Asher has Down Syndrome and was adopted at the age of four from Armenia, by parents Lindsay and Justin. As Asher’s adoption was being finalized, they learned he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Soon after, Lindsay and Justin brought Asher home. As he was going through chemo treatments, his family needed to be extra diligent about not letting any outside germs into the house because of his compromised immune system. He couldn’t play with other children, go to a public playground or socialize with anyone. All parents know how difficult it is to keep a toddler isolated. Even when they don’t feel well, they have energy.
"I remember being absolutely petrified of germs during Asher's treatment. I would sometimes make an attempt at getting him to wear a mask but he rarely would allow it. I was so scared he would get sick and end up in the hospital, or worse," Lindsay said.
During Sara and Lindsay's first conversation, Lindsay shared her concerns about keeping Asher healthy and free from germs. It became clear that providing Asher with a safe place to just be a kid, while easing his mom's worries about germs, was of utmost importance! Right away, Team SJGF began to plan out how to transform Asher's backyard into a 'Backyard O'Fun'!
Mission: Asher's Backyard O'Fun
All hands on deck for Asher! Landscapers worked to level a portion of the yard and installed a retaining wall. Several volunteers gathered to help build a brand new playground and add mulch to the play area. In addition, a trampoline was added too, creating a backyard that provided a much needed outlet for Asher's energy and hours of fun, but also one that allowed Asher a chance to play without the fear of picking up germs.
Asher's Backyard Reveal
Asher is in Remission
Being pregnant and having a special needs child who was undergoing cancer treatment meant many days and nights driving to and from the hospital. “Looking back on that time, I was so thankful for The Sweet Julia Grace Foundation – they were a light in a really dark time,” Lindsay said. Asher endured four years of chemotherapy but is now in remission! He is in the third grade and still uses the SJGF iPad he received during treatment. His mom says he uses it now to watch his favorite show, “Boss Baby,” and she often hears him laughing over and over as he rewinds to his favorite parts to watch again. Asher is now a big brother to two sisters Jaylin and Tinley and loves playing with them on the trampoline.
"He’s been through so much. But not only has he made it through, he’s thriving. He is truly 'living his best life' if you will. How is this the same kid?! The only way this has been possible for him is because of God. God moved us to go to Armenia. God provided the funds we needed to adopt him. God protected him and healed his little body through chemo. Only God," Lindsay said.
Lindsay and Justin are forever grateful to the SJGF. “We resisted help thinking we could do it ourselves, but once you allow others to help you, you realize there are so many who want to! You’re allowing them to be blessed by helping you." And she knows how it feels to have that blessing as she and her family are now part of the community that gives back. Lindsay donates family photo sessions to other Raindancer families through her business Lindsay Mack Photography and her parents (Asher's grandparents) contributed to making Raindancer Amy's dream come true when she wished for a hand-cycle that would allow her to ride bikes with her friends.
"Once a Raindancer family joins The Sweet Julia Grade Foundation family, we are a part of the same family, for life. Everyone is connected in a very special way. So often I see families who we help, turn around and offer their time and talents to other Raindancer families. Asher’s family is an example of this bond and an example of how much our families want to help each other. It is truly a beautiful thing to be a part of." Sara Knight, Founder