2023 Hardship Heroes
Jenni - March 2023
Hardship - Chronic Illness, Medical Distress, Disabled Veteran, Special Needs Caregiver
At the age of 20 Jenni was injured in the army leaving her to become a disabled veteran. She has continued to suffer medical issues throughout her life including having her gallbladder removed. Several squamous cell biopsies, including cervical, skin & polyps. This last year has been the most challenging. Jan 30 2022 Jenni was in a car accident. Only mere feet from her driveway. It had just snowed the day before and there was some ice on the road. Her development has 15 mph speed limits. Traveling down the road, she noticed and suv racing toward her spinning on the ice. Before she knew it she was hit head on. Totaled both cars. Jenni immediately noticed her wrist was broken and shoulder was out. She suffered a fractured wrist, TFCC tear and shoulder out of socket. She also suffered nerve damage. Jenni had surgery to fix the TFCC and open up the nerve canal. Over a year and Jenni is still at OT 2x a week trying to gain function back. As if that wasn't enough Jenni was also attacked by a dog in October 2022 and has left her with scars on her arms and legs. She continues to suffer severe back pain that she tries to keep under control. She has suffered so much and we are beyond thrilled to be able to offer her and her family their very own Hardship Heroes Experience!
Experience - Our first Experience of 2023! We were able to provide Jenni with her very own mommy makeover donated by Rustic Roots Salon! She was able to choose whatever she wanted! We then provided the entire family tickets to Harry Potter Movie with Live Orchestrated Movie Score! The kids received some Harry Potter Merchandise as well as Lanyards! And last for date night they received tickets to Blue Ridge Winery's Underground Experience!
Hardship - Medical Distress, Unexpected Grief & Loss
Karli & Shawn welcomed their baby boy Kodi, on August 17, 2022. Kodi very suddenly developed meningitis a rare blood infection, causing blood clots to his brain. At only 6.5 weeks old he was taken off of life support. He passed away on October 2, 2022.
Kodi was one of the sweetest and happiest babies and it truly came on without any warning. This is a situation that nobody will ever fathom that it could happen to them. We are so incredibly sorry that Kari, Shawn and Kodi's sister Aubrey are going through this incredibly challenging time. We hope Hardship Heroes brought some joy into their life with this Experience, and we strive to continue to make a difference in all of the Experiences we provide! Let's show Kodi and Kodi's family some love today by liking this post and donating to Hardship Heroes!
Experience - We were finally able to gift this SURPRISE A HERO Experience to Karli & Shawn. Karli's incredibly thoughtful friend Kira wanted to surprise this well deserved couple with some alone time. They were gifted a Downtown Bethlehem Date Experience. They were given a digital Bethlehem Scavenger Hunt from Let's Roam. They will be roaming downtown Bethlehem as their enjoy their sights all while having fun! They were also gifted some time at Healing Hands Massage and Wellness so they can spend some relaxing time together! As well as gift tokens for Cluster's Popcorn. They were gifted a gift card for dinner and a shopping spree downtown! We are so thrilled to be able to provide this experience for Karli & Shawn and can't wait to here more about their date!
Hardship - Special Needs Diagnosis
This Experience was another SURPRISE A HERO Experience and we were honored to be able to show up at Nathan's house, and provide him with everything he needs for his very own at home sensory gym! It is never easy to navigate new needs and a diagnosis as a new mom, so we were thrilled to be able to provide this for both mom Kaitlynd and Nathan!
Experience - We were able to provide Nathan an absolutely amazing sensory experience right in his very own home!
~ Step2 Water Table
~ Step2 Roller Coaster
~ Little Tikes Trampoline
~ Little Tikes Play Slide
~ PlaySkool sit n spin
~ PigPen Collapsable Play Tunnel
~ Abiie Beyond High Chair
2022 Hardship Heroes
Hardship - Turner Syndrome (TS), Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), Congenital Anomalies of the Kidney, Ketotic Hypoglycemia, Hypertension, Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)
Dorothy's story began at her 20 week ultrasound when her long bones were measuring short. At this moment the doctors suspected something called Turner Syndrome, which can cause short stature, heart complications, kidney problems, hearing loss and ovarian failure. As a newborn Dorothy was also diagnosed with Hyperinsulinism. Eventually the diagnosis of Hyperinsulinism changed to a diagnosis of Ketotic Hypoglycemia. She also sees a Cardiologist as well as a Nephrologist for her heart and kidney issues . The biggest hurdle most recently has been the regimen of growth hormone. Dorothy taking growth hormone can increase her height by 2-5 inches. And although Dorothy has man medical concerns none of them affect her day to day living. She loves being outside and camping with her parents and is the life of the party! That is why Dorothy is our very FIRST Hardship Hero!
