2022 Fall Funding Round is now OPEN. Click on the Apply for Assistance tab for the Application form. All Applications will be accepted until October 8th, 2022
Recipients Fall 2021/Spring 2022:
Arena: James Johnson, Dreydon Hill
Lone Rock: Jamie Layton, Donald & Jordean Grass and John Acker
John Acker & Jordean Grass
When John Acker, 56, with encouragement from his family, turned to 4PS, he says, with tears
in his voice, that he almost walked away. He felt like he was begging, and he never wanted to
“be that person.” He had always been the one to provide the help when neighbors, family, or
friends needed it. But he also knew that without asking for help now he was going to lose the
home he had put so much hard work and love into over his entire adult life. In August of 2020
he had fallen two stories off of a roof on which he had been working, shattering a vertebrae,
breaking his pelvis, femur, and multiple other injuries. The surgeries, healing, and recovery
have been excruciating, and he still struggles, a year and a half later, to just move. 4PeteSake
can’t change the horror of his accident, or bring back the “fit roofer body” that he had before,
but they have paid his mortgage for the last year, and he can’t put into words how grateful he
is for that. And how immensely glad he is that he held his pride in check and did not walk
For John that meant paying his mortgage. In the case of Don and Jordean Grass, it meant a
slew of repairs to their trailer home. 4PeteSake worked with contractors to replace the rotting
floor throughout, repair the bathroom fixtures, replace the kitchen cabinets, fix the leaking
roof, and as a touch of extra kindness, bring in a simple round kitchen table at which they can
now welcome a stranger, me, into their home. Tears also came to Don’s eyes as he spoke of
his difficulty asking for the help. And yet they were out of options. Don had suffered a stroke
several years before and then was struck by Stage 4 colon cancer. Jordean struggles with her
own health issues. Neither of them can work. But they still manage to pay their bills, they just
never had the money left over to pay for repairs. And the things that needed repairing kept
adding up. For years this couple had helped out at the food pantry in Spring Green, and it was
there that they heard about Neighbors helping Neighbors, another organization in our
community whose sole purpose is also to provide help to those in need. Through that
organization they were directed to 4PeteSake, and the journey to the home into which they
had graciously welcomed me began. Jordean glowed as she told of their delight when they
returned to their newly fixed home, describing the moment like “This Old House” when they
were ushered in to see the amazing transformation. They had been put up in a hotel in
Platteville for a week while the work was done, which by itself had brought them joy, then
when they returned home to the beautiful refurbished trailer home, they could hardly believe
how fortunate they were. Next month they plan to renew their wedding vows right there, in
their living room, surrounded by family. They know that they couldn’t have done that without
the help from 4PS.
A few weeks ago I was honored to speak with Janna Johnson-Fuchs, close cousin-friend, and
near-sibling to Jimmy Johnson. This is how she described the role 4PeteSake had in the end
of her beloved cousin’s life:
Last fall Jimmy, who did not like going to the doctor, discovered that he had Stage 4 lung
cancer. This was devastating news to his two daughters, Jamie Statz and Jordon Schwarz, as
well as the rest of his extended family and many close friends. Jimmy had always been the
life of the party, a hard worker, a devoted father and grandfather, and a vital part of his
extended family. The Johnsons are an incredibly tight knit family. You may have heard them
sing together at one of the many venues in the River Valley. As they drew together to support
Jimmy, his cousin, Janna, had an idea to help out. She had grown up with Jimmy, they shared
a lot between their two houses, and had always been very close, feeling more like siblings
than cousins. Janna had often been a part of bands that have played for A Day in the Park
(the late summer fundraising gala that happens in North Park to raise money for 4PeteSake).
As it became clear that Jimmy was not going to be able to work, and would need financial
help covering his expenses, Janna thought to encourage him to apply for assistance. She is
so glad that she did.
4PeteSake awarded Jimmy the money to cover his expenses and lift that burden as he
battled his cancer and approached his death. The money was able to alleviate so much
stress, and allow Jimmy and his friends and family to spend what remained of his life focused
on the things that mattered—each other.
As Janna told me about Jimmy, I was struck by the joy that he brought to others. He made
people laugh. He told stories. Apparently very long stories! Being the life of the party means
that there were innumerable people who wanted to help out at the end of his life. So many
that Janna had to create a google.doc to organize their visits. The house was always full of
family and friends who wanted to be with Jimmy.
On his last day the family gathered around and were able to say the Lord’s Prayer and sing
their Family Circle Song together to honor him, and send him on his way, surrounded by their
love. Music is one of the things that holds this family together, and I can only imagine how
powerful that song was for all of them. You may have heard them sing it together as the
Johnson Family Band. It was the last song of every gig and everyone that was willing would
come out on the dance floor, make a big circle, and dance together. This inspired them to
rename the Johnny Cash song “Daddy Sang Bass” the “Family Circle Song” where relatives
and non-relatives could join together as one big family. What an incredible family, and
powerfully moving end of life story this is.
It was with the assistance provided by 4PeteSake that the Johnsons were able to keep their
focus on each other, spending the last few months of their beloved Jimmy’s life together,
instead of being overwhelmed by the burden of expenses.
