Meet the Marino Family

Milana and her Gloucester County, NJ family received help with their life-changing home renovation.

“She now has her own bathroom. It makes everything so much easier than how it was. It’s just been a blessing having this room for her. It’s lifesaving. Without Fred’s Footsteps, there’s a lot of families that would suffer or continue to suffer when they have a severely disabled child like we do. And we appreciate everything that Fred’s Footsteps has done for us.”

Meet the Marino Family and their ten-year-old daughter, Milana, of Turnersville, New Jersey. Milana lives with a rare, progressive, genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C. She is ventilator-dependent, and completely reliant on others for all her care needs. There is no treatment or cure for her horrific disease.

Milana’s parents, Tara and Matt, and her baby brother, Vincent, have shifted their lives and careers to dedicate themselves to her love and care. But the price has been steep. Facing many challenges including lengthy hospital stays and commutes with unpaid leave and lost wages, gas, tolls, medical bills, around-the-clock home nursing, an adapted van, specialized wheelchair, hospital bed, and other medical equipment needs, it’s a wonder how the family was ever expected to stay afloat.

Through Fred’s Footsteps and our dedicated home renovation fund, Pat’s Projects, the Marino Family received $10,000 toward the renovation of their home to safely care for Milana on their first floor. This included building a bedroom and accessible bathroom to ensure the best quality of life for Milana – and her loving family. See the life-changing before and after: from carrying a dripping wet child down two flights of stairs all while praying not to slip, to safely wheeling her right from her roll-in shower to her bedroom. THIS is the type of dignity and safety we strive to provide.

Meet Kellen's Family

Kellen of Newark, DE, lives with a rare disease that made shower time a struggle for the family.

“The renovation has helped tremendously in that shower time is no longer a struggle for either of us. He’s able to access the shower, for the most part, independently and safely, and there’s no longer arguing with me about taking a shower.
It’s been really amazing for him – to watch him be able to be independent and not require Mom to shower. And to have people understand what we experience every day and want to help a child like Kellen and a family like ours – it really does renew our faith.”

Seven-year-old Kellen of Newark, Delaware, lives with a rare disease. Characterized by muscle weakness and overall fatigue, nemaline rod congenital myopathy makes daily life a struggle. When his mother, Corrine, left her job as a nurse to become Kellen’s full-time caretaker, it created a financial strain on their single-parent household. The emotional toll is also a challenge as Kellen undergoes interventions and treatments for everything from speech and nutrition to mobility and breathing.

As Kellen got older, bigger, and wanted more independence, shower-time became a struggle for the family. It consisted of Kellen resisting, Corrine getting drenched, and a dangerous, slippery situation for all. That’s when Corrine’s Social Worker connected her to Fred’s Footsteps.

Through our Pat's Projects program, Fred’s Footsteps contributed $10,000 towards the family’s bathroom renovation. With a more accessible shower, Kellen is able to shower safely and more independently. The shower has brought so much relief to this aspect of their lives!

Meet Robbi Marie's Family

This family spent the first 361 days of Robbi's life in the hospital, but the journey of caring for their medically-complex child in their Pennsauken, NJ, home was just beginning.

“During the months of Robbi’s hospitalization, we often felt a bit lost and disconnected from our community. But Fred’s Footsteps showed us the love and genuine kindness of strangers at a time when we never expected it, and when we needed it the most. We’re so thankful, not just for the financial relief, but for the love that was provided to our family during this difficult time. By helping us keep our home, you helped our relationship not to suffer unnecessary stress, and you allowed us to care for our Robbi.
Fred’s Footsteps was a non-profit that we hadn’t even heard of. And now, you are truly a part of our family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” – Rob & Tonya

Born way too early, at just 23-weeks gestation, Robbi Marie spent the first 361 days of her life in the hospital, most in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) receiving the specialized care she needed to survive and grow.

Her adoring parents, Rob and Tonya, were bedside with their daughter through the most critical stages, and as time went on, they took alternating leave from their jobs so one of them would always be by her side.

As the months of hospitalization continued, their reduced pay from being on leave, as well as the cost of gas, tolls, and parking for their daily hospital commute was significantly impacting their finances. Add in the mounting medical bills, and soon Tonya and Rob found themselves falling behind on their mortgage.

Fred’s Footsteps stepped in to pay several past months of their mortgage to relieve this additional stress. By getting them up caught up on past due payments and late fees, they had one less worry knowing they could securely remain in their home.

When it was time for Robbi to finally be discharged, Rob and Tonya wanted to ensure their home was as safe as possible for Robbi’s fragile lung condition. Thanks to Fred’s Footsteps’ support, the family was now also able to replace their old carpeting with better flooring that would improve their home’s air quality, and Robbi’s chances of success.

As she grows, Robbi remains medically complex, requiring oxygen and medication to support her breathing, G-Tube feedings for nutrition, in-home nursing, early intervention therapies, and around-the-clock care. With the support of the Fred’s Footsteps community and others, along with their faith in God and love for one another, this special family is meeting all the challenges of caring for, and delighting in, their miracle daughter, Robbi Marie.

