Grateful Grandparents Give Back
"If we could have selected our professions together," Annette Kelm says with a twinkle, "we would have been Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus."
They had reasons.
"When someone you love is in a life or death situation, money doesn't matter anymore. All you care about are the ones you love, your family," Annette explains of including Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in their estate planning. Bruce, who sometimes finishes Annette's sentencesbecause they have been married 46 years takes over, "It changes you completely and when you allow that change to take place, you know something good will come out of it." Annette steps back in, "Doing our part to take care of this hospital and the families that spend such profound time here like we did 14 years ago is the least we can do."
The "someone" in Annette and Bruce's life is a grandchild, now a healthy adult working with his father in the family business. He was just 6 when his leg started hurting and a visit to their family pediatrician in New Port Richey sent them immediately to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. The pediatrician sent them down to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and Jerry Barbosa, M.D.
It was cancer. But not just any cancer. It was Ewing's sarcoma, a rare condition that at the time was often life-ending. But even in those days, Johns Hopkins All Children's had a stellar cancer team with life-saving connections at Moffitt Cancer Center and an orthopedic oncologist, Doug Letson, M.D. He was the first doctor in the United States with access to the Stanmore JTS device, an implant for the leg that more than likely saved the child's leg and life.
Annette, who had been involved with Hospice for years, understood that when life puts you in a situation like this, you begin to see the world from a different perspective. "They work as a team at Johns Hopkins All Children's and from my time at Hospice, I know that teamwork is the gold standard."
She explains that being in a children's hospital for any length of time is like joining a club that you never wanted to join because it was too painful to become a member. As time went on, that precious club became a safety net for the family. It provided support and comfort. "There are not enough words to describe the staff at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. They are truly angels with skin," Annette says.
"That's how we knew where and how we could help," Annette explains. "There were families that lost their jobs, likely from caring for their sick child. Their incomes were limited, they couldn't pay their bills. That's who we wanted to help. We saw helping people pay their bills as money that would go right back into the hospital so the next family could be helped. It's a win-win. We especially wanted to help families who lost a child," she adds, recalling how close they came to losing their own grandchild. "Our donation will help pay for funerals. It will pay back bills. These are the last things grieving families should be forced to deal with. And we have been so blessed. We've given this a lot of thought, and it's the best place our trust can go."
But enough serious talk, Bruce and Annette need a laugh, so they recall the time they were driving home from Orlando and were surprised to see our grandchild on a billboard. He'd been featured in the Children's Miracle Network Telethon while at the hospital and his picture was everywhere. "I had his photo in my office," Annette adds, laughing, "and people would come in and say, 'Hey, I know that kid. I've seen him on I-75.'" They both chime in at "I-75" and finish with laughter.
A lot of laughter comes out of this family. A lot of love, and a lot of giving from a family that has been on both sides. Thanks Dream Builders!