We will never forget the first time we met Dannette. She arrived at the Thumbs Up Retreat with a contagious laugh and a teenage son that towered above her. She was a single mother of three kids actually, but the older two were grown and gone. And this last one, a football player named Dior, was about ready to fly as well. He was a senior in high school and graduating in less than a month. This boy of hers had grown up too fast – while his friends focused on proms and football, he was taking care of his mother.
Dannette’s cancer, Multiple Myeloma, had returned after only three years in remission, and her son was the one who drove her to doctor’s appointments and to treatments. He skipped school or cut class if he had to in order to get his mom where she needed to go. Somehow in the midst of all that, he kept his grades up enough to get accepted to a small college in South Carolina. That was huge – and his mom knew it was his ticket to a better life.
But there was a BIG problem… Dannette’s treatments were far from over, and Dior needed to report to campus in less than a month. How could he just move out of state like everything was fine? His mom understood his struggle, and she intended for this Thumbs Up Retreat to give her son a badly needed BREAK from the stress and pressure that 17 year old boys shouldn’t feel.
So Dannette led by example. She came down the slide like a five year-old girl, screaming the entire way down. She danced. She sang. She rode the zip line and swam in the pool. And through it all, she laughed her head off. We all loved her instantly.
And then one evening at Club,- which is what we call our chapel service - Dannette and her son heard a story from scripture that reminds us that we are NEVER alone and that God has not forgotten us. It was exactly what Dannette needed to hear. Later that night, she was able to look Dior in the eyes and give him her blessing to head to college. She knew God would meet her needs. And He has! Dior made the Dean’s List his first semester of college, and Dannette endured her 2nd stem cell transplant and is still fighting.
So the thing I want you to walk away knowing about Thumbs Up Mission that maybe you didn’t know before you arrived today is that every family we serve has a story, and every story matters to God. Our mission is simple. We connect their story to God’s story – and that leads to an even greater story.