Meet Grace's Family

When Grace's premature birth led to an unforeseen financial struggle, Fred's Footsteps helped this family remain by her side in the NICU.

"Nobody plans for this. It gets hard and the financial impact [of having a critically ill child] is devastating. Fred's Footsteps has been so instrumental in helping us. They paid our rent for three months- that's huge. That small gift alone takes a huge financial burden and gives a little bit of relief to an ongoing, desperate struggle and situation. We are just so thankful and grateful."

Grace was born prematurely at just 24 weeks gestation and has faced an uphill battle to survive. Multiple surgeries and medical complexity have taken a toll on the whole family. Her Mom, Maryann, traveled daily to visit Grace- causing gas and travel expenses to add to their financial hardship. They also have a two-year-old son at home, recently diagnosed with autism and diabetes, and the family struggled to balance getting the necessary treatments for him, and spending time with Grace in the NICU.

Grace's father, Chris, was previously employed as a director at a skilled nursing facility, but shortly after Grace's birth, stepped down from his leadership position (and salary) to help care for his children.

After 223 days in the neonatal ICU, Grace was finally discharged. This young family is at last together under one roof, with the support of the Fred's Footsteps community who helped pay their rent and keep their home.

Meet Jaelin's Family

Jaelin and her Sicklerville, NJ, family turned to Fred's Footsteps for help with their mortgage and utilities when Jaelin became critically ill.

"Because I was out of work for almost five months (I just went back in October), we told the kids Christmas would be a little light this year. The gift cards will help so much! You’ve no idea how much we appreciate all Fred’s Footsteps has done for us."

Jaelin Brown was a typical teenager getting ready to graduate high school. She became quite ill and was admitted to CHOP with abdominal pain, vomiting, and abnormal labs. Her condition quickly worsened, and she was moved to the PICU - diagnosed with septic shock, liver failure, and cardiovascular and neurologic dysfunction. Jaelin's illness continued to progress very rapidly, and she became gravely ill.

Jaelin received a liver transplant. However, a complication of her acute illness was damage to her extremities (feet and hands) due to poor blood circulation. As a result, she underwent bilateral trans-tibial amputations of her feet a month later.

Fred’s Footsteps supported the Brown family during this time with three months of mortgage and cell phone payments to keep things going while parents were bedside with Jaelin. Therapy continues as Jaelin is learning to walk with her prosthesis and re-gain strength lost during this ordeal.

Meet Mia's Family

Mia’s family turned to Fred's Footsteps for help with their mortgage and utilities when Mia was born three months early.

“When you donate to Fred’s Footsteps, your donation is allowing parents to advocate for their children, be involved in their child’s care and just be present.”

Alberto and Rachael Montes were excited to be preparing for their first child. Rachael is a surgical/trauma ICU nurse at Temple University Hospital and was working through the thick of COVID-19. Alberto had been with his company for over 20 years, but the company closed in November 2020 due to the pandemic. Then, in December, when Rachael was 17 weeks pregnant, her water broke and she was immediately put on bedrest to save the pregnancy. She had been saving all of her paid time off to use during her maternity leave, but quickly ate through that reserve. She was unable to work, and the family’s finances were taking a major hit.

Then, on February 16, 2021, at just 26-weeks-gestation, Mia was born, weighing 1 lb 14 oz. Her prognosis wasn’t great. In fact, her parents were told to prepare for her passing. In addition to a serious heart surgery, Mia suffered from hypoplastic lungs and a life-threatening bowel perforation requiring another surgery. She was critically ill. If she survived, she was expected to be in the hospital for upwards of six months.

Alberto had started a new job, but was unable to take PTO or FMLA to be by Mia’s side. With the drastic cut in salary, and the added medical and travel costs, the family was suffering. Their hospital social worker referred them to Fred’s Footsteps, and we were able to pay three months of their mortgage and utility payments so that they could catch their breath.

Baby Mia, now home and doing well, is a warrior and has made a remarkable recovery.

Meet Vivian's Family

Vivian's family turned to Fred's Footsteps for support as they resettled in Philadelphia to seek treatment for her rare chromosomal abnormality.

"Viv had five surgeries last year that wouldn't have been possible if we weren't living in Philadelphia. In January of this year, my daughter couldn't even sit up on her own, and now she is learning to take steps. Without Fred's Footsteps we would have had to tuck tail and head home a long time ago."

Vivian was born at just 29-weeks with an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality. She lived in the hospital for 18 months in Indiana, and then her doctors expressed that they had run out of options to treat her. Desperate to find solutions, Vivian's parents moved the family to Philadelphia, and Vivian was transferred to CHOP to continue treatment. At CHOP, Vivian was admitted several times and underwent several major surgical procedures, but her parents started to see significant changes and felt for the first time as if they were seeing progress.

Vivian's parents are both veterans and prior to her birth, they were employed full-time. Once resettling in Philadelphia, they both got jobs and were juggling Vivian's 24-hour care; but the move and increased living expenses put an enormous strain on the family. Fred's Footsteps was honored to support Vivian and her parents by providing rent and utility payments for four months so that they could focus on adjusting to their new normal.

