“It is very important to fulfill a dream”

Here is a touching article about how an individual takes her own personal loss to try to help others.

In honor of mom: Journee’s focus to fulfill lifelong dreams

Published April 1, 2014 in Herald & Tribune

An organization, created in honor of the founder’s mother, is beginning to work to make dreams come true for those battling a terminal illness in Northeast Tennessee.

The organization, Journee, held its first board meeting at the beginning of March, seven years after Journee Executive Director Heather White started looking into the idea. At that time, she said, she was neither emotionally or financially ready to start Journee.

Once she earned her master’s degree in science in healthcare administration, however, Journee started to become a reality. White also has a bachelor’s degree in social work and currently works as a family resource specialist at Head Start.

“We actually just started working on it again in December,” White said. “It’s all kind of fallen into place this time. That’s God’s way of saying it is time.”

She said they are pursuing their 501c3 status.

Journee began in honor of White’s mother, Lisa Ricker, who passed away in March 2004. Ricker was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and immediately started treatment. At that time, Ricker’s son was 2 years old and her daughter, Heather was 14.

Although Ricker was given a 33 percent chance to live, she beat cancer and went into remission. Unfortunately in 2003, Ricker was told the cancer had come back and not much could be done this time. She began chemotherapy, which was not successful, so Ricker focused on her quality of life.

White said one of the last things her mom wanted to do as a family was take a trip to the beach. Unfortunately, the money Ricker, a single-mother, had needed to go towards paying for their house, so it would not be foreclosed.

The trip was never made.

“My brother is now 15 and has one memory of her,” White said, which is of their mother being sick. “If we had gotten that opportunity, maybe he would have had good memories.”

Because of that experience, she began Journee in an effort to help others, 18 or older, battling a terminal illness, fulfill their lifelong dream.

“I wanted to make a difference for someone else in their family,” she said. “Give someone else an opportunity that we didn’t get to have.”

The name, “Journee,” White said, was chosen because it is about her family’s journey and the journeys of the families that the organization gets to help. She said it’s not about the final event, but all the things people do to get to that final point.

The nonprofit will help families from northeast Tennessee, primarily Greene, Washington, Hawkins and Unicoi counties. The organization’s goal is to increase the quality of life of the individual fighting a terminal illness, as well as provide the family with a chance to spend quality time with their loved one by helping them fund a dream they would not otherwise be able to afford.

Journee will pay for the travel, housing and planned activities costs, as well as a stipend to cover daily costs. The organization will also provide recipients with a photo book and DVD of their trip.

The application can be found on Journee’s website at www.makethejournee.org, by calling White at 423-426-3659, or by emailing White at heather@makethejournee.org.

“Our goal is to have at least one family fulfill a dream by the end of the year,” White said. “Every year, I would like very much to be able to increase that number. I want to help as many families as we can.”

White said each trip will cost about $5,000.

“It is very important to fulfill a dream,” she said, as well as “have some quality memories because it is a very trying time.”

In an effort to raise some money for the organization, Journee is holding a Mother & Son Dance from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at Chuckey-Doak High School gymnasium. Big Time Entertainment will provide the music.

Registration for photos, which will be done by Wihoit Photography, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Photo packages run from $20 to $25.

Tickets are $8 per person in advance and $12 at the door for the dance. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.makethejournee.org.

Journee is also holding a yard sale on Friday, June 27, and Saturday, June 28 at 1641 Kiser Blvd., Greeneville. The organization is seeking donations from the community for the sale, which will be accepted until Sunday, June 22.

White said her long-term goal is to help more than one family a month.

“I someday envision (having) a location with other employees, so we are able to make this our only priority,” White said.