Having a sick child who must undergo hospital treatment is a parent’s worst nightmare.
And not being able to afford to stay at the child’s bedside is an unfathomable heartache.
Thanks to the “Pennies From Heaven” fund, financial assistance is provided to needy parents of children admitted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. The aid enables parents to remain with their children during the stay in the hospital.
Kane native Jon R. Perry and his wife, the former Joni Detrick of Kane, are the founders of the “Pennies From Heaven” fund.
“Keeping families together during difficult times is important to the healing process, to parents and, most importantly, to sick children,” Perry said in discussing the basis for the fund. “With the help of a volunteer board of friends,” Perry said, the fund has raised over $1.5 million and has “distributed gifts” to more than 30,000 families, including several in Kane and McKean County.
The Pennsylvania State University recently announced that Perry has been “honored” with the “Service to Society Alumni Award” for his work with “Pennies From Heaven.”
Perry graduated from Penn State in 1987 with a degree in speech communications. He is a graduate of the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh and is a partner in the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Rosen Louik & Perry.
A 1983 graduate of Kane Area High School, Perry is the son of Judith “Judi” Zelina of Kane and the late James Perry.
The formation of “Pennies From Heaven” came after Perry and his wife endured many anxious moments when their son, Trevor was admitted to Children’s Hospital at the age of 2 1/2. He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
During his long vigil with his son, Perry became friends with the father of a teenage girl. Perry said his new friend was “devastated” when he was told that his daughter, an “athletic super-star,” had “a very bad bone cancer and needed to have her leg amputated.”
The next day, Perry wanted to console his friend and receive an update on the surgery. When he couldn’t locate the man, Perry said he thought “something every bad may have happened.”
To his “relief,” Perry said he saw the man the following night at the hospital. Perry said he “joked” with man for not providing an update on the girl’s surgery.
Then he learned why.
Perry said he was “informed through the man’s tears” that the father “could not afford to miss another day of work so he was unable to be at the hospital for his daughter’s surgery.”
Perry said the “weight of that reality” nearly caused him to “collapse.”
When Perry returned to his son’s room at the hospital, he shared the man’s story with his wife.
“She, too, was horrified,” Perry said.
Because his son’s chemotherapy was “going very well,” Perry was able to rig up “a little race car” and push his son “around the floors of the oncology wing” at Children’s Hospital.
During these “laps” around the wing, Perry said he noticed “many—too many—children alone in their hospital rooms.”
“The frightened and lonely eyes of these children peering through their hospital doors is a sight I could not get out of my mind,” Perry said.
Initially, Perry said he was “upset and angry” with the parents of the children who were left all alone in their hospital rooms.
But, after discussing the situation with a nurse, Perry learned the stark truth.
“Most of the children had loving parents who simply couldn’t afford to stay with their sick child,” Perry said.
A prominent medical malpractice and personal injury attorney, Perry said he and his wife “were fortunate enough to be in an economic position” to stay with their sick child “for his entire admission” at the hospital.
He said he and his wife were also “convinced that being with Trevor contributed to his amazing response to treatment.”
Pick up a copy of the Monday, April 23, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.