On Wednesday, March 2nd , Dreydon Hill came home from his 4th grade class not feeling well.
Tara, his mom, did all the things we do when our kids don’t feel well, but by the morning of the
3 rd she just felt that this was something more serious. Given the choice between taking him to
urgent care in Sauk, or to the children’s hospital in Madison, she decided on Madison and that
decision probably saved his life.
Leading up to that day,Tara had found herself deep in the world of medical decisions and
advocacy since 2015 when she lovingly cared for her goddaughter during her(name?) brief
life. Since then she has advocated for both her father and step-father’s final illnesses and
death, her mother’s illnesses, and then her husband’s broken leg the day before Dreydon got
sick. After so much, she was prepared to ask all the questions and always advocate for
Dreydon, providing all the love and support possible over these horrific last three months. No
amount of exhaustion, however, would slow down this dynamic, intelligent, and devoted
mother as the medical system struggled to first save Dreydon’s life–his kidneys were in
complete failure when they arrived at the hospital–and then diagnose him, and figure out the
best plan of treatment going forward.
After nearly six weeks of tests, treatments, and surgeries, with his mother always at his side–
loving, advocating, and asking questions–Dreydon’s kidney functions had healed enough for
him to come home to the rest of his family. His Dad’s leg was healing and his sisters and
brother wanted him back home. While his kidneys continue to heal, the family must deal with
the real possibility that he will still need a transplant by next year. That he will always have
PAN and its potential manifestations. But in the meantime he went back to school part time,
he even is playing baseball! He is, after all, still a 10 year old boy! And, in spite of the
uncertainty and fear and line-up of pills he now needs to take, his family is there for him and
determined to make his life normal. The day I was there they were joyfully filling the used pool
they had purchased for a song last year, so that Dreydon could swim, one of the “normal”
things he loves to do. Tara is so very grateful to 4PeteSake for providing the financial help
that allows her to devote her time to Dreydon and the healing her family needs to do.
The road ahead is unknown. This disease, called Polyarteritis Nodosa (PAN) is found in less
than 1:1,000,000 children. It is an autoimmune disease, with no known cause or cure, and
can manifest in innumerable ways, and can be fatal. Tara searches for medical information
about the disease in order to advocate for Dreydon, she searches for other families that have
gone through this. There just isn’t much to find, but she persists. And while she searches she
maintains a positive, hopeful, and always loving attitude for her son and the rest of her family.
And she is forever grateful to 4PeteSake, and to you, for giving her the time to do all of it.
These are the words she gave me to pass along to you, the community that has given her
family your support through 4PeteSake:
Love is a very powerful thing and we are beyond blessed to be a part of the River Valley
community as everyone has now become our “fight like a hawk” family. This community and
the people in it from the moment we started this journey stepped up and have brought so
much light to Dreydon and our family during this very dark and difficult time. There truly are no
words that can best describe our gratitude and appreciation. We would want to thank
everyone for being apart of Dreydon and our families’ fight, and for not letting us face it
Jamie Layton tells her story at first with uncertainty, and then with great hope for her future.
She has dreams, determination, and a plan.
Since graduating from River Valley High School in 2009 she has worked as a CNA; for 10
years at Greenway Manor until her own health issues forced her to leave, and now at
Heartland Country Village in Black Earth. She clearly enjoys taking care of the residents
whom she serves. That care ranges from bathing residents who need that help, to coloring
multiple pictures of dogs from which the residents get to choose to keep. Over time she has
gifted each of the residents one of her drawings. Her love of drawing, her dog, Harley, her
motorcycle, and her ability to help others comes through strongly as she tells her story. Those
are the things she focuses on, not on the many health issues she battles.
Jamie has struggled with a myriad of physical and mental health issues in her young life, but
always strives to find good. Her goal is to become an EMT where she can continue to help
others who have needs greater than her own. She knows that losing weight would help her
achieve her goal, and so she goes to the gym and works out and watches what she eats.
However, in spite of working hard, providing for others, and living with her parents to save
money, Jamie has become overwhelmed by her own medical bills. That is where 4PeteSake
comes in. With the generous donations of people like you, this determined, compassionate
young woman from our community can get out from under her medical debt and put her
energy into pursuing her goals. We will all benefit from her reaching those goals as she plans
to give back to the community through becoming an EMT.
She wants you all to know how much she appreciates getting this chance.
Eligibility and Selection
Recipients must live within the boundaries of the River Valley School District and find themselves in health-related circumstances, through no fault of their own, for which assistance is needed. All applications are reviewed by the 4Petesake Committee, who determine the number of recipients to be funded and the amount that each recipient will receive.
Our recipients are often completely overwhelmed by their circumstances; to be able to provide for their most immediate financial needs is such a relief to the constant anxiety they feel every day. And beyond the financial support they receive, just knowing that they are valued is a priceless gift. People have asked us, “is there any other community that does this?” Certainly, many communities come together to help their neighbors and contribute to fundraisers. But we can’t help but feel that the River Valley community has taken this to a new level. As someone remarked at the Day in the Park, “kids here grow up learning to help out – it’s just what you do.”
Thank you to everyone for making that possible, for making 4PeteSake possible. We are continually amazed and humbled by the generosity of the River Valley.
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