But what if you had a parking lot interaction that changed the course of your life for the better? If so, you’d be a lot like Sherry. Oh, and a lot like Angela, but we’ll get to that later.
Sherry should be about a decade into retirement at this point, spending time with her husband and enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. But 10 years ago, she got a call that delayed that future a bit.
Her grandson Dylan was just seven years old, and his younger sister Daisy only four months when their mom called Sherry and said, “The kids are about to go to foster care. If you don’t take them, someone else will.”
Sherry didn’t even take a breath before she agreed. This wasn’t the first time she had assumed a similar responsibility, either. Only a few years before, she became the guardian of her other granddaughter after the untimely death of her son. Sherry was supposed to babysit for just a few hours, but after the mom dropped the baby off, she never came back.
“The mom also died a few years later,” Sherry told us. “But that same baby is 19 years old now and attending college at Penn State.”
When it came to her grandchildren, Sherry was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they were safe and cared for. Retirement could wait.
Taking care of two young kids was a big change, but Daisy was also born with some complex medical needs that required special care. She was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy (affecting all four limbs), has a growth in her pituitary gland, and is missing her hypothalamus.
That part is tricky to explain, but the gist is that the hypothalamus keeps the body balanced. As different systems and parts of the body send signals to the brain, they can alert the hypothalamus to any unbalanced factors that need addressing.
For example, if the hypothalamus receives a signal that the internal temperature is too high, it will tell the body to sweat. If it receives the signal that the temperature is too cold, the body will create its own heat by shivering. Without it, the body can be imbalanced and stressed, so it poses big risks for Daisy. Combined with some challenges of her cerebral palsy, Daisy is currently unable to walk, talk, or move around independently.
“Despite all that, if you put Daisy in a pool, you’ll never notice there’s a problem,” Sherry told us. “She absolutely loves to swim and looks just like any other kid out there.”
Daisy also really loves to listen to music, and Sherry said she gravitates to Lady Gaga and Luke Bryan, in particular. (Varied tastes, we like it!) And, despite their age gap, Daisy gets to spend plenty of quality time with her big brother, Dylan, who Sherry said is especially good at helping take care of her.
The thing Dylan isn’t always there to help with is the daily task of lifting Daisy. Because of her cerebral palsy, Daisy has spasticity, which basically means her muscles are stiff and tight. She’s also 10 and much heavier now, so transporting her from her wheelchair to the bathtub, for example, can be really difficult and time-consuming.
Sherry’s husband often handles that task - Sherry herself has two rare medical conditions and requires the use of daily oxygen - but he also had his own health scare two years ago that rocked the family to its core.
He was working on the roof and was electrocuted, and the electricity went in his hand before blowing a hole out of his leg and throwing him from the roof. He landed on his back and as Sherry told us, “was pretty messed up.” He couldn’t work for almost two years as he recovered from extensive issues, and the family went through all of their savings trying to stay afloat.
Eventually, gratefully, he was able to recover and return to work, but it had already changed much of their lives.
One day, not too long ago, Sherry took Daisy to the doctor's office for a check-up, and once they got back out to the parking lot, had a particularly hard time trying to get Daisy loaded back in their van. They owned a 2005 Kia Sedona, which did the trick of getting them from point A to B most days, but wasn’t wheelchair-accessible – which, of course, meant a lot of moving and jostling around to get Daisy safely in and out.
“I was really struggling,” Sherry told us. “She was so stiff and heavy, and it was a lot trying to get her equipment broken down.”
“I heard a voice from behind me that said, ‘I can help you with that.’”
The woman introduced herself (“I’m Angela,” she said) and asked Sherry if she could use a wheelchair-accessible van.
“I thought maybe she had one for sale, but she said, ‘I know of an organization that might be able to help you with that.’ And that’s when she told me about Chive Charities.”
Angela, that parking lot angel, is a past recipient of ours, and a loving mom to two biological children and three medically-fragile foster kids, including Kenny:
When we met her, all three of her foster children required the use of a wheelchair and that called for an extra special van that could transport them all. Donors like you helped make that possible, and Angela’s life caring for these amazing kids got a little bit easier.
So that random day when Angela saw Sherry struggling to load her granddaughter into a non-ADA van, she felt a strong pull to say something and potentially help Sherry’s life get a little bit easier, too.
From there, the rest of the pieces sort of fell into place on their own. Chive Charities didn’t know that part of Sherry’s story when we saw her application. We didn’t know that she met a parking lot angel who mentioned a name with the potential to change her life. We only knew of her big heart and immense need, and thanks to our monthly and one-time donors, we were able to fund the full cost of a wheelchair-accessible van for Daisy for a total impact of $44,944.
Our friends at AMS Vans delivered the 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan to their driveway about two weeks ago - a life-changing vehicle that symbolizes so much more.
“We feel so blessed and are truly grateful for this van,” Sherry told us. “We love it and it will make such a difference in our lives. I can't say thank you enough and God bless all of you and the work you do.”
Oh, and that 2005 Kia Sedona? Well, Sherry and her husband were going to sell it to fund the cost of an ADA bathroom in their home for Daisy. But after they met a single mom struggling to care for her autistic son, they became her version of a parking lot angel and donated it to her instead.
When you stop and think about it, it’s truly astounding what this community of do-gooders can do. In that way, not much has changed since 2011 and the first call for help Chive Charities ever received - a desperate plea from a struggling fire station in Fluvanna County. People saw a need and decided to do something about it.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Chive Charities community is still filled with people seeing a need and doing something about it. Those parking lot angels, or internet helpers, or photo gallery do-gooders. You’re all changing lives, still, over 10 years later. Where else can you find that?
You can bet that the next time Sherry or Angela or any of our other 565 recipients see someone struggling in a parking lot, they’ll be ready with the name of a group of people who might be able to help. They’ve never failed them yet. Become part of that community making the world 10% happier and DONATE HERE.