Here's a look back on the magic of the holiday season — Magic Moments 2013.
The Grant Family Story
Mema is raising her sister's children, Dyani and Itan, because they were not living in a stable environment. As a single woman, Mema made it her mission to raise these young children along with her one year old daughter, Jade. She has had custody of Dyani since she was three years old and has had custody of Itan since he was just a few months old. Mema is a devoted mother who parents with an abundance of love and determination.
Dyani is 11 years old and has such a huge heart and loves to help out others. If you need to cry, she won't let you just cry on her shoulder, she will cry with you. If you need a smile, she's always got one for you. Itan is a five-year-old special needs child who loves to play, run, be loud, watch movies and eat snacks. There really is no way to sum him up other than he is "the best" and is “100% boy”. Jade is 12 months old and is such a happy baby! She is very much an explorer and loves to be on the move as well as playing with her baby dolls and Dyani and Itan.
Mema is Native American and is involved in advocacy work through the Ponca Tribe. She was employed at F Street Rec Center through an AmeriCorps grant that ended this summer. Since then, she has had trouble finding a permanent job but is determined to provide for her family and is currently doing daily jobs through the temp agencies. The poverty that this family is dealing with currently is very dire but Mema's ability to stay positive and focused on her main priority, which is her family, is absolutely incredible!
Union Bank’s Magic Moments program wanted to make Christmas a special one this year for this very deserving family. Mema received a much needed new pair of tennis shoes, gift cards to U-Stop and CVS. Dyani received a Google Nexus tablet, which will come in handy for educational purposes and some fun time, as well. She also received a new pair of tennis shoes. Itan, the typical action packed little boy, was delighted to open a 19" flat screen TV, an Xbox 360 controller and a new Transformer action figure. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without some toys for the little one. Jade was happy to get a new baby doll, stroller, doll bed and some clothing. Keeping an organized house is important to Mema so each child now has their own plastic organizer draw set.
This family loves spending time together and one of their favorite activities is going fishing but they only had one fishing pole, which just isn’t enough for a family of four. They received two new fishing poles and a tackle box to help out. They will also share many fun times together with family memberships to the Lincoln Children's Zoo and the Children's Museum. To help capture this family’s fun loving times together, they received a digital camera with a case and backup batteries. We wish Mema, Dyani, Itan and Jade a Merry Christmas!
Jack Moldovan's Story
Jack, who is an energetic, talkative seven-year-old was diagnosed with cancer in Septmember 2013. From trips to the Children’s Hospital in Omaha, blood transfusions, surgeries, chemotherapy and missing school, Jack’s life has been anything but normal. Although he has had to deal and still continues to deal with many challenges, he is the most positive person you will ever meet and has a smile that will melt your heart. The main reason why Jack remains so upbeat is because of the great support system surrounding him. Jack’s father, Tibor, started a blog with pictures and messages to help update everyone on Jack’s progress, explain what certain cords attached to him are used for, and list what they are thankful for. The Moldovan family continues to post what they are most thankful for each week, despite all of the hardships that come with having a family member fighting cancer. Jack’s mother, Sarah, helps Jack with everything from flushing his access lines to making him whatever he is craving for lunch. She took time away from her job to stay at home and take care of Jack. Then there’s Chase, Jack’s thirteen year old brother. Chase lets Jack play his video games while he is away at school and when he is home from school they play board games, feed the cats and fish and construct rocket ships to light off.
With the help of Stephanie Krueger-Ponce from Third Generation Builders, Sue Kirkpatrick and her co-workers from Designworks Interior Design, Karl Edison and Dan Gutzmann along with Dan’s previous partner, Mike Nelson from Mural Mural Graphics, we were able to install new carpet and put new paint on the walls of their family room, which is where they spend the most time as a family watching movies and playing games. We also were able to re-create a galaxy themed room in Jack’s bedroom. This bedroom remodel included a solar system mural on one wall, a custom made headboard, new bedding, cork boards to hang on his wall for his sticker collection and a new ceiling fan, all to match his outer-space themed room. Along with the renovations of Jack’s room and their family room, the family received a Children’s Zoo membership and Children’s Museum membership, a gift card to CVS to help cover the cost of some of the medications and gift cards to U-Stop to help pay for gas for all the trips taken to Omaha Children’s Hospital. They also received the board game Apples to Apples and Ticket to Ride so they can play as a family. We couldn’t leave Jack’s older brother out so Chase received a pair of Nike sandals with Nike socks and an iTunes gift card to buy music and games. Jack received an outer space themed Lego set, build your own transformer set and an iTunes gift card like his brother.
