In November, the Heckman family had suffered some devastating setbacks.
Their 6-year-old son Steven had been battling acute lymphatic leukemia since August 2011, and providing him with the best care and treatment was taking a toll on their finances.
But then their financial struggles took an even bigger blow: the Heckmans lost their entire home in Amity Harbor, N.Y. to Superstorm Sandy.
At first, the loss was overwhelming for the family, and they soon became fearful for the health of their son.
“A shelter [was] not an option at all,” Danielle Heckman, Steven’s mother, said. “His immune system is suppressed, and with flu season going around…for Steven to be exposed to that, he’ll be back at the hospital.”
But the Heckman’s luck began to change when DKMS: Delete Blood Cancer, a non-profit organization that seeks to find matches for patients needing bone marrow transplants, contacted Fox News Health asking producers to profile the family’s struggles. Since the story aired, the family has raised $5,000 on their website, www.gofundme.com/theheckmanfamily, to help rebuild their home.
And now, one wish to the Make-A-Wish foundation changed how the Heckmans will start their new year. They were scheduled to take Steven on a trip to Disney World – right after Hurricane Sandy hit. Danielle called the foundation, asking them if they could postpone the trip, because they no longer had a home.
After that phone call, the Make-A-Wish foundation decided to go a step further than giving them a vacation.
“We just felt there was something more we could do” said Karine Hollander, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish foundation of New York and Long Island. “So we reached out to our friends at NARI and they took it from there.”
“We actually met the Heckman’s and decided right then and there that we were going to take over the project,” said Patrick Bentivegna, chairman of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
Bob’s Discount Furniture offered to furnish the house, as well as Sears and Kmart kicking in with housewares and gift cards.
While the house was being fully furnished, the Make-A-Wifh foundation sent the family on the trip to Disney World that they originally had to skip. When the Heckmans returned home, the cameras were ready to record their astonishment.
“Oh my god, are you kidding me?” Danielle Heckman exclaimed at the sight of her new home. “Now we are here, and we are going to sleep in our own beds tonight!”
Before the remodeling, the Heckmans only had a two-bedroom home, forcing Steven to share a bedroom with his two sisters. But NARI added an extra bedroom during the renovations, giving Steven his own bedroom, complete with a mural of his favorite action hero Indiana Jones.
The Heckmans plan use the money from their website to replace their cars lost to the storm. For now, they are incredibly grateful for what NARI and Make-A-Wish have done for them.
“I can’t even believe that the house could look like this,” Danielle said.