Experience - With your help we were able to provide her family with their very first professional photoshoot provided by Lauren Michelle Photography LLC as well as provide Dorothy with a special gift box specifically designed with Dorothy in mind! A cute camping suit case, a fun camera and loads of fun accessories!
Hardship - Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Written by Angel himself
My name is AJ and I am 11yrs old. On 2/9/20 I was diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia. That was one of the scariest days of my life. I heard the Dr say it and I knew “Cancer” was a bad disease but I just couldn't understand why they were saying I had it! Why Me? I’m only 10yrs old. Does this mean I am going to die? So many things kept going through my mind and I didn't know how to say what I was feeling. I was scared but I didn't want to say it! I was always so active and had lots of friends. I was on a football team with all of my buddies, I was training to go to Nationals for Boxing (hopefully Box professionally one day) and I was a normal kid in the 4th grade. Almost overnight this all changed! I thought “all I have is a headache!” Just make my headaches go away and I will be fine but it wasn’t that easy! I was admitted to LVHN straight from the ER and I think I started chemo the next day. Everything was happening so fast, I had blood tests, MRI’s, X-rays and a port placed in my
chest. Still I couldn’t imagine why this was happening! The chemo made me feel sick, I was throwing up and feeling so weak and eventually my hair started to fall out. That was hard for me because with my hair falling out I felt like I wasn't “me” anymore. I felt like everywhere I went people were staring at me. It was hard! No matter how hard it was I always had the support of my mom, dad, my sisters and a few friends. My family let me know that my looks may be different but I was still the same AJ and together we would get through it. I had lots of friends that didn’t understand what I was going through and I hated having to explain all of the time but I had 1 or 2 friends that didn’t expect an explanation just stood by my side and adjusted to my new life. I went through a lot but I logged into school everyday. I had a bad reaction to one of my chemo meds (Peg) that made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, I had radiation to my head and I had to go through physical therapy because one of the meds made me walk funny. I can go on and on about all of the scary stuff but I don't want to look back anymore because I see such progress in myself. I am now in maintenance and I feel so much stronger than I did just one year ago. I have learned that being told I have Cancer does not mean it’s the end, it just means it’s my new! My life is different in so many ways now but I am still the same kid! I am still AJ LATIMER who loves video games, football, boxing and hanging out with my friends. I am grateful for my mom, my dad, my sisters, all of my teachers who made such a difference in my life, to the dr’s who take care of me and all of the nurses who act just like moms to me and understand my moody personality. PCFLV has been a big part of helping my mom get through the times I had to stay in the hospital or just setting up events with other moms who can understand her. I have so many people reminding me of my strength that it keeps me going everyday! Hopefully one day kids won’t have to face the challenges that I have to go through because of Cancer but for the kids like me that have no choice, just stay strong and keep fighting! Thank you for listening to my story .... Angel (AJ) Latimer"
Experience - Hardship Heroes was able to provide Angel with a stunning cake by Michelle Miexsell Confections for his special "No Mo Chemo" party! We were also able to provide him with a gift bag loaded with New York Giants goodies, which included a special bracelet that was crafted from an official New York Giants Game Worn Jersey!
Ethan (Chazz & Alyssa)
Hardship - Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), Cerebral Palsy, Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI), Epilepsy and Global Developmental Delays
Ethan was born on August 9th 2021. An our after his birth, he developed seizures and was resuscitated twice before he was transported to a nearby hospital. Due to his seizures and apnea, Ethan had to be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing and was monitored with a continuous EEG. His medical team tried 3 different anti-seizure medications to try to stabilize him enough so that he could undergo an MRI to help his doctors understand what was actually happening. On 8/13/21, at four days old, he finally had his MRI, and everything turned upside down. That morning, Ethan was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic
Encephalopathy (or HIE for short), an injury to his brain caused by a lack of oxygen. HIE can lead to Epilepsy, Vision impairment, Cerebral Palsy, and developmental delays. Ethan, unfortunately, has been diagnosed with all four. He faces a lifetime of challenges and enormous medical expenses, many of which are not and will not be covered by health insurance. Ethan receives occupational, physical therapy and vision therapy weekly. He has developed a wonderful medical team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and goes to CHOP at least once a month for EEG monitoring and twice a month for checkups with his specialists. He is being fitted for an adaptive bath seat, car seat and stroller later this month. He currently takes three anti-seizure medications: he takes one medication three times a day and two other medications twice a day. His particular brain injury makes it hard to control his seizures, and his medications will need to constantly be tweaked and adjusted. At the time of Ethan's first MRI last year, he was sedated. Later that night after Dad gave him his first bath, Ethan opened his eyes and started showing us his true character. He amazes us every day with how strong he is and how hard he works. That is why he is a Hardship Hero!
