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A Double-portioned Blessing
Community residents organize an extreme home makeover for a young leukemia victim and her family.

BY ROGER W. COON

[Main Story]

the project probably wouldn’t have rivaled the scope of the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but the dream of two West Virginia housewives mushroomed far beyond anything either of them could have possibly imagined.

It all came together in the small, close-knit community of Berkeley Springs, which has a population of about 2,500 and is the seat of Morgan County in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. The tragic plight of 9-year-old Adrianna Shingleton, a leukemia victim literally fighting for her life at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, galvanized not only Lori Sipes and Molly Logsdon and other members of the local Adventist church, but spiraled into a community—and then a regional—outpouring of love and helping hands.

ADRIANNA SHINGLETON: Now age 10, Adrianna is recovering from leukemia and a total bone-marrow transplant. [Photo credit: Mike Gamblin]
The tangible outcome today is valued at some $100,000 worth of practical, much-needed assistance to the Shingleton family.

Adrianna’s need was critical. University oncologists had ordered a virtually sterilized, germ-free house where Adrianna could live in near-isolation following almost four months of treatment. Protection had to be guaranteed for her lengthy bone-marrow transplant surgery, which involved total immune-system replacement.

Local Adventist church volunteers, spearheaded by Sipes and Logsdon, began the mammoth task of renovating the 40-year-old Shingleton dwelling in August 2005. Ultimately, the house would boast new hardwood floors throughout, new sheetrock in relocated walls, new electrical wiring, new windows and ceiling, a completely new kitchen, a totally remodeled bathroom, new air- and water-purification systems, a new wood stove, some new furniture—and even a new driveway.

As word went out about the need, home improvement centers and other merchants from places as distant as Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, contributed tens of thousands of dollars worth of building and other materials.

Bob Osborne, a local Presbyterian pastor, and a team of his church members donated several afternoons of labor working on the house. Others contributed their time in various volunteer tasks, and modest gifts of money began to flow in.

A local radio station disc jockey gave an occasional updated progress report, and the local weekly newspaper, The Morgan Messenger, provided major coverage. At Christmastime, a report written by one of the newspaper’s correspondents spilled over into an entire half-page, including a four-column photo of friends and well-wishers greeting the family upon return.

About halfway through the project a local contractor, learning of developments, brought in his entire construction crew to take over and complete the project—free of charge.

LENDING A HAND: (From left): Volunteers Bruce Beadenkopf, Dave Sipes, and Pat Logsdon are only three of the more than 200 people and businesses that played a part in the Shingleton house remodeling project. [Photo credit: Chris Prindle]
Altogether, more than 200 businesses and individuals played a part in the Shingleton house remodeling project—well beyond anything anticipated by the promoters when it all began—with a few close friends and fellow church members pitching in to help.

“This project has had a deep spiritual impact upon a number of people who participated,” said Sipes.

Adrianna was first diagnosed with aggressive leukemia in 2003, and had to endure weeks of painful chemotherapy and radiation. Her condition then went into remission for some 16 months. But last June it returned again, with a vengeance.

Physicians felt that her best hope for a cure was a bone-marrow transplant, replacing the entire immune system, because old leukemia cells can become resistant to chemotherapy.

Adrianna’s amazing recovery—plus the new home—were twin answers to prayer by her mother, Lisa, a fourth-grade public school teacher, and her father, Paul, a local carpenter. Their abrupt departure to North Carolina for Adrianna’s medical treatment had effectively meant both would sacrifice their respective jobs and total income in order to live in a furnished medical center apartment.

Adrianna’s new bone marrow, from a donated umbilical cord, engrafted in just two weeks—a record time, physicians said. Her new cells took off after only 22 days of inpatient treatment (doctors say it usually takes 45), and medical personnel began referring to her as their “Wonder Girl.”

Each week back in Berkeley Springs, in addition to announcing current church events, the local Adventist church’s illuminated outdoor sign also read, “Pray for Adrianna.”

Dozens of total strangers passing by each day did just that, later phoning church members or the church office to pledge their prayers, as well as inquire about medical progress.

“It’s an answered prayer. It’s just incredible,” Lisa Shingleton told a local reporter, referring to her daughter’s recovery and their home renovation. “I’m just walking around in a cloud.”

WELCOME HOME: Lori Sipes (front/center), one of the two project coordinators, and other friends and community residents welcome the Shingleton family to their new home. [Photo credit: David Sipes]
Adrianna is not out of the woods yet. She now has to travel a weekly round trip of about 200 miles to Fairfax, Virginia, for examination by physicians working closely with Duke University Medical Center staff. And in March and August 2006, she must return to North Carolina for treatment, checkups, and re-evaluation.

Sipes and Logsdon worked tirelessly on the project, and are now planning a catered dinner of appreciation to honor donors and volunteers.

Paul and Lisa Shingleton say they continue to be dumbfounded at the outpouring of community response—and two miracles: their daughter’s continuing recovery against enormous medical odds, and their brand new house. They believe both are answers to the many prayers and gifts of friends as well as countless people they have never met.

_________________________
Roger W. Coon is a retired associate director of the White Estate


 
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