The Mukuna Family's Story
The Dominican Republic of the Congo can be a dangerous place to live, especially for females of all ages. Imagine the relief and excitement of the Mukuna family, when they learned that their entire family – including their five girls – had been granted diversity visas and green cards to the United States, with legal, permanent resident status. Christian, Germaine and their girls left behind their family, friends and professional careers to start a new life in Lincoln, Nebraska in October of 2010.
Although fluent in French, Lingala and Tshiluba, Christian and Germaine struggled to find employment without knowing English. Determined to succeed, they took any job they could get—in meat packing plants, food service and manufacturing. The family was nominated by Germaine’s Lincoln Literacy tutor, who says that Germaine is an eager learner, and continues to work on her English. Both Christian and Germaine are currently employed with part-time and temporary work, but they continue to sharpen their skills in pursuit of permanent, full-time jobs.
With a family of seven, stretching their income is an on-going challenge. The family lives in a town home, more suitably designed for a small family. Although they live simply, Germaine always keeps a smile on her face. The family has endured many trials and made big sacrifices, but their strong faith and sense of family keeps them moving forward.
The girls adapted to Lincoln very quickly, and learned English rapidly in school. The two oldest girls, Christelle and Murielle, are currently in college on scholarships and a work-study program. Adora and Sabrina are both doing very well at North Star High School, while Christiana is excelling at Clinton Elementary School.
The Mukuna family was selected to receive a Magic Moment to honor them for their perseverance and assist them with needs and wishes that are beyond their income. The family was presented with a brand new laptop from Xotic PC and wireless printer to assist with school work and online job applications. Christian and Germaine also received warm blankets for the winter, a CD boombox and Christian CDs. Christelle, Murielle and Sabrina opened new iPod nanos and jewelry to brighten their holidays. Adora received a new backpack, Ugg boots and jewelry, while Christiana received a bracelet loom and tablet to continue challenging herself academically. The family will also experience some classic Lincoln entertainment, with a gift card to Valentino’s Pizza, Marcus Theatre movie passes and tickets to a UNL women’s basketball game in a suite at the new arena. All the girls will also receive new box springs and mattresses from Slumberland.
The Taylor Family's Story
Ann Taylor is a single mom of two boys, Casey (16) and Christian (10). Ann has been battling melanoma for five years now. In late September of this year, Ann’s sister Tammy took her to the hospital to have emergency surgery to remove a large tumor from her brain. Unfortunately a few days later, the doctors did a CT scan and found two more masses. Ann immediately started three weeks of radiation and as as a result she lost her hair. The treatments didn’t stop there; in mid-November she started Chemotherapy. You always hope and pray for the best in these situations but the doctors are saying Ann could only have another 5-6 years to live. Being the dedicated and loving mother that she is, Ann has set a personal goal to fight to live at least eight more years in order to see her youngest son graduate from high school.
Ann was recently able to return to work. She takes one day off a week for her chemotherapy treatment but is determined to carry on with her normal life. She has been blessed with family, friends and great support from her church. A woman from Ann’s church wrote, “Ann is always positive and has a smile on her face. She is a kind and caring person”.
Union Bank’s Magic Moments program is honored to help provide Ann and her boys with a little magic this holiday season. Ann was surprised with a Nextbook tablet that would be easy to carry with her and use while going through treatments, a DVD for her and the boys to enjoy, gloves to help keep her warm this winter, a handmade bracelet with her boys birthstones and candles. The family also recieved restaurant gift cards and movie passes so they can enjoy a night out together. To capture some memories of this loving family, they also recieved a photo session from Nellie Smith photography.
The boys are avid Play Station players and received a new controller and game. Casey also received U-Stop gift cards which will help for his trips from Southwest High School to Northeast High School for his ROTC program. Christian also received an iPod mini and a gift card to iTunes for his listening pleasure.
Lafaya Helmstadler is someone who always gives even though she barely has enough to provide for herself and her three children. Lafaya works at Clinton Elementary School as a para-educator. Because Lafaya works with many children who live in poverty, she does everything she can to try to help them out as much as possible. Many of the children who attend Clinton spend time outside of school with her as she provides a safe house for them. She feeds them and even takes them to Northeast sporting events. Lafaya is known to go above and beyond to do her job and to help her students.
