“His name was Jack,” Jim recalled, “And once he told me more about his plans, something just struck me, and I said, ‘I want to go to Nebraska, too.’”
Not long after that, Jim dropped his date off at her dorm room and looked for someone to hang out with the following night. That’s when he first met Linda, and the rest was history. (Also, we have to pause to applaud his game. Well done, Jim!)
The two both graduated from the University of Nebraska and raised their kids - three boys and a girl - in Lincoln. They had the quintessential hosting spot, a three-story home on a main road where they built a life together over the next 30 years.
“People called it the bed and breakfast because we used to host so many get-togethers and parties and would put our friends up for the night,” Linda laughed. “And we always cooked ‘Go Big Red’ breakfasts on weekend game days.”
They were always giving back to the community in one way or another. Linda was an art teacher who owned her own art store, and she and her sister later started a company called Changing Spaces to help families whose elderly loved ones needed to downsize.
Jim became a 7th-grade social studies teacher, then a guidance counselor before working for the University of Nebraska for the last 14 years of his career.
While there, he recognized a need to help support at-risk kids in the Lincoln area, so he founded a program that became a staple of the university’s football team. Essentially, they paired at-risk youth with college football players in a buddy system similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Jim’s initial idea caught the attention of Tom Osborne, a storied college football coach for the Cornhuskers from 1973-1997. Tom and his wife Nancy loved the concept so much that they further developed it into something called TeamMates, a school-based, one-to-one mentoring program still in existence today.
Lincoln was home, and Jim and Linda poured their whole lives into making it a better community by actively investing in it. If it wasn’t for their children returning to Jim’s hometown area of Boston, they might still be there now.
As it stands, they’ve spent their retirement years in the northeast doting on six grandchildren, all boys ranging from age 6-14. It’s been nearly 60 years since Jim and Linda started on this journey together, and they’re hoping for many more. But the last few years have taken their toll on Jim.
“I started noticing it was hard to get up out of the chair,” Jim told us. “And then I started falling - often and without warning.”
He might have chalked it up to getting older, but Jim was just hitting his early 70s and had always been fit and active. Something seemed off, and it went beyond typical wear and tear.
After a regular checkup, Jim was sent to the neurologist for further evaluation and testing. There, they discovered that he had a rare condition called inclusion body myositis, a disabling inflammatory muscle disease in which the body’s immune system turns against its own muscles and damages muscle tissue in an autoimmune reaction.
The pair were thankful to have an answer to their lingering questions but uncertain about what the condition would mean for Jim’s future. All they know is that it progresses at different rates for different people.
For Jim, his legs have been impacted the most, and his muscles have severely weakened. As he described it, he can be walking around the room with little difficulty when his legs suddenly give out and he falls.
“Since my diagnosis, the use of my legs have slowly deteriorated, and I progressed from a cane to a walker, and I am now fully in a wheelchair,” he said. “My body cannot support my own body weight anymore.”
He’s had three significant falls already, including a broken leg near his ankle bone that required surgery, a broken leg near his knee that also required surgical repair and a broken kneecap. All were excruciating, and all called for varying degrees of physical therapy to recover.
While they love their new home in Massachusetts, it’s not designed for accessibility and it’s been difficult for Jim to maneuver anywhere outside of a few of the main rooms, and certainly not the lower level of the house.
Jim is unable to lift himself from a sitting position, and pivoting or standing at all is completely out of the question. While his legs have been the most impacted by his condition, the use of his arms is also affected, though he’s able to use a slide board to transfer himself most days.
“Linda is now 75 years old, and it’s getting harder for her to help me,” Jim explained. “She’s been phenomenal, but it’s a lot.”
That’s when Linda started looking for other resources that might be able to help them fill the gap. They were able to purchase a car for a transfer seat to be installed, but covering the additional cost of $11,500 for the equipment was a huge monetary burden.
She was looking through the Muscular Dystrophy website (Jim’s condition is in a similar family of disorders) when she found Chive Charities. They met us, and the rest was history. (Sound familiar?)
Through the support of our generous donor community - a group that’s consistently there to help fill the gaps - we fully funded the cost of the transfer chair for Jim and Linda.
For two people who have invested so much of their time in helping their community, it seemed fitting to call on our community to help them. Thank you for making that possible for this amazing couple.
At Chive Charities, our work is about filling the gaps where insurance and other resources cannot. That’s what you made possible for Jim and Linda, and that’s what you’ve made possible for over 565 other recipients like them in the last 10 years. It’s a privilege to support people like Jim and Linda, and it’s a privilege to do it through people like you. What else can we make possible? Only time will tell. Be part of it with us and DONATE HERE.