My name is Jennifer Bowers, and my husband, Rick, and I have three children-Abby (9 years), Will (5 years), and Jack (21 months). We live in Woodstock, GA, and I teach Talented and Gifted elementary school students in a nearby town. My husband worked as a freshwater mussel ecologist and taught part-time at Kennesaw State University on Saturdays. He was working on his PhD long-distance at Kent State University. He was also a member of a band and dabbled in his own music production company. As you have probably guessed, we led very busy lives. This past summer, my husband, who is NEVER sick, began to experience some vision problems, which progressed into ringing of the ears, speech problems, and numbness/weakness on the right side of his body. It took a couple of months, MANY tests, and finally a craniotomy, but my 34 year old husband was finally diagnosed with a brain stem glioma, which is a very rare and serious form of brain cancer. They have given him 3-5 years, but he is determined to beat that and see our children reach all of the important milestones in their lives. The diagnosis also came on the day he was laid off from work. As you can imagine, it was a very rough time for us. Luckily, we have found a lot of support from family, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers.
Imagine our thrill when we received a call from Heidi at the Jack and Jill Foundation informing us that we had been awarded a trip. Because of Rick’s PhD research, we had not been on a family vacation in years, and now because of our financial situation, we weren’t expecting to go on one any time soon. We had an absolutely fabulous time on the trip! Every last detail was carefully thought out to make our time easier and more fun. The Park and Fly Plus was so convenient and ideal given all of the luggage we had. Everyone at the airport helped us out, and the limo driver was wonderful. The resort was absolutely beautiful. We had a golf cart, a special wheelchair for the sand, and a shower chair for Rick. Ruth, Rick, and Marcos checked on us many times to make sure we had everything we needed, and Ruth took us personally on a tour of the resort. The kids loved their sand toys and stuffed dolphins. Will had trouble believing that they would be allowed to take them home and not have to leave them for the next group of children who stayed there! The New Year’s Eve party, dolphin cruise, and sunset dinner on the beach were a lot of fun for all of us, although Will was afraid that the captain of the boat was lost since we hadn’t seen any dolphins for awhile! We ate at different restaurant every lunch and dinner and got to do every activity we were interested in doing at least once. Of course, I enjoyed not having to cook! We really appreciated the groceries that were provided for us for breakfast and snacks. In short, we had a fabulous time and were able to make memories that we will keep for a lifetime. Rick was a little apprehensive about going on the trip. He was afraid to leave his comfort zone here at home, but after facing any challenges that we came across on the trip, he came home with a much more positive attitude. He is originally from Florida, so he enjoyed smelling the sea air and dinner on the beach the most. Abby enjoyed collecting shells that she and her dad identified later and going to the pool. Will enjoyed riding in the golf cart. And Jack enjoyed going places and his new shoes (go and shoes are two of his new words). I enjoyed spending time together away from home, doing fun things, just the five of us. It seems as if we have not had any time to ourselves since this whole thing started. While I appreciate everyone’s help, our house has become a revolving door.
So, please accept our most sincere thanks. All of you are wonderful people, and I hope your generosity and kindness are returned to you tenfold should you ever need it.