Experience - An experience for the family! Hardship Heroes was able to provide this little family a unique one of a kind experience tailored specifically for them! Ethan was gifted a stunning cake for his 1st birthday from Michelle Miexsell Confections! We also provided Ethan's parents with a beautiful day out at Paradise At The Pool! This pool is located less than 30 minutes from their home! They spent the day chilling by the pool and relaxing in the hot tub! They had dinner from a local favorite MYST and dessert from Pocono Dessert Co.! They had fun painting and sipping with Sherry from Angels & Dragonflies! They also had a fun goodies basket waiting for them to snack away and play games! They were able to have a day away from stressful caregiving and enjoy one on one time with each other!
Hardship - Financial Hardship
Experience -Hardship Heroes was able to gift a young girl a shopping spree for back to school and a lunch date with her mom! Sometimes people struggle financially it is nothing to be ashamed of! Hardship Heroes was able to help ease the back to school struggle so many face! Thank you to everyone who contributes to our mission, without you we cannot make these experiences happen!
Hardship - Breast Cancer
Kiki's Story written by her daughter Carissa
"My mom texted me on the morning of April 26, 2022 to let me know she had called an ambulance, but that there was no need to worry or meet her at the hospital. She thought she was having a heart attack, just like her 3 siblings and father had had throughout her life. No big deal. Of course, my brother and I immediately left our jobs and raced to the hospital only to learn that even though our mom was short of breath and was having chest pain, her heart was perfectly healthy. We knew something was wrong, really wrong, when the ER doctor made a garbage can a makeshift chair, sat down, folded his arms and said, "we did find a mass on your chest and we believe you have breast cancer". We were not at all prepared for or expecting that news. My mom had retired from her job as an Occupational Therapy assistant and had developed a second career as a QiGong instructor, teaching at local libraries, parks and assisted living facilities. She was in the best shape of her life. She had just started working with a dietitian and had even joined a local gym. And then, this.
Throughout every medical visit, my mom made it quite clear that no matter her prognosis or course of treatment, she was fully committed to attending her 50th class reunion to be held in September on Long Island. Despite the perils of chemo, this remains her goal."
Experience - Kiki is our very first "Surprise a Hero" for Hardship Heroes! This story holds a special place in my heart and we are so honored we were able to gift this experience! Kiki's daughter Carissa contacted me about providing her mom a surprise experience. We were able to provide Kiki a shopping spree at The Promenade Shops to prepare for her 50th reunion, as well as a dining experience at Melt restaurant! Below you will find her story! Please share this incredible woman's story and let's all support Kiki as she continues to fight to her dream of going to her 50th reunion!! (Spoiler Alert! She made it to the Reunion! As of right now she is officially cancer free!)
Hardship - Grief & Loss, Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Veronica’s story is a tough one to swallow, as no parent should ever have to deal with the loss of their child, especially at such a young age. Veronica is the mother of a young man named Cj, who lost his life 2 months after graduating high school. As if that wasn’t enough, shortly after the passing of her son, she was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her daughter Lydia wanted nothing more than to surprise her amazing mother with a Hardship Heroes Experience! After a few months of planning we were finally able to make this happen. And just to show you how sweet this woman is the first thing out of her mouth was “I’m not the only one suffering this” She is an amazingly strong woman and that is why she is a Hardship Hero!
Experience - Hardship Heroes was able to provide Veronica with a unique one of a kind experience. A mediumship session with renowned spiritual medium Gloria Wiechand. We were also able to gift Veronica with a shopping spree as well as lunch out with her daughter Lydia!
Hardship - Unexpected Grief & Loss
Conrad is the father of Lydia. Yup… that Lydia! The one who also wanted to surprise her mom with a Hardship Heroes Experience! Well she was pretty set on making sure both of her parents were recognized as Hardship Heroes! Conrad is the father of Cj, a young man who passed away 8 years ago in a tragic car accident. As one can imagine nothing will ever take away the pain of losing one of your children. I am lucky to have met Lydia and even more so, absolutely honored she chose Hardship Heroes to provide her parents something special. Something to help them smile, even if just for the day! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Hardship Heroes’ mission, without you none of this would be possible!
