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One Girl’s Cancer Journey Inspires an Entire Company

Ryan Lawn & Tree encourages everyone to join them in supporting St. Jude.

On an upcoming September Saturday, you will find a group of Ryan Lawn & Tree employees out walking with one of their own in an effort to help end childhood cancer.

Supporting their community in such a way has become a part of the culture at Ryan Lawn & Tree, and now the company is inviting everyone to join them.

This upcoming effort began when Jeremy Christiansen, Plant Health Care Department Manager for Ryan Lawn & Tree in Kansas City, and his wife Jennifer received the devastating news that their daughter Avery was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2009. At the time, they realized they had two immediate needs: finding the best medical care possible and having support from friends and family.

The Christiansens looked all over the country for a hospital with expertise in Avery’s condition and found someone with a similar condition who had been treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. They quickly followed to Tennessee.

“Avery always got the best of the best, no questions asked,” Jennifer says.

St. Jude is a research hospital always working to find breakthroughs in treatments for childhood cancers. As such, Avery even qualified for one of their trials. Additionally, no families in need are turned away from St. Jude due to the inability to pay. In fact, families never receive a bill for travel, treatment, housing or food.

Having their expenses covered was a huge blessing. While the Christinasens have good health insurance, the reality is not everything is covered, and the cost to treat such a medical condition is extremely high regardless of insurance coverage. Other costs for travel and food also add up quickly for families going through a medical crisis with their child.

Additionally, the Christiansens found the hospital understood them on a personal level.

“The greatest thing we’ve found is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital makes parents part of the decision-making process,” Jennifer said. “They are honed into the child and the family more so than any other organization.”

In addition to the care from St. Jude, the Christiansens found their co-workers and friends at Ryan Lawn & Tree began supporting them in various ways during Avery’s treatment, assisting with various tasks such as going to the store to mowing the lawn. While these tasks might seem ordinary, they become challenging when caring for a child in the hospital.

Avery currently has no evidence of cancer and hasn’t since March of 2012. The hospital will continue to follow her throughout her childhood. While the cancer is gone, she faces various challenges as a result of her treatments, which included brain surgery and radiation.

Avery only had about a 25% survival rate when she was diagnosed, and the Christiansens hope this rate will increase and St. Jude will be able to develop new treatments. Jennifer said they are thrilled the hospital can take what they learned from Avery and use it to help others.

St. Jude says treatments developed there have helped push the overall childhood survival rate from childhood cancer from 20% when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 80% today.

Ryan Lawn & Tree has continued its support of Avery, the Christiansens and St. Jude throughout Avery’s life. Currently, this includes organizing a Team Avery/Ryan Lawn & Tree team to participate in the Kansas City St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer.

This year’s event will be held at the Power & Light District on Saturday, September 22. Ryan Lawn & Tree is inviting everyone to make financial contributions to the team and to even join them on the walk.

The company makes a large donation to the cause, and many employees sign up to walk with Team Avery. Last year about 50 people, including many company employees, walked with the Christiansens.

“We care about our employees, we care about our customers, we care about our community,” says Mallory Foley, who helps organize Ryan Lawn & Tree’s efforts to support Team Avery. “We love God, we want to serve Him. Taking care of others around us is how we work.”

Mallory said the company wants others to know that families at St. Jude are able to focus on caring for their child through such a difficult time without having to worry about finances, and the company wants to support St. Jude to help make that happen.

“We are a real family-based company,” Mallory says. “When one of our employees go through a difficult situation we surround them with love and support.”

To contribute the Team Avery-Ryan Lawn and help the company meet (or even exceed) its $35,000 fundraising goal, visit our Team Avery Donation Page.

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