Warrior Wagons help children's cancer victims
It's about building trust in the Lord.
That was an emotional message brought to a group of mostly women gathered at First Lutheran Church of Blooming Prairie on a chilly May Day. Attendance was listed at 120.
It was a third annual Guest Day where Lutheran Church Women of First Lutheran invited women of 12 other churches to share a message of hope. That message was brought by a spirited young woman named Heidi Becker who shared her son Drew's journey with cancer, which ended on Jan. 19, 2017.
Heidi and her husband Josh, formerly of Austin and now of Chicago, are founders of Warrior Wagons, Inc., a non-profit organization. This is a program where they provide collapsible Radio Flyer red wagons to families on a child's cancer journey.
The wagons have mainly been delivered through Mayo Health Systems. Just recently, some have been donated through Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.
Since 2016, the Beckers have provided over 50 of the red wagons to young families fighting cancer.
Becker spoke to church women at a gathering at Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church two years ago, thus many who heard her message then were present this past May Day to hear how the Warrior Wagon program has grown.
The idea developed with the Beckers when they took their youngster to hundreds of doctor and hospital visits. The wagons contain necessities for moving back and forth during hospital stays.
The name Warrior Wagons was tagged by Heidi and Josh after they learned the name Drew is of Greek origin and means "Man, Warrior."
Some of the wagons' contents include hard silverware, hard plates, large towels, laundry bag, Kleenex, books, games and quilts.
"You are like my groupies," Heidi smiled while accepting 10 quilts from the women of Red Oak Grove. Presenting the quilts from Red Oak Grove were Judy Wambeam, Suzanne Hamersma and Linda Christianson.
Heidi also accepted quilts crafted by women of First Lutheran. Donna Maixner and Kaye Toquam presented the quilts on behalf of First Lutheran.
Drew was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just under two. "He had cancer from head to toe and had it in his bone marrow," Heidi related.
"He was really in bad shape and we knew we were going to make him better," Heidi said, in explaining the family's plan to follow his progress carefully during treatment.
Drew underwent bone marrow transplants and also weathered immune therapy. "We made some tough decisions during his journey,” Heidi related.
"It wasn't meant to be and was in God's hands," Heidi says.
Drew loved tractors, especially green ones, Heidi smiles. "He also wanted a corn head, not a bean head," her eyes glistened and her voice choked.
"He even got to drive a combine, and I think he liked this better than going to Disney World," Heidi tells. The Kennedy Space Center was also a favorite of Drew during his visit to Florida.
Drew passed away six days after he returned from Florida. During his young life, he went through 12 surgeries and spent 116 nights in the hospital.
Heidi and Josh, with daughter Molly at their side, continued to fight cancer after Drew's death by investing in Warrior Wagons.
"Gratitude was important to us, as we counted our blessings, we entered into a trust with the Lord. God does take care of us. Trust is so important and you don't have to be afraid.
"When the going gets tough. . .we know God will take care of us."
Heidi said Drew had such "a beautiful trust in others and always trusted and obeyed." She said, "it was amazing to see Drew show that trust and obedience."
Heidi said some of the family's best moments came in 2016. She identified a favorite hymn that summarized the family's gratitude: 'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus."
"We set high standards for Drew," said Heidi, "and, he reached them." Heidi challenged those on a cancer journey to build a relationship with God. "Smile in the midst of our trials," she challenged.
"We have to rely on trust and remember Drew's trust. We can obey God joyfully. Find that joy and make the best of each day."
Drew's memory lives on with Warrior Wagons, Heidi insists. "There are kids fighting cancer everywhere," she says. Drew's joy and hope is passed on to others, Heidi believes.
There is a process for distributing the Warrior Wagons. They are given to newly diagnosed cancer patients and mainly to those age 7 and below. The youngsters must also be treated at an approved medical facility.
The wagons are presented by staff at a hospital, Heidi explained. A woman attending last week's event asked the retail value of a Warrior Wagon. The answer: $250.
Heidi, who went to school to be a meteorologist, says she enjoys telling people about Drew. "I have given presentations to those as young as 3 and as old as 100," Heidi said.