Lafaya is a wonderful mother and always puts her children first. Her eldest daughter, Destiny, is a freshman at Northeast High School. Destiny resembles Lafaya in that she is a hard worker and is friendly to everyone that she meets. Destiny is in the gifted program at Northeast High School and tries to stay involved with her school. Her son, Mehki, is a 3rd grader at Clinton Elementary. He is a very respectful boy who is responsible and a good friend to all of his classmates. He works hard on his homework and tries to help out his mom as much as he can. On Mother’s Day he decided to walk around the neighborhood and offer to mow people’s lawns to earn money to buy Lafaya a Mother’s Day present. Lafaya’s youngest daughter, Kahlia, is a typical 2 year old who has a lot of energy and likes to play with the neighborhood kids. She follows her older brother around and loves it when her older sister babysits.
Lafaya has always tried to do what is right. She barely makes enough to pay rent, much less to supply her family with basic needs through the month. The children are a part of the Food Bank’s Back Pack program. Help for the holidays is a much needed relief for Lafaya. The children do not ask for much and understand that money is tight in the family, therefore, being able to watch her children receive gifts that they’ve only dreamed of brings much joy to Lafaya.
Our Magic Moment was a surprise to Lafaya and her children. Lafaya and her family were met after Lafaya got off of work at Clinton Elementary by her nominating co-workers, Santa Claus, and our Magic Moments team. Lafaya received a new outdoor grill complete with necessities and a meat package with spices and sauces. Lafaya received a family photo session and a gift card to purchase clothing for the session and photos after the session. Lafaya also received a mani/pedi just for herself. Destiny received a pair of Bear Paw boots, a Columbia Fleece, an Infinity scarf and a set of nail polishes. Mehki received an outdoor basketball hoop, a new Under Armor basketball and pump, and a PSP 3K bundle with family-fun games. Kahlia received a play kitchen with pots and pans, a Little People play home, a Little People school bus and extra Little People with pets. The family also received a one year membership to the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo as well as gift card to CVS for household items.
Strong willed, fun, and family focused is how friends and family describe Ashley Stout. Ashley is a young single mother of a wonderful 12-year-old daughter, Madelyn. Ashley is only 28 years old and was recently diagnosed with stage IV cervical cancer. The doctors originally diagnosed her with ovarian cancer and after they went in to do a hysterectomy, theydiscovered that the cancer had spread over her other organs. Ashley now faces at least five more surgeries.
Ashley is so young to have to go through this. However, she works hard to stay as positive as she can with her condition. She does this by realizing that each day is a blessing. She works hard to dedicate all of her time and energy into her daughter Madelyn. Ashley always has a smile and is willing to visit when people stop by or call to check in with her. Ashley has now been receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy for several weeks. However due to the intense treatment she has been unable to work and is no longer able to carry health insurance. Ashley has had to turn to the support of her family and is now being cared for by her mother, Judy, during this difficult time. This has been a major life changing event for Ashley and her family.
Union Bank’s Magic Moments program wanted to make Christmas a special one this year for this family. Ashley received a new Samsung Tablet which will help stay in contact with her friends and family. She also received gift cards to CVS to help with prescription expenses as well as gift cards to UStop to help with fuel to and from treatments and appointments. Ashley also received a new bedding set andgift cards to get some personal items. Ashley’s mother, Judy, was given a new bedding set as well. Madelyn, being the fun 12 year old that she is, enjoys skating so she received a gift card to Skate Zone and a perfume gift set. The family also received a new 32” flat screen TV and a dining room table and chairs set so they will be able to enjoy family dinners together.
Kira Stahly is active and energetic teenager who enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Kira is very involved with her cheerleading squad at Lincoln High School, dance and cheer troop, violin and Youth Leadership of Lincoln. Both Kira and her family are active volunteers with the Humane Society and are role models in their community. Kira however has a challenge that she deals with every day that makes being a normal teenager difficult. Kira was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of two. She has had an insulin pump now for 12 years but her blood sugar level is still very difficult to control. During the day, her active teenage lifestyle makes keeping her blood sugar levels in check challenging.
