our area. She tries so
hard and we are all so proud of her. I take her to extra speech and Occupational
Therapy two time a week after school, which is a 40 min. drive each way. It
is VERY hard for us to do things as a family, since Meaghan gets
over stimulated or is very fearful of noise or change in routine and
she gets very upset and screams a lot. I can't tell you the countless
times we have heard rude comments or been looked at or talked about because
others think that Meaghan is a spoiled brat, only trying to get
her own way. It's heart breaking and exhausting. We usually don't
take family vacations, and it's very hard to do things like go to the
mall or even eat in a restaurant. We always feel bad for our sons, because
we seem to spend so much time going to therapy, or appointments, etc
that it's hard to do things for them. My husband and I take turns helping
them with their homework and we arrange for someone to watch Meaghan
so we can take them to a movie or do something fun; but it's never an
easy or spontaneous thing. We are on a tight budget since my husband
is the only one with an outside job. It's hard for me to find a job that
can be scheduled around all of Meahgan's appointments, and the boys,
and days off from school and early days, plus the fact that I am usually
exhausted. Meaghan and her schedule are a full time job on its own.
Jeff and I try the best we can, and rely on the Lord to get us through
the many hurdles and hurts that we have in our lives. It is extremely
difficult to be around "normal families" and hear about trips,
and vacations, going to the mall or the park or anywhere fun knowing
we don't have those options."
Pennies-from-Heaven, through our "Smile Maker" program, paid
for the entire Bowman family to attend the Joni and Friends Family Retreat
in August of 2005. Here is what the program director had to say:
"What a joy to
meet the whole Bowman Family when they arrived at the retreat. By Tuesday,
Jeff, the dad, was weeping because this was the 1 st place he felt accepted.
It was the first place he felt like he and his family were not different,
and sweet little Meagan was accepted and loved. It was a fun filled retreat
for the two older boys who sometimes have to miss events because of Meaghan.
The Bowman Family saw Christ in action all week long. The Bowmans left
planning to return next year – but more importantly with a feeling
of connection, and realizing that the healing process has begun in their
family, grateful for the help of " strangers" who cared about
"Thank you so much, Pennies from Heaven, for giving the
Bowman Family the opportunity to attend Family Retreat." ( Sib Charles
Penny Vlahon has a precious 2-year-old son named Stephanos Manoli
Greek for Steven Manuel), but to her his “real” name
is Sugar Buttons. When
he was born, he seemed all right with the exception of clubbed
feet and a
hernia. The doctors told her that everything else was “normal,” but
heart, she knew better. Today he is tube fed, along with having
vision problems. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative
disorder that continues to get worse.
Raising her special needs son on her own was difficult enough,
began to have health problems. So, she and her son moved to South
to be near friends and through public assistance obtained section
One night her car was stolen and later involved in a hit-and-run
She knew who stole the car, and turned them in to the police. For
the police visited her apartment every night because she was being
Although she cannot prove it, one of the men involved with those
the car did make her “pay”. He threatened her son with
harm and after raping
her, she ended up pregnant.
Penny moved from that neighborhood and tried to find a way to handle
her situation. She desperately tried to find viable options. She didn’t
want someone else caring for her son or having to institutionalize him,
so she explored options regarding her pregnancy – abortion – adoption – Penny
In her words, “Finally I called the crisis pregnancy center in
Charleston, SC (the place that talked me out of an abortion). They assured
me that even with my unusual circumstances, God did have it under control.
They gave me the phone number for CHASK* (Christian Homes Adopting Special
Kids) and said that CHASK was similar to an adoption agency and they
also “housed" children with special needs. I called immediately,
hoping to find a similar situation where someone would house me while
I was pregnant and help with Sugar Buttons in exchange for the baby.
I so much wanted to give my unborn baby life. I found a family in CHASK
that was willing to help me for the duration of my pregnancy. This family
flew us from Charleston, SC to Porthill, Idaho. At the time I believed
that this family must really want my unborn baby for “whatever” reason,
because they paid for the flight and bought my tickets immediately! Anyway,
they said they were willing to help and they did. A few days after arriving
in Idaho, I found that there was help in abundance… as this family
had 12 children (some of them special needs) of varying ages and they
were all ready to help! The real bonus for my son and me was finding
out that there really are wonderful, unselfish, godly people left in
this world. But the most wonderful thing is that they didn’t want
to take my unborn baby from me… in fact they are not asking anything
from me. They just want to help.”
One of Penny’s goals is to get herself off welfare and be able
to care for both of her children. To that end Pennies from Heaven along
with CHASK purchased a reliable used car for her so that she can take
her son to his medical appointments, run her own errands, and eventually
be able to get employment.
In her words: “I want to thank Pennies from Heaven for helping
me realize my dream of owning a reliable car. I know that there is a
lot ahead, between giving birth, adjusting to a new routine with both
total care kids and learning how to make a living, but I have more faith
that it will happen as a result of the generosity of Pennies from Heaven,
CHASK and the dear families that are giving me so much.”