There are some things you get in the mail that makes your heart stop. This is one of them.
Back in May, B93.9 hosted a "contest" called Salute to Service. I put contest in quotes because I didn't really think of it as a traditional contest. It was more of a nomination form and someone received something in the end. Being able to use our station as a way to give back to the community is one of the most important parts of my job and having the ability to actually make a difference is one of the things I love most about what I do. We had partnered with R & S Mechanical and Archadeck of Raleigh to gift a veteran either a new HVAC system or a new, custom-built, maintenance-free deck since May is Military Appreciation Month. We wanted to be able to give back to our vets who had served us by servicing them with something they needed. We had a lot of entries and finally, a recipient was chosen for each of the prizes.
The winner of the new deck was a man named Jack Austin. Jack lived in Garner with his wife, who nominated him. Jack was a Vietnam vet with the 82nd Airborne and was fighting brain cancer. He was in phase two of his treatment, and mobility had become more challenging. With the assistance of a walker and wheelchair, he could get around outside of the home okay, but getting from inside the home to the outside world was difficult without a lot of assistance. His back porch deck was basically unusable for him. Kyle, the owner of Archadeck, wanted to give him a space that he could use and be able to enjoy being outside again, along with making it easier for his wife and family to get him outside.
Because of scheduling, Kyle and his crew finished the remodel at the end of July for Jack. They did a beautiful job. They build some small ramps so Jack could get his wheel chair from the house out to the porch, converted the porch to a 3-season room, replaced the landing and stairs outside the porch with composite decking and rails, and installed a wall mounted TV inside the porch. It was an amazing space.
Alice sent us an email after it was over and told us how much she enjoyed having the guys at their home and how much they were already loving their new space. I actually got to go over to the house that day and meet Jack and Alice and watch some of the renovations. Jack wasn't feeling very well that day so he slept most of the time I was there. It was wonderful to get to meet them both, and to be a part of something so special. Alice's gratitude was contagious and her disposition was so cheery. I could have stayed there and just sat with her all day.
From the very first time that we called her and got her and Jack's story, to when we were on site that day, to the emails we received after the completion, we all knew we had chosen the right family to get this gift. What we weren't expecting was for Jack to pass away only a couple weeks after it was finished.
Jack died on August 20, 2018. We were notified and I cried. I felt awful that we hadn't got his deck finished sooner, and wondered if he actually got to enjoy it. I was at least grateful that we had been able to complete it before his passing. I sent flowers on behalf of iHeartMedia Raleigh to the funeral home for Alice. We reached out to her and paid our respects.
What I wasn't prepared for is for me to get all those questions answered in the form of a letter from Alice a few weeks after Jack passed. I got the letter and again, cried. I was so thankful to know that Jack had loved his new space, and that he had enjoyed it so much.
I am so grateful to have been a very small part of the joy that was brought to Jack in his last few months. If you ever question if the things that you are doing actually make a difference, read Alice's words and believe me when I say, they can.
Thank you, Alice, for letting us be a part of your lives. I will always remember you and Jack.
On behalf of our family, we wanted to thank you for the "Salute with Service" project - Jack loved the new space. We took him there whenever we could. He said, "put me in that chair (on the deck) and I'll be happy!" Thank you, God! Little did we know he would die just days later! I am still trying to grasp it - it seemed to happen so quickly. We miss him so much. The flowers you sent from B93.9 arrived Friday afternoon as we were setting up the church. The flowers were stunning and we left them in the church for Sunday's service so everyone could enjoy. We are grateful for the kind compassion shown by all of you - making Jack happy! Thank you doesn't seem to be enough.
God Bless you all,
Alice and family