At night while sleeping, Kira is completely unable to detect changes in her blood sugar levels. Her parents, Bill and Mary have been getting up almost every night to check her blood sugar levels since diagnosed in December of 2000. If her blood sugar level is too low, they’ll have her drink a juice box and stay up with her until her sugar level is higher. If Kira has had an active day and her levels do drop at night, it is very difficult to bring it back up. This then requires her parents to check her blood every half an hour throughout the night to make sure she will be okay. It is almost impossible for them to fall back asleep if her blood sugar is low because they are too anxious and worried about Kira having a seizure in her sleep, so they wait until it rises. This grueling and tiresome process puts a strain on everyone but is something the Stahly family has come to embrace. This night time regiment is something Kira could not do without the help of her parents. This means that Kira has never experienced the teenage girl ritual of a sleepovers or camp outs. Kira and her family have a constant worry with this disease, especially at night. The concerns don’t stop there though. Kira is a very active young women with cheer and dance and at time she can get caught up in the moment and activities and not realize her blood sugar levels are off. In these cases she can become dizzy, loose comprehension of what is happening around her or worse, have a seizure. Diabetes is something Kira has to think about night and day.
The Stahly family learned of an organization that could help reduce some of their worries and daily stress, Heads Up Hounds. This is an organization dedicated to the mission of placing shelter and rescue dogs as service dogs with people who have medical issues. The dogs are professionally trained for the specific medical alert of the individual and trained to be in service. Kira is eligible to receive a Diabetic Alert Dog also known as a “DAD” to care for her night and day. With the help of previous donations and Union Bank and Trust, Union Bank’s Magic Moments was able to fulfill Kira’s wish for a Diabetic Alert Dog. A Diabetic Alert Dog will be able to sense when Kira’s blood sugar level is too high or too low. Her dog will be trained to wake her up so she can be more independent and take a more active role in her diabetic care. This wonderful opportunity of a Diabetic Alert Dog is also giving Kira the hope and possibilities of being able to stay at a friend’s house, participate in cheer camps and in the next few years go off to college.
Union Bank’s Magic Moments program is honored to help provide Kira and her family with a Diabetic Alert Dog and all the necessities that come with owning a dog such as a kennel, dog dishes, food, toys and more. Kira also received a special charm bracelet to commemorate the day her and her new “DAD” came together. The Stahly family was provided with a CVS gift card to help with medical supplies, a gift certificate provided by Kenl Inn for grooming and homemade dog treats by Nellie’s Pet Snacks. The special moment of the day was when Kira and her family got to meet, Roxy, her new Diabetic Alert Dog for the first time. It was an emotional and happy experience as the Stahly family was able spend time with the dog that could ultimately save Kira’s life and allow her to live a more normal life as an active teenage girl.
Diann & Hannah's Story
Diann Clark is a loving mother and she is always putting others before herself. As a Human Resources manager she mentors young adults joining the work force and provides support to anyone that needs it. Diann works hard to support her family and is selfless in her dedication to them and her job.
On October 4th Dianne, her daughter Hannah, her son Brandon, her mother Patsy and her sister Sandra were on U.S. Route 20 east of Crawford headed towards Billings, Montana to visit family. Diann and Hannah were traveling in one vehicle while Brandon, Patsy and Sandra were traveling in another. The roads were slick and treacherous, causing the truck that Brandon, Patsy and Sandra were in to slide into an oncoming semitrailer. Unfortunately, none of them survived the accident, leaving Diann and Hannah in the other vehicle with a heavy loss. What was supposed to be a fun family vacation turned into an unimaginable and heartbreaking tragedy.
Diann and Hannah have found memories of their loved ones. Brandon, Diann’s son, was an aspiring chef and loved trouble from day one. Patsy, Diann’s mother had a sense of humor that could fill a room with laughter, and Diann’s sister Sandra had tremendous amounts of determination and drive. Diann and Hannah have many great memories of the loved ones that they have lost and now have each other to move forward and make amazing new memories together.
Our Magic Moment was a surprise to Diann and Hannah. They received a girls' getaway to take some deserved time away and create some happy memories together. This getaway starts with two nights at The Raphael Hotel in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, including movies, treats and breakfast at the hotel. We have also provided them with gas cards to get to Kansas City and gift cards for shopping and dining out in the Plaza’s unique restaurants and stores. Diann and Hannah will also receive robes, mani/pedi’s and massages to pamper themselves. Movie passes and popcorn will be included to complete their girls’ weekend getaway. Hannah is a senior in high school and is looking forward to graduating so we will be providing her with a new laptop and case for college. Diann will also be receiving a canvas family photo showing her entire family for her to display in remembrance.
We know there is nothing we can do to bring back the family that Diann and Hannah loved so much or take away their pain but we can help them to have some lighter moments in life and enjoy time spent together.