Meet Max's Family

After Max's premature birth, his Willingboro, NJ family turned to Fred's Footsteps for support so that they could focus on bringing Max home.

"Thank you, Fred's Footsteps, for all of your support and assistance."

Baby Max was born way too early – at just 24 weeks gestation - and was hospitalized for a staggering 223 days. After going through their unpaid FMLA time, Max’s mom (a social worker) and dad (an accountant) had to return to work to keep their family afloat. They spent their non-working hours commuting back and forth to be by Max’s bedside at the hospital.

Max was finally able to go home in the fall, but relief was short-lived. After just a few weeks, Max needed to return to CHOP for another surgery related to his extreme prematurity. He is home again now – hopefully for good – but his family knows his intensive medical needs will be ongoing. They are doing well at home, and his mom has been able to take another medical leave until January as they settle into their “new normal”. Fred's Footsteps helped Max’s family bridge the gap from some of the hardship of their lost wages over this past year. Staying on their feet with their mortgage payments will give Max’s loving parents the breathing room that they need to focus on caring for their sweet baby at home without additional financial worry.

Meet Kyle's Family

Kyle and his Pennsville, NJ, family turned to Fred’s Footsteps after he suffered a traumatic brain injury when hit by a drunk driver.

"Fred’s Footsteps allowed us to be a family again. I can’t express how much it meant, not just to Kyle, but to our entire family. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Fred’s Footsteps.”

Kyle was hit by a drunk driver in June 2015 while skateboarding to a friend’s birthday party. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, multiple bone fractures, and doctors feared for his survival. His mother and step-father, who were taking care of five boys at the time of the accident, were forced to stop working. They quickly fell behind on several bills while taking care of Kyle at the hospital. Fred’s Footsteps covered the family’s mortgage and utilities for several months to get them back on their feet. We further provided a financial cushion so that they could focus on the necessary home modifications required to bring Kyle back in the house with his family.

Meet Hayden's Family

Hayden and her Garnet Valley, PA family received support from Fred's Footsteps after her diagnosis of Unilateral Retinoblastoma.

"Although this past year was an incredible struggle, today we are very fortunate and thankful to be able to enjoy this holiday as a family again. We are able to have this simple happiness again because of all of you. Your love, your support, your kindness, your devotion, and your extreme generosity have gotten us to this point, so we feel truly blessed. There is no way that we could have made it this far without you, so thank you for everything that you’ve done for us!"

Hayden was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was four years old after having symptoms of eye drift and eye pain. She had her right eye removed immediately after diagnosis and began chemotherapy shortly thereafter. Before Hayden's illness, both of her parents were very stably employed. In fact, her father had recently left his full time job for a contract position that would have afforded him an even better salary. When Hayden was diagnosed, he was forced to resign from this position, and he was not eligible for FMLA due to his short employment. The family quickly began to deplete their savings to keep current on their bills, but then they found Fred’s Footsteps. Fred’s Footsteps provided the family with three months of mortgage and car payments to allow them to get back on their feet and focus on Hayden’s treatment.

Meet Miles' Family

After Miles’ premature birth and diagnosis of Skeletal Dysplasia, his Philadelphia family received the help they needed from Fred’s Footsteps.

“This funding from Fred’s Footsteps gives us the peace of mind of knowing that at least our mortgage is being paid while we focus on getting Miles well enough to finally join us in our family home. Without financial assistance, we were uncertain that we would be able to keep our home.”

Miles and his brother, George, were born at just 31 weeks gestation. George was healthy at birth, but Miles had multiple complications related to his premature birth and Skeletal Dysplasia, including chronic respiratory failure. Miles needed a tracheostomy and feeding tube for support. Their parents both worked full time prior to the twins’ birth, but soon they were struggling to take care of healthy George, while visiting Miles at Dupont in Delaware, and keeping up a regular work schedule. Fred’s Footsteps provided six months of mortgage payments so that the Luczkowski family could focus on getting Miles healthy and bringing him home, which they successfully did at Thanksgiving (when he was over one year old).

Meet Luca's Family

Luca and his Ewing, NJ family received support from Fred's Footsteps while he was recovering from a double lung transplant at the CHOP.

"After Luca’s life saving transplant, Fred's Footsteps stepped in when we needed you most. You relieved financial burden, so we could spend time aiding in Luca’s recovery and preparing to bring him home. For this, we can’t thank you enough."

Just days after his birth, Luca was diagnosed with lung failure and was referred to the lung transplant program at CHOP where he was placed on the list to await a donor. On November 7, 2016, at five months of age, Luca received a bilateral lung transplant. Luca's mother had already taken all of her FMLA – mostly without pay – and she was forced to further reduce her work hours to part time to be at the hospital while Luca recovered. This cut the family’s income in half. The family was having difficulty covering their everyday bills, while caring for their young daughter at home and Luca, who remained hospitalized. Fred’s Footsteps stepped in to provide the family with two months of mortgage and utility payments.

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