Experience - Lydia wanted to create new happy memories as a family. Hardship Heroes was able to provide the family with Lehigh Valley Grand Prix tickets! They are able to enjoy multiple laps around the track as well as try their hand at some Axe Throwing! We were also able to provide them with dinner out at a restaurant of their choice!
Nikol & Nancy
Nikol & Nancy
Hardship - Uncompensated Caregiver, Cancer
This is Nancy and her daughter Nicole. Nancy unfortunately recently lost her husband to cancer. As if that wasn't enough Nancy is also battling cancer herself!
This means, Nikol lost her father to cancer and is watching her mother battle as well. Nikol is also a mother and caregiver to her adult son who is on the autism spectrum. These ladies have been through the wringer. I am also incredibly thankful for the selfless people who choose to honor people they love in their life. Thank you Erika for submitting an application for this family to our organization. We are honored to be a small part of their journey!
A friend of the family, Erika wanted to help this family smile through some challenging times! That's where we came in! Hardship Heroes was able to gift this mother and daughter some relaxation at Kalahari Spa Poconos!
Hardship - Uncompensated Caregiver, Grief & Loss, Lifetime of Experienced Trauma
Romaine had a really rough life from the start. When she was 2 years old her own mother left her in a cold vehicle over night. She was abandoned. Her father was away at war and thankfully her loving grandparents scooped her up to love and care for her. If you can imagine this information alone can wreak havoc on anyones mental state growing up. As we all do, Romaine grew up and had a family of her own. She had 5 children with her loving husband Henry! The family was big into the local racing scene and that’s where another event landed her into another hardship. Her husband Henry was hit from behind at the race track and fractured his scull. He was in a coma and his recovery was challenging for a mother with 5 kids! Eventually they fell into a rhythm and life went back to normal, that is until another hardship came. Romaine’s son Leslie, who was 17 at the time, was in a car accident. A drunk driver had hit him on Christmas Eve. This tragically left Leslie a quadriplegic.
As you can imagine this changed the trajectory of Romaine’s entire life. Between Leslie needing constant care and trying to care for her other children, it is clear why Romaine was picked as one of our Hardship Heroes. Unfortunately, even though she had many years with both Henry and Leslie it wasn’t enough. Romaine has suffered the loss of both the love of her life, her husband Henry, as well as her son Leslie.
She has without a doubt led a life of heartache, yet meeting her for a few short hours I can tell you that she did not let these Hardships define her life. Instead of being angry, bitter and heading down a difficult path she chose to be the exact opposite! She became a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She became an active member in her community and she never wanted any pity! I am so glad to recognize Romaine as one of our Hardship Heroes and gift her this experience!
Experience - We had a lot of grand ideas when thinking about what exactly to do for Romaine but something simple and meaningful seemed to fit the bill! Jamie and I decided to do a Legacy Video for Romaine and her family! See, not only is Romaine a grandmother she is also a great grandmother! Which is why we wanted to share her story for generations to come! We will be putting finishing touches on the Legacy Video throughout the month of December and hope to gift it to the family shortly! We also gifted Romaine a beautiful Red Garnet and 14k Gold Necklace. We understand garnet is a birthstone however after a little bit of research we felt that the meaning behind Red Garnet was meant for Romaine! One of Garnet’s attributes is its reassuring and protective support in times of trouble, it will give you the courage to tackle any problem and boost your natural survival instincts to get you through difficult situations
The Royer Family
The Royer Family
Hardship - Grief & Loss, Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer), Lung Cancer
I met the Royer Family at one of the many events that Hardship Heroes attends. In the hustle and bustle of the event, I quickly listened to the moms story about losing her 15 year old child to cancer and encouraged her to get in contact with me so we can provide her with an experience.
Sheri reached out to me within a week of meeting and she told me all about her family. She told me that her beautiful daughter Maryjane was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in November of 2020. She battled hard for 2 years and passed away in June of 2022. Maryjane not only leaves behind her brother Randy and little sister Stefania, but also her twin sister Kirstin. This alone is heartbreaking enough. Sheri unfortunately also informed me that her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer in January of this year. The trauma and heartache this mom has had to endure, all while keeping her family afloat is what being Hardship Heroes is all about. This family needed the opportunity to smile again and I believe we were able to do just that!
Hardship Heroes was able to provide donated tickets from Big Screen Escapes to enjoy time together as a family!
We were also able to provide mom and dad with a little date night with tickets to Wise Crackers Comedy Show and a Dinner show at Rustic Kitchen in Mohegan Sun!
We are absolutely thrilled to be able to provide this experience for this amazing family! We couldn’t have done it without all of your contributions!
