After losing two infant children to leukemia, a mother has reached out to a family in need while pausing from her dream to keep her grandmother's house in the family.
Erin Curtis and her partner, Jeff Megonigal, of Boyertown, lost their daughter, Avery, in 2007 and their son, Nolan, in March 2009. Nolan's twin brother, Calvin, who recently turned one-year-old, is continuously checked at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for leukemia, according to the Erin's Dream Web site,
Erin's Dream was started with the assistance of friends after Nolan passed away. Curtis and Megonigal committed to the cause of raising money to restore Curtis' grandmother's farmhouse and helping other families in need. They gave up the house they had been living in to pursue the goals of the organization.
To help Erin's Dream projects, a beef and beer benefit will be held from 6-11 p.m. at the Gilbertsville Fire Hall, Philadelphia Avenue on Jan. 16.
Erin's Dream sponsored the house for a child named Gavin Owens who had a form of mitochondrial disease and was wheelchair bound. The family was living in a second floor apartment in Pottstown.
Gavin passed away in November 2009 and didn't have a chance to live inside of the house with the rest of the family, but his memory and the hope the community has given given to the family continues on.
On the Owens Family blog, Gavin's mother, Karen, posted the following comment about the help from Erin's Dream: 'Adam and I are grateful beyond words, and truly overwhelmed, that this family is reaching out to us and making our life a little easier '' even in the midst of their own grief and loss.'
The creation of Erin's Dream
During the same time when Nolan was in the hospital, she found out that her grandmother's house had to be sold to pay for her care.
'I wasn't approached about the house because of what we were going through with our son,' she said.
'I didn't want to lose the house,' Curtis said, adding there were a lot of great memories and history to her grandmother's house.
According to the Web site, the farmhouse in Schwenksville has been in the family for more than 200 years.
Some of her friends suggested 'a creative real estate transfer' or fundraisers to help raise money for the house.
'I said that I couldn't just take the money,' Curtis said. 'I wanted it to be a project that would help other families.'
Kristin Weller and her father, Randal S. Doaty, were two friends that started Erin's Dream. Doaty and Curtis' father were police officers together in East Greenville/Pennsburg.
'This organization has never been about just getting the house for Erin,' Weller said. 'Her heart breaks for any family who has to go through the terrible pain of losing a child and she hopes to bring some joy and peace to those families in whatever way she can.'
Doaty added that supporters of Erin's Dream realize that restoring Curtis' grandmother's house will benefit families.
'Erin has a special knack for growing her gifts into blessings for others,' he said. 'Her recent efforts to help Adam and Karen Owens find a home for there severely disabled son was just one example of her character, strength and compassion, especially considering the fact that Erin does not have a home of her own.'
Finding comfort in helping others
She said after the house is restored, she wants it to be a safe, welcoming place for families with children who have terminal or chronic illnesses or families that have had children pass on due to terminal illnesses.
'Families will find that people will step up and help you when they find out your child has a terminal illness,' Curtis said. 'But after the child passes away, the help and support can go away. People don't know what to say to you or what to do.'
Financial and emotional aspects after a child's death don't disappear, she said.
'The house can be a place for families to stay for a meal, skip a rock across the creek and a place they won't feel alone,' Curtis said.
In addition to the aesthetics of the house that overlooks the Perkiomenville Trail, the house can also serve as a place to hold fundraisers like the start of a 5K run, Curtis said.
The Perkiomenville Trail goes through a part of the property, she said.
'The hardest part of fundraising is finding a place that doesn't cost an arm and a leg,' she said.
Dealing with the deaths of two children has been hard but Curtis finds strength in being the best she can be for her family and keeps going with the organization's projects.
'You can either stare at a wall or do something,' she said, about dealing with the loss of her children. And it is obvious of what she has chosen to do.
More about the beef and beer benefit
The beef and beer benefit will offer various door prizes including a studio sit-in with WMMR's Preston and Steve Show, Curtis said.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased on the Web site, www.erinsdream.org under Web store, or at Hollenbach Home Center located at Route 100 and County Line Road.
In addition to the beef and beer event, community members can participate in a chili cookoff from 2-5 p.m. at the Boyertown Area Multi-Service on Jan 30.