Journee, a new nonprofit organization focusing on individuals and families of the Northeast region of Tennessee, has one main goal: to enhance the quality of life for people diagnosed with a terminal illness.
In addition, the organization seeks to provide the individual's family with an opportunity to spend meaningful quality time with their loved one by orchestrating and funding a dream that would often be impossible without financial aid.
Heather Ricker-White, founder and executive director of Journee, went from having an idea to becoming an official non-profit corporation on Feb. 3, 2014.
Currently operating from her home in Greeneville, Journee has the primary purpose of providing full financial support to make it possible for terminally-ill adults age 18 and above to achieve a lifelong dream.
At the same time, the organization wants to enable the individual and his or her family to share a memory that would hopefully be remembered forever as a happy and harmonious event.
FIRST PERSON HELPED
Journee is focusing on the counties of Northeast Tennessee, specifically, Greene, Washington, Hawkins and Unicoi, and on Aug. 2, the non-profit helped to make its first dream come true.
The first recipient of the organization's help was 76-year-old U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Brown, of Greeneville.
With a medical prognosis of six months to live because of lung cancer, Brown said, "I simply want nothing more and nothing less than to fly one last time."
Journee was able to make this dream happen in less than a week.
Brown, his daughters -- Rhonda Wyatt and Carla Brown -- and his great-grandson, Justin Smith, shared in Brown's dream as they boarded a corporate jet flown by pilot Daniel Farley.
Leaving the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, Brown and crew flew in and around the surrounding area, with the majority of flight time spent circling Brown's hometown of Greeneville.
"It was an honor and a privilege to be able to offer Mr. Brown and his family the opportunity to fulfill his dream of simply wanting to fly one last time," White said.
Brown and his family will never forget living his dream, and the memories will be with them always.
As he exited the plane, his face lit up into a smile, and he said, "That was absolutely wonderful."
Both daughters agree that the moment meant more than anyone could know and said that they would never be able adequately to express their gratitude to the organization for creating a moment that their father and they will share forever.
IDEA BEGAN WITH DEEP LOSS
The idea for the non-profit organization actually began from tragedy as White lost her mother, Lisa Ricker, at an early age to breast cancer in 2003.
Her mother's last wish was to take her son and daughter on a family trip to the beach to enjoy one another as a family.
But, being a single mother, Lisa Ricker was forced instead to use their money to pay their mortgage in order to prevent foreclosure on their home.
The experience led White to pursue the dream of helping create the financial means to provide a happy memory for a family soon to lose a loved one by sharing the individual's last dream together.
"I simply want to make a difference for someone and their family by giving the opportunity to experience what we never had the chance to," White said.
'I KNOW ... IT'S TIME'
After completing her Master of Science degree in healthcare administration, White worked as a case manager and gained valuable experience and knowledge concerning what makes a non-profit work well.
It was now time, she decided, to pick up where she had left off and continue working on making her idea for an organization a reality.
"Seven years ago," she said, "I wasn't ready for the undertaking of this task. I have accepted my mother's death and am less emotional about losing her so early.
"Completing my master's degree and gaining valuable experiences helped me gain more insight into what and where I needed to begin. The timing has been perfect, and I know it's God's way of saying it's time."
As White and her family financially provided the means to launch the organization, she looked at her strengths and weaknesses when building a team of board members to help assist in the organization's goal.
The board members of Journee are, in addition to White: Syliva Boesch, a board-certified family nurse practitioner employed by Takoma Regional Hospital; Benjamin Hite, the co-owner of Hite Construction; Richard Keller, a Certified Public Accountant employed by Adams and Plucker; Mike Letts, the director of business development with LMR Plastics; and Joshua Arrowood, an employee of the Greene County School System.
The entire Journee team is completely volunteer-based.
SOURCES OF FUNDING
Funding for Journee includes yard sales, fundraisers sponsored by local youth groups and churches, dances centered around the family, and a variety of other family-oriented events.
Private donations and contributions also help with the funding, as does the organization's status as a 501(c)3 corporation.
The 501(c)3 status makes possible corporate sponsorships, and also makes it possible for others to contribute and, usually, take all or part of the contribution as a federal income tax deduction.
"My expectations have already been blown out of the water," White said. "It is my hope that we will one day have the funding to make many dreams come true.
"My long-term goal is to create the means to make as many dreams as possible come true -- not just one or two, here and there."
HOW TO APPLY, HELP
The application for Journee assistance can be found on the organization's website at www.makethejournee.org.
Heather White can be reached at 423-426-3659. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Referrals of someone who might qualify for help from the organization are also highly encouraged.
Once the individual and family have completed the application process, the application has been approved, and the particulars of the individual's dream have been discussed, Journee takes care of planning the trip, including transportation, lodging, activities and a stipend to cover daily costs.
Journee will also provide the family the use of a camera with video capabilities to capture the shared, special moments celebrated on the trip. Afterwards a DVD and photo book will be sent to the recipients of the trip.
Also included in the non-profit's desire to improve the quality of life for the individual and his or her family is an offer of aftercare services, including a follow-up with the recipient and the family as well as bereavement services in the form of visits, cards, phone calls, and a peer-led grief support group.
White encourages all ages to be a part of Journee.
Some ways White suggests helping include hosting a fundraiser, volunteering time at fundraising events, and/or referring a potential recipient.
In addition, baseball fans can help support the Greeneville Astros and raise money for Journee all at the same time by attending the upcoming Aug. 25th Astros game where $2 of each ticket sold will go to benefit a future dream through Journee.