Editor's note: Andrew Gritzmaker, executive director of Mad Anthonys Children's Hope House, set out June 2 on a 4,200-mile bike tour from Oregon to Virginia. His goal is to raise awareness for the mission of Hope House and to provide better insight into what families experience in a medical crisis.
This is the third in a weekly series of profiles of families served by Hope House. Gritzmaker's goal is to finish the race in 30 days and to raise $25,000 for the Hope House. He surpassed his goal on June 13.
As of noon Thursday, Gritzmaker was nearing the Kansas-Missouri border, more than 2,500 miles into the route. Follow his progress competing in the Trans Am Bike Race on The Journal Gazette's Facebook page or at transambikerace.com or on his individual link at trackleaders.com/transam18i.php?name=Andrew_Gritzmaker. Learn more about his quest at www.childrenshopefw.org.
Leah Duncan made her debut into the world at just 24 weeks on March 5, 2018, weighing in at 1 pound, 7 ounces.
Leah's parents – Emily, a first-grade teacher, and Roy, a machinist – were nervous about having to travel back and forth from Warsaw every day to visit her. It was scary being so far from home with family visiting only when their schedules allowed it, having no vehicle and Emily having no ability to drive after giving birth, and constantly worrying whether Leah would make it through the day. It was a lonely feeling.
Emily found it hard to leave Leah's side, and Roy quickly decided he needed to find a different job and a house in Fort Wayne so the family could remain together. Finding out about the Hope House lifted a huge weight from their shoulders during their 93-day stay. Roy was able to take his time finding a new place to live, knowing that Emily was able to be steps away from their daughter.
Emily said that without the Hope House, nurses and services offered through Lutheran Hospital, they would have spent all they had worked so hard to save and would have had even more stress.
Emily and Roy decided to include the Hope House in another important life event; they were married on May 5 in the respite garden in the Hope House's backyard with a few family members present. It was important to them to include a place where they had made many memories, shared laughs and tears with each other and other guests, as well as gaining a new family in the staff.
“The Hope House and all of the staff meant the world to us,” Emily said. “They were always so supportive, offered hugs when needed, and listened to me cry. They took care of everything so that we would not have to want or need during our whole stay. The Hope House is a place that we will forever be grateful for.”