Help from Hometown Heroes for family of student with leukemia

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS — Looking at the Maxwell family, it’s hard to tell they’ve faced the possibility of losing their house and their son all in the same year.
But these days, they’ve got wide smiles and speak of miracles.
“We are just thankful to God,” Chavis Maxwell said.
When their son, Keenan, was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2009, Chavis and Tosha Maxwell quickly used up their sick leave and vacation time to accompany him to chemotherapy treatments and hospital stays.
Next, they tapped into their savings to help with bills.
Later, they had to start taking unpaid leave from work, which meant bills couldn’t always be paid by their due dates and sometimes not at all.
When they got behind on their mortgage payments, the family of five faced foreclosure. But that’s where the story takes a twist.
Hometown Heroes, a nonprofit organization made up solely of volunteers — many of whom are law enforcement officers, stepped in to lend the family a helping hand.
“The family was in very dire straits,” Hometown Heroes volunteer Capt. Michael Smith of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office said.
The organization paid the family’s mortgage and utility payments for several months, allowing them some time to get back on track.
“It’s just nice to help somebody that is less fortunate, who doesn’t have control of their life and what goes on,” Smith said. “The disease controls where they go, how they act, what they do, when they work, when they don’t work.”
But Hometown Heroes didn’t just provide financial support.
Smith and other volunteers visited Keenan in the hospital and showed up to his birthday parties and other family events.
“Whenever we called, they came,” Chavis Maxwell said.
Tosha Maxwell said the group transformed into more than just volunteers.
“They are just like part of our family,” she said. “They have literally been with us since day one.”
Smith said that’s what the organization is all about, support of all kinds.
“We don’t just go in there and give them money and leave,” he said. “We hang out with them.”
Keenan is healthy these days, after receiving a bone marrow transplant from his father in June 2010.
He stayed at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte until August and returned to Kannapolis Middle School the following March.
Today, Keenan is fully recovered. He’s back on a regular schedule at school and gearing up to play football with Kannapolis Youth Sports.
“God still works miracles,” Tosha Maxwell said. “He’s living proof.”
And the family is still thanking Hometown Heroes.
“It was awesome the way they helped out,” Chavis Maxwell said. “They took care of us so that we could take care of (Keenan).”
And even though Keenan is well again, Hometown Heroes is still around.
A group of about 150 motorcycles and police cars accompanied him to Kannapolis Middle School last week, where a group of his peers was waiting to welcome him. Keenan got to ride in with Cabarrus County Sheriff Brad Riley.
“Our claim to fame would be that we always allow them to ride with the chief of police or sheriff,” Smith said. “It’s a good way to introduce them back to school and make them feel like king for the day.”
Hometown Heroes operates primarily in Mecklenburg and Union counties and portions of surrounding areas. The group has hosted fundraisers and collected donations for about 70 families since its inception about a decade ago.
“Nobody is paid. We have no paid employees whatsoever,” Smith said. “All our money goes to the kids and their families.”
To find out more about the organization, visit hometownheroesonline.com
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.SalisburyPost

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