Photos courtesy of New Day Foundation for Families  

Sterling Heights Police talked with Santa during New Day Foundation for Families Holiday Gift Giving Program. Det. Ken Mercer (above) and MAP Executive Board President and Sterling Heights Officer Rich Heins (below) along with other Sterling Heights Patrol Officers sponsored a cancer patient’s family in December 2015 & 2016.

 By Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor

Sterling Heights Police have a history of helping their community and they are encouraging other area departments to join them in supporting the newest organization they are helping, New Day Foundation for Families.

On Dec. 12, 2016 Sterling Heights Police Officers Association (POA) President and MAP Executive Board President Rich Heins along with Det. Ken Mercer, Sterling Heights POA Vice President, presented gifts for a single mother, who suffers from cancer, and her three children during the New Day Foundation for Families Holiday Gift Giving Program. New Day Foundation for Families in Rochester supports area cancer patients and their families, who are struggling financially, physically and emotionally.

Sterling Heights Patrol Officers shopped for and wrapped gifts of needed and wanted items for the 34-year-old and her sons ages 15, 10 and 7. Mercer and Heins presented the gifts to a family friend since the woman was unable to attend due to treatments and a weakened immune system. She was diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma in July 2016 when a tumor was found behind her sternum. Lymphomas are blood cancers in the lymph nodes. Now she is undergoing six 21-day treatments, which involve in-hospital stays.

“She was working full-time,” Heins said of the single mom. “She had two jobs.”

Diagnosed July 28, 2016, she is unable to work due to treatments and her weakened immune system. “She’s a waitress and she hasn’t been able to work,” Mercer said. “She was just so lethargic and short of breath that the doctors said she’s not allowed to work. Her blood cell count is down from chemotherapy and she could get sick.”

New Day Foundation for Families is the genesis of Gina Kell Spehn and Michael Spehn after losing their young spouses to cancer. They married and between them have five children who have lost a parent to cancer. Together they wrote the New York Times bestselling book “The Color of Rain,” which was adapted for the screen as a Hallmark Movie Channel original, premiering on May 31, 2014, and continues showing throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

“New Day provides short-term financial assistance for basic living expenses and emotional resources to family members. By reducing financial and emotional burdens, our programs have a profound impact on quality of life and treatment outcomes for cancer patients and their families,” said Josephine Long, Development Director at New Day.

New Day also helps with the educational needs such as pay-to-participate school activities fees, costs for field trips, school clothing and supplies. This allows the children to focus on their academics by temporarily relieving them from the stresses of home.

Sterling Heights Police are helping their sponsor family see hope for better days. “She wants to start camping with her kids so we got them a tent, lantern and board games to play as a family, plus dishes, socks, hangers, sheets and pillows,” Mercer said.

This is the second year the department has reached into their coffers to provide Christmas gifts to families. The Command staff also sponsored the family of a 44-year-old woman, diagnosed in September 2016, with Stage 4 breast cancer. A former manager, she is also unable to work due to her diagnosis and treatment and her common-law husband lost his job. They have three children also, ages 19, 14 and 11.

“One hundred percent of whatever we purchase goes to the family. It’s not like we donate money to them and they pay administration costs,” Mercer said. “We talked to the Founder and it seems like a great organization helping people out. Hopefully it brings a little smile to their faces,” he said of the gifts.

“Gina’s 15-year-old son now has brain cancer,” Mercer said of the organization founder’s son. “He was there (at the Holiday Party) and we got to meet him. She’s very nice and she recognized us as soon as we came back this year. It’s nice to support a local charity.”

Sam Kell was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 2015 and underwent surgery to remove the tumor. He then received proton radiation treatment in Chicago. The type of brain cancer he has typically returns within 6 month to a year. Sam is undergoing an FDA-approved treatment, a cap he wears on his head which is like an external chemotherapy treatment, Long said. Sam carries the 7.5 pound bag with an Optune device and his head is covered with arrays. Optune creates low-intensity electric fields, called Tumor Treating Fields, or TTFields. TTFields help slow or stop glioblastoma cancer cells from dividing and may also cause some of them to die. He also takes a chemo pill every day.

“It’s been a full year, and Sam is doing well due to his faith, optimism and dedication to his treatment. He’s in school, playing basketball, and living life fully,” Long said.

Sam’s progress can be followed by Liking the Pray for Sam Kell Facebook page. To make a donation, participate in a program, or to purchase “The Color of Rain,” click on New Day Foundation for Families.