Providing Respite by the Sea for Deserving Families
by Becca Edwards
Close your eyes and recall an image of Wonder Woman. Beams of light flash from her bracelets as she combats an unruly miscreant. Next, imagine a young girl in a wheelchair. Her eyes glow with the promise of youth as her body battles a villainous opponent like leukemia. Lastly, visualize a mother caring for her ailing child. Her love for her daughter radiates as she fights to keep hope. Each one of these images depicts a hero, and though the first is fictional, the second two are very real. Thankfully, one local organization is giving these brave warriors a supercharged week in Hilton Head.
“Hilton Head Heroes has been in operation for 15 years,” began Lindy Russell. She and her husband, singer Gregg Russell, founded the organization in 1998 and since then have helped thousands of people. “The Hero House hosts 50 families a year and each family differs in size. The first family this year had eight children and five of them were in wheelchairs.”
The mission of Hilton Head Heroes is to help families with children between the ages of two and 18 suffering from life threatening illnesses by providing a resort-like reprieve from the stress—both emotional and physical—of their therapies and health challenges. Eight years ago, the organization purchased a four bedroom, five bathroom house in Sea Pines. Several local businesses pitched in to outfit and decorate the house, so not only is it wheelchair-friendly, it’s comfortable and serene. Other businesses and volunteers also donate services like bike rentals, dolphin tours and dining options, creating a much needed retreat—Hilton Head style.
“I think Hilton Head Island, with its beaches, businesses and people, make it the perfect family place to relax and find peace. Sometimes it is a chance to say goodbye to their child. Most times it is the first in a very long time the entire family is under one roof. And always it is a welcome respite from medical treatments and interventions,” said Lindy, who serves as Executive Director.
Debbie Heaton and her family, who heard about Hilton Head Heroes through their PedsCare hospice social worker, recently stayed in the Hero home. “We have a large family and we took seven children and three adults with us. Six of the seven children are disabled in some way and three of the six are in wheelchairs and one uses forearm crutches. Two of the six are very medically needy,” explained Debbie.
The Heatons took full advantage of the Hilton Head Heroes coupon book, which is provided for every family. “It was a very busy week. We went on a dolphin cruise. We made it all the way up the spectacular Harbour Town lighthouse. We went kayaking—which was a new experience. We biked. We had therapy dogs visit us. We all went to the movies—we have never been able to do that. And the kids really enjoyed random people dropping off cookies and other treats for them. It was heartwarming.”
Debbie also said that everyone—from their neighbors, to the Sea Pines security guards, to a man they met at the beach—enriched their experience. “The entire community welcomed us, embraced us and made all the children feel so special. This trip is forever going to be by far one of the best and greatest family vacations for us. The kids were able to do many things above and beyond the usual family getaway vacation. Not only are we thankful for lots of really good, happy memories, but we appreciate the happy, secure and loving feelings that come with these memories,” said Debbie.
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
Do you know a family who has a child battling a life threatening illness?
If so, they may qualify to be a Hilton Head Heroes (HHH) family for a week. Please spread the word! For more information about volunteering, upcoming fundraising events, or to apply to be a HHH family, log on to www.hhheroes.com or call Lindy Russell at 843-422-6343.