“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
I mentioned some great news in the last post, and today we can finally unveil it.
The day after we returned from the trial in Texas, I was driving back from some work errands when I got a call from Madonna’s CEO Marsha Lommel. She asked about how we were doing after the trial and then said she had some great news for us.
Last April, Tiff and I created a special video for the Dan Whitney family (better known to the world as Larry the Cable Guy). In it, we told Alexis’ story and asked the Whitney’s to come to Madonna for a visit.
Their family is constantly traveling (on tour), but Cara Whitney finally had a chance to watch the video while we were in Texas in November. She immediately called Madonna and said she was stopping by for a tour. One of our in-patient therapists, Holly Shifsky, showed Cara around and told about Madonna’s vision for a special pediatric rehab hospital within their facility. They sent Cara home with a DVD of our documentary.
After watching the documentary and talking to Dan, Cara called Madonna to announce their Git-R-Done Foundation wanted to make a donation to Madonna. The $1.2 million gift would pay (completely) for the building of the special children’s rehab facility Madonna was hoping to create!!!
When Marsha called to tell me the news- I was blown away. Tiff and I have always felt that what happened to Alexis happened for a reason, and we really believe that this is it. To say we were speechless about the news is a total understatement.
The next day, we had a chance to meet Dan, Cara, and their two children- Wyatt and Reagan- for the first time. They are the most down-to-earth, friendly, caring couple we have ever met. During our visit, we joked with Dan about what the hospital would be named- we suggested “The Git-R-Done Children’s Hospital”. Dan replied- “no, we’re naming this after Alexis.”
That’s right, the new facility will be called “The Alexis Verzal Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital at Madonna”.
We didn’t know at the time, and still do not know what to say.
The gift was announced at a special press conference this afternoon. I’m sure there will be video clips up on the Lincoln news stations website shortly if you want to see some of the event.
I wanted to share with all of you the speech Tiff and I wrote for the announcement today. Unfortunately, I only made it about three words in before the tears began to well….
There are few things that compare to the pain a parent feels when their child is injured or ill. Since Alexis was hurt 20 months ago, my wife Tiffany and I have dealt with our pain through faith- which has told us that every circumstance, no matter how dark, happens for a reason.
Today, that reason is abundantly clear.
There are no words to express the appreciation we have for Dan and his family on this day. We hope it is understood that this is not only a gift to Madonna- but to the entire state of Nebraska and to children all over the country. Thousands of children will be given a chance to recover from debilitating injuries and illness, the way Alexis has, because of this donation. The fact that it is being built because of the generosity of a Nebraska native, whose incredible determination and work ethic have gotten him where he is, should make the people of this state even more proud.
It’s impossible to comprehend the far reaching effect of this facility on lives for many, many years to come. Working in rehabilitation with children is a daily challenge. Oftentimes the child is unable to communicate their wants and needs, meaning the therapists have to use their talents to figure out what works. It could be a certain toy, a piece of rehab equipment or even the therapy environment that causes a spark in an injured child- and gets them on the road to recovery. This facility will give every child that comes through these doors the opportunity to have that spark, and to get better.
Madonna is home to some of the most talented pediatric therapists in the country. We are also thrilled they will have the best facility and tools to practice their craft.
We are so humbled by the decision to name this facility after Alexis. After going to rehab here five days a week for over a year and a half, a life with constant rehabilitation is the only life Alexis knows. There will be many challenges in the years to come as she becomes cognizant of her handicaps and the sad circumstances surrounding what caused them. We are comforted that this hospital will show her how much good has come from her hard work and determination, despite everything she must endure.
One unique aspect to this facility is that its namesake will actually be using it herself. Alexis has a lifetime of therapy ahead of her- so also as her parents- we thank you both for helping her heal. This will certainly be the first of many thanks from parents for how you have helped their children recover.
We also believe that Alexis’ name is a mere representation of the spirit of so many children- past and present- that have and are recovering here. This hospital will be named after Alexis, but also Jeremy, Derek, Signe, and Grace. Hope, Ashley, Adam, Caleb, and Tonya. Brady, Kolden, Hailey, Carson, Chase, Mandy, and so many more. We hope they share the same pride we do in what will soon be built.
We have a plaque in our house that reads- “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” Dan & Cara- thank you for giving children facing the most difficult of circumstances, the opportunity to dance in the rain- right here at Madonna- for many, many years to come.
Thank you as well to all of you for the thoughts and prayers over the last 20 months. You have helped Alexis get where she is, and in turn, played a part in what will soon exist at Madonna.