A Helping Hand for Parents in Need
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 450,000 premature babies born in the United States every year and approximately 15 billion born worldwide. That’s one in every nine babies born to U.S. families expecting to have a full-term healthy bouncing bundle of joy.
Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under age 5, and those that survive can suffer a variety of ailments ranging from anemia, jaundice, infections, respiratory problems from underdeveloped lungs, intestinal issues, heart problems, and sleep apnea just to name a few. Other problems like learning disabilities can be permanent.
There are approximately 13,500 children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year, with 35,000 children in the nation being treated for cancer at this very moment.
There is no way to predict a premature birth or development of terminal illness like cancer, but when this happens parents are faced with worry over their children’s health along with the stress of caring for other children and paying the bills. Regular day to day responsibilities can become almost impossible in this scenario. This is where The Hampton Foundation comes in.
Early November 2009, Angela and Seth Thornsberry found themselves at UAMS in Little Rock after Angie had gone into labor early that morning. Just the night before, Angie had painted her belly like a jack-o-lantern and handed candy out to the neighborhood children for Halloween. Everything seemed fine although she was a bit tired. Upon waking, Angie realized she was in labor with the due date still two months away. Seth rushed her to the emergency room and she was transferred to UAMS, but they were unable to stop her labor. Seth and Angie had a beautiful baby boy they named Hampton the very next day. Since Hampton was born so early, he stayed in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) after Angie was released. The following is Seth’s story about the events leading to the birth of his son Hampton, and the inspiration behind the forming of the Hampton Foundation:
“On November 1, 2009 I woke up to go deer hunting. I decided to hunt in the deer stand in the woods directly behind my house due to the fact my wife was 7 months pregnant and not feeling well. I’d been in the woods for about 20 minutes and could still see my house from where I was sitting. I heard the door to the house open and turned around to see my wife standing outside with tears in her eyes. I knew something was wrong. I climbed down and returned to the house to find her water had broken. We immediately got in the car and went to St. Mary’s Hospital and found out she was having complications. The doctors decided to hospitalize her at UAMS in Little Rock, located about an hour away from our home in Russellville, for a couple of weeks so the baby could grow. My mother-in-law called on November 2 to let me know my son was coming. Hampton was two months premature so naturally he had to stay at the hospital for a few days short of two months.
During Hampton’s stay at UAMS, my wife and I were driving back and forth to Little Rock daily, sometimes in separate vehicles, sometimes together. Most days we would stop and eat at Chick-Fil-A, just as a treat, since Russellville didn’t have one at that time. Due to the significant gas prices and the real estate market being slow, money was tight. On a Tuesday morning at a sales meeting, one of the agents at my office shared the story of a family in need whose little boy [Asa Rubio] was terminally ill and staying at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis. The family was struggling to travel to and from the hospital to be with their little boy. It hit me that I had the means to travel back and forth to see a healthy baby, and I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to not be able to travel to see your terminally ill child. I decided to donate as much money as I was able to give to help this family travel to be with their son.
I told my wife that I had written a check for this family when I got home that evening. My decision to donate money, which was a significant amount to me, to this family, compounded the issue of money being tight in our own. Initially my wife didn’t understand how I could give money to another family when things were tight, and I didn’t understand how I couldn’t do it. I had the ability to travel to see Hampton for the two months that he was hospitalized, and I wanted this family to be able to do the same for their son, who, sadly, is no longer with us.
Shortly thereafter the idea came to me that I had to find a way to help others in situations similar to theirs. I began to search for resources available to help families with children who were ill, and I discovered none were available. I decided that I had to do something to help families in these situations.
I have to believe that Hampton being born at the same time this little boy was dying was for a purpose. I continue to have the reoccurring thought of not being able to travel to see a terminally ill child because of something such as money. My goal is that no one has to miss time any time away from their child with a terminal illness.”
Seth and Angie made many trips from Russellville to Little Rock during little Hampton’s stay, incurring additional costs in the monthly budget for fuel, food and other necessities. Of course it was money well spent, but what happens when a family doesn’t have spare resources? When Seth was told the story of terminally ill child Asa Rubio, and learned his family didn’t have the funds needed to travel to see him while he was being treated for cancer, he knew he had to do something to help. He made the decision to donate to the family to help them cover expenses. And out of that one small act of kindness the idea for The Hampton Foundation was born.
Asa Rubio was diagnosed with liver cancer on July 25, 2009, at age 10. His parents wanted to get the best possible treatment for Asa and took him to St. Jude’s Medical Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. Asa’s extended family surrounded his parents and siblings with all the love and support only a family can, but the added expense of traveling between Russellville and Memphis to take care of Asa and caring for their other children were piling up and there was not enough money coming in due to missed work. The family depended heavily on their community, friends and neighbors to help meet their needs. Sadly, Asa lost his battle with cancer in 2010, but will always be remembered not only for his beautiful brown eyes and winning smile, but also as the inspiration for the forming of the Hampton Foundation.
Established as a 5013c non-profit in 2013, the members of The Hampton Foundation set out with one goal in mind — to help take some pressure off parents with severely ill children by assisting with funds to cover some costs incurred by travel to care for their little ones. The Hampton Foundation assists by providing food and fuel cards to families who otherwise may not be able to afford the additional expense of traveling from their home to the hospital every day to be with their sick child.
Angie and Seth Thornsberry serve on the board of directors along with Mr. David Lopez, Ms. Jody Reel, and Mr. Dan Solley. The board members work tirelessly with volunteers throughout the year to raise funds by organizing bake sales and 5k runs. Recently, they were able to raise over $1,000 by participating in the 64 Galore yard sale weekend. These events combined with the loving donations from individuals and local businesses like Harp’s, Hardee’s, Regions bank, Shoptaw, Laban & Company, River Valley Realty, River Valley Music Center, Firestone and Cornwell Funeral Home provide many families with the extra push they need to get through another day.
After speaking with Angie and Seth today, I find myself inspired and warmed by their generosity. Seth told me “Who am I, if I can walk up a flight of stairs, to leave someone in a wheelchair at the bottom?” “I feel the Lord spoke to me when our family was going through a hard time and told me there was a way to help others. How can I not listen?” Angie says the hardest days are the days when there is not enough funds to fill all the requests. On these days, her solution is to put the problem in God’s hands; she knows he will find a way.
Life sometimes throws us a curveball we were not expecting. When the challenges we face concern our children and their wellbeing, life seems to get much harder in an instant. I commend these wonderful people and their willingness to help others when their need is so great.
To make a donation of funds or volunteer your time, please visit the Hampton Foundation website at www.hamptonfoundation.com and click on the appropriate links.