Second Harvest Success Story

Posted at: 12/05/2012 12:10 PM
Updated at: 12/05/2012 10:27 PM
By: Brittany Falkers

On Friday morning, WDIO and the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank will team up to help fight hunger in the northland. 

A variety of people benefit from a range of food programs in our region.  It could be anyone from your friends and neighbors to the person you might be waiting in line with at the gas station.  

Eyewitness News first met the Thompson family in 2010.  Like many, they were going through tough financial times. Dad, Dave Thompson was out of work, struggling to find a job in his chosen career of plumbing.  Even going back to school for welding, but without luck of a full-time position. 

It was a situation made more difficult because their son Michael suffers from a rare incurable disease called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or RRP. 

Michael, now entering kindergarten, was diagnosed with RRP in 2009.  The disease produces wart-like growths on Michael's vocal chords.  They close off the airway and make it difficult to breath.  It in turn, also took away most of Michael's voice.

"He's pretty tough about it. Slows him down here and there, but not a whole lot," Michael's dad Dave Thompson said.

For a while, Michael had would go in every other week to remove the growths.  Frequent surgeries in the Twin Cities took parents Dave and Rachel Thompson away from work along with a long and costly commute.  However, Rachel says a helping hand from their local food bank, Second Harvest, kept them going.

"They helped us when we were going through all of that. It was our grocery bill.  It was a huge deal," she said.

However, that was then and this is now.  Michael has since started chemotherapy treatments and his parents say he seems to have found one that works. "He's learned to use his vocal chords a whole different way," Rachel said. 

Michael's surgeries have also lessened.  He went from surgeries every other week to just once every eight and it's made a big impact on his ability to use his voice.

"They've been able to do surgery around his vocal chords now, where he's slowly starting to get his voice back.  It's not perfect, but it's just perfect for us," Rachel said.

It's a whole new world for Michael, learning to use his voice, but t's not just his health that's changed for the better.  The family moved south this past year and Rachel is now attending medical school at Mankato State University. She says she was inspired to go back because it took so long for Michael to be diagnosed.  "I just want to make a difference," she said.

Dave found work welding in St. Paul.  He spends five days a week away from the family, to avoid the excessive commute.  He says more money would always be nice and he wishes he could see his family everyday, but is still thankful.

"My son is doing a lot better and to me, that's worth all the money in the world. I'm grateful," Dave said. 

Rachel and Dave say meals from Second Harvest helped them to make it through the toughest of times and they know it can do the same for others.  "I really hope that there's other family out there that will get past whatever it is they're going through. And just inspiring them, that good things can come," Rachel said.

You can help families like the Thompsons.  Just stop by the First United Methodist Church in Duluth between 5 - 9 a.m. on Dec. 7 to make a food or cash donation.