Our Family Story! (Written by Ginger Outlaw)
'I was 32 years old in April 2013 when I was diagnosed with Triple Positive LT Breast Ca. Being a mom of 5. I have 1 daughter Madison & 4 boys Anthony, Marcello, Trevon & Dylan! I still got 3 under 18! They were all so little in 2013! We had to miss out on alot of things! I had chemo, radiation, LT mastectomy, Total hystectomy, Port Placement, Weight Loss-Sleeve done as my doctors told me might help with recurrence. I did get stable and was in remission.
Then in 2015 my son was experiencing pain in neck, legs, migraines.....My son has now alot of medical issues. The dr did bloodwork, his WBC was really high & labs were off, She sent us to Philadelphia to Saint Christopher's where He was admitted. He then got dx with CML. Chronic Lekeumia& LIFELONG CANCER! He's stable currently on gleevec 600mg. He has alot of health issues . My heart just broke over & over! For 5 years I didn't Work. My son down the road may need a bone marrow transplant! Right now he's on pills, bloodwork, exams, Annual bone marrow biospies! In Sept 2021 I relasped, I had LT rib pain, Scans showed it's now Stage 4 Terminal Cancer! Im really broke, the pain is real, noone will ever understand! Not knowing Why me? How long ? Not knowing I am not going to be here to see my kids girlsfriends, boyfriends, bridal showers, baby showers, marraiges MY GRANDKIDS to share the Holidays with! MOST OF ALL I WILL NOT B ABLE TO FIGHT ALONGSIDE MY CHILD WITH CANCER & WATCH HIM GET A BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT! That is PAIN! I am currently on Treatments and stable for 1 Year in my LT 8th Rib, Im on Verenzio Twice Daily, Fluvestrant Injections, Xgeva Injections! Every month I travel to Philadelphia to Fox Chase! Being so young I have no Pensions, Life Insurance, I have NOTHING, not even for my kids if I die! Its pain in my heart.
Emily contacted us about Hardship Heroes Experience and I am so Thankful for it! We cannot afford to pay for extras! I am fighting to keep my medical insurance each & everyday, Anthony pills along R 10,000 a month for 30 pills. My treatments are Thousands and Im struggling to pay bills and keep my medical insurance! Treatments are not cheap! We don't get Food Stamps, Liheap etc.....its a struggle each & Everyday!!!
I thank Hardship Heroes for helping us with this Amazing Experience to make Memories thru this difficult time, Without this we cannot afford to pay for extras. Please donate to them to help others! We really do appreciate the help from the Organization & Community!"
Experience - Hardship Heroes was able to provide this family with tickets to the Traveling Broadway show STOMP! We were also able to provide them with a gift card to take care of any extra expenses like gas, parking and even dinner out at their favorite restaurant! We also gave them a goodie box filled with snacks for the long ride! We were honored to provide this family with a memorable experience!!
The Santiago & Diaz Family
The Santiago & Diaz Family (Holiday Experience)
Hardship - Grief & Loss, Financial Hardship, Cervical Cancer, Uncompensated Caregiver
Parents Nancy and Eric were friends of a woman named Heather. Heather was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August of 2022. She lost her battle in October of 2022. Heather left behind 5 kids, Maddy, Rosie, Elijah, Josh and Talia. Nancy and Eric cared for Heather and her children in her final days. They have continued to care for her children since. As if helping care for 5 children wasn’t enough, Nancy and Eric have 4 children of their own! As you can imagine going from 4 to 9 children has been quite the challenge. They have retrofitted their home to accomodate everyones needs, and they have provided all the necessities for each and every one of Heather’s 5 kids! We couldn’t have imagined helping a more deserving family this holiday season!
Experience - We were able to provide this family with a Holiday Experience to remember! They have an amazing and delicious Dinner catered by Latin Kings Catering. They had a dessert table FILLED with amazing DONATED treats! Mini cakes… yes mini individual CAKES, DONATED by Tiered Confections. I’m still in shock these beauties were donated to us! We also had chocolate covered pretzels and Italian cookies donated by my very own mom! Which was nice to give a little piece of my family to them! And Yet ANOTHER donation from a hardship hero in her own right Marilyn, who donated cookies and croissants!
They were provided with activities throughout the night such as painting, which was something Heather loved to share with her kids! We also provided them with a cookie decorating kit from Michelle Miexsell Confections! They had games like Jenga, and my family’s personal favorite candy cane game!
Last but not least we were able to provide them with multiple gifts each to complete the holiday experience by the stunning tree set up at The BARNS at Shallow Creek (LOCATION ALSO DONATED!!)