Laura Robinson is currently employed at the Food Bank of Lincoln as a driver. On a typical day, Laura spends her mornings driving one of three Food Bank distribution trucks throughout the city, picking up donations at local retail groceries and food distribution companies. Laura returns to the Food Bank, unloads the donations, eats a quick lunch, and begins the second half of her day. In the afternoon, Laura transports a variety of foods to our high school markets.
However, Laura’s shining moment is the ownership she has taken of the Saturday morning food distribution at First Presbyterian Church. Organized by Jacob’s Well and hosted by the church, food is provided by the Food Bank and Laura helps to create this twice monthly food distribution that serves hundreds of families and individuals. What is unique about this is that Laura arrives at the Food Bank early on Saturday mornings, loads her large truck full of pallets of food along with her six-year-old son Eddie, her brother and often times her mother. They head to the church and the magic begins. On these Saturday mornings, volunteers are waiting for the truck's arrival and Laura unloads the precious cargo. There are hundreds of individuals waiting to see what the delivery might be.
Laura is a hard working single mother and also volunteers as Eddie’s scout leader. She works hard to make sure Eddie is well-fed and has the basic necessities. On top of taking care of her son, Laura is looking after her mother who is currently battling cancer. Laura represents the Food Bank in the most perfect way and unselfishly helps those who desperately need it.
Union Bank’s Magic Moments program was honored to provide Laura and Eddie with a little magic of their own this holiday season. The magic started with a special trip to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo where Santa helped in presenting some great gifts to them. Eddie received a new bike, rollerblades, pogo stick, telescope, remote control car, disco light karaoke and a Nintendo 3DS XL bundle. Laura asked for items that will help her do her job. She received steel toed boots, coveralls, printer, work gloves, socks and gift certificates for massages, which you can image she needs after all her hard work. Laura is always thinking of others before herself and had a wish of 400 turkeys or hams donated for the December 21st food drop at the Food Bank. Nebraska Pork Producers Association and DuPont Pioneer made a gracious donation of $1,000 to have this wish fulfilled. The family also received a one year membership to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and the Lincoln Children’s Museum.
Kind, loving, and positive is how friends and family describe Shaun McCabe. At the age of four, Shaun was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, liver and intestines. Now at 30, he is awaiting a dual lung and liver transplant. Only 41 liver-lung transplants have been performed in the U.S., which will require him to temporarily move to Aurora, Colorado. The average Cystic Fibrosis patient lives to be only 38 years old.
Although diagnosed with this disease Shaun has worked hard to live a normal life. He has a part time job at Sears. On a typical day, Shaun wakes up and takes 14 different pills. He then straps on a percussion vest and takes inhalation treatments of medicine while the vest vibrates to loosen phlegm in his lungs. In the afternoon, Shaun takes 6 more pills. Before bed, he puts the vest on one more time and takes another round of inhalation. When he is done with that, he takes 9 more pills. His night time regiment isn’t finished yet. Most Cystic Fibrosis patients don’t grow at a normal rate. Shaun has the bone structure of a 14 year old. So every night, Shaun fills up a syringe with a growth hormone and injects it into this leg.
Every month, Shaun goes to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for a routine check-up. While there for at least a week, he sees the same team of doctors he has had since he was five. The pills, growth shots, dietary supplements, percussive vest and constant check-ups for pulmonary functions tests on his lungs, and getting weighed and measured would be enough to make most crazy, but not Shaun. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t keep fighting to enjoy everything that so much of us take for granted. In the face of adversity and with the odds stacked against him, he hasn’t given up hope. “I don’t let the Cystic Fibrosis get me down” Shaun said, “because I don’t want to be another sad person in an already negative world.”
Shaun stays active and connected with other people with Cystic Fibrosis through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) and Concerned Nebraskans for Cystic Fibrosis websites. Shaun also has a page on the COTA website in order to raise funds for his transplant. Donations are currently a little over $8,000 for his $30,000 anticipated transplant-related expenses. If donations reach $25,000 by June 2014 the COTA organization will donate $2,500 to Shaun’s transplant-related expenses.
Shaun received a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with keyboard and traveling carrier to stay connect with friends and family while in the hospital. A Samsung Camera with memory card to create videos and snapshots of his daily progress. To give the family time out to spend together Valentinos gift cards were provided. Shaun also received new shoes, shirts, jeans and Scheels gift cards to pick out a few things on his own. A gift card to Verizon to stay in touch with everyone back home while in Colorado for his transplant surgery. For his trips to and from Omaha for check-ups Shaun was given U-Stop gift cards. And last but certainly not least a CVS gift card to help him with his medical necessities.
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