Kimberly Stephens is on a mission for a friend in need.
Stephens, a 38-year-old wife and mother, said she had sat around long enough after seeing Jerry Parrish, 60, struggle with medical bills for the past two years, since his diagnoses with throat cancer.
“I knew that they were having a hard time because of the bills,” explained Stephens. “They didn’t want to tell everyone about it because they are very private people, but anybody who has dealt with a family member who has cancer knows that it costs a lot, and most of the time, it is the family that has to pick up the costs. Just from general conversations that I have had with them, I knew that the trips back and forth to Duke were costing him.”
Parrish was diagnosed with throat cancer in June 2010. After three months of intensive radiation treatments and chemotherapy, it was discovered that the cancer had not gone away. By 2011, Parrish was under the knife, undergoing throat surgery in an attempt to remove the cancer.
“They got what they could, an entire mass,” explained Stephens. “But in January 2012, he went through another scan and the throat was clear, but the cancer had spread to his neck and in a lymph node.”
With not many choices, Parrish went through invasive neck surgery in April.
“That was the only chance he had,” Stephens explained. “They took out all kinds of muscle, veins and he lost the use of his left arm. He has been doing therapy ever since.”
A few years before the cancer diagnosis, Parrish suffered a major heart attack that ended his career as a contractor left him on disability.
“He has been a contractor all his life,” she said, “and for him not to have the ability to do his work, it really bothers him still. That is how he provided for his family. People that know Jerry know that he loves to be outside and tinkering with things; he still does to this day.”
However, the tinkering has been put on hold since his April surgery.
“He still gets out there, but he is still trying to recover and get back all his movement.”
Enter Stephens, who has been going to church with Parrish for over 20 years at the Roseboro Church of God.
“I got the idea to do hold a fundraiser for him back the end of June,” she said. “It was time for someone to step in and do something.”
Although she knew Parrish, she was a little closer to his two older daughters, both around her age.
“I have seen the struggle first hand over the years,” she explained. “I guess because of my age verses his age, I guess I just kept on waiting for someone, who was maybe older to step up and help him, but it just came to the point where no one did. So I just said to myself that I was going to show everyone that one person could make a change.”
That fundraiser, which will include a motorcycle ride, a plate sale, a car show and a gospel sing, will be held Sept. 8 at Roseboro Park.
Stephens said she is Parrish’s Sunday School teacher and was teaching one Sunday when she had an epiphany.
“Every week I was getting up there and preaching about how God expects us to stand up and do the right thing,” she said. “And I would tell them, we change our world one person at a time; and I kept on teaching that week after week until one day I just realized that it was something that I also needed to do.”
It was a feeling she couldn’t shake.
“I just kept hearing God saying, this is what you should be doing,” she explained. “So, I just took it on and went with it. It is something that I never dreamed I would be doing, but I feel like it is something I have to do.”
Approaching the subject of a fundraiser for a proud man with three grandchildren was something that Stephens handled very carefully.
“I just told him what I wanted to do and I didn’t want him to be upset or embarrassed or anything,” she stressed. “I told him that I want him to know we are going to do this and get him some help. He really didn’t want anyone to know his issues, or have someone feel sorry for him. He just wants his family to be taken care of if something were to happen to him, you know, so they wouldn’t have to worry about all of the financial burdens. He knows that he will never get every medical bill taken care of, but by some grace of God, there could be some relief for them, if something were to happen.”
With Parrish on board, Stephens got to work, calling anyone and everyone who would listen. With solid support from friends Shawn and Sandy Thompson and David and Michelle Phillips, and a boat load of support from local businesses, the Sunday school teacher got right on track, especially with Parrish.
“It has brought us closer,” she said with a smile. “He calls me his third daughter now. Even though you go to church with someone so long, like I have with him, I never really got to know him like I do know, which is a blessing. I really started talking to him and hearing all of his stories of his life and it has been amazing.”
If you are interested in volunteering, participating or donating items to the fundraiser call 910-214-6478 or 214-6352 or come out to the event on Sept. 8. The event will start at 8 and run through 2 p.m.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.