By Briana Hallstrom, utahvalley360.com
This year’s group of angels were harder to get in touch with than high-powered CEOs. They were just too busy doing good — and a few of them didn’t even know it. Meet five local do-gooders: “The Loving Mother,” “The Door Opener,” “The Optimist,” “The Literacy Advocate” and “The Humanitarian.” Their angelic qualities will inspire you.
THE LOVING MOTHER
Star Quayle and her family had an angel among them for 11 hours.
Her name was Anna Marie Quayle, and she was the Provo family’s third child. But 20 weeks into Star’s pregnancy, Anna was diagnosed with anencephaly, a defect in brain development that results in missing brain hemispheres.
The disease has a 100 percent mortality rate, and yet everything about Anna’s birth – from the delivery to her eventual influence on the community – is a living miracle.
“(Doctors) told us if she was carried to full term she would probably be stillborn, and that if she survived delivery she would only live for a matter of seconds,” Star says. “But she lived 11 hours. She even made a noise, and you could see that she had pretty blue eyes.”
Because of the discouraging mortality rate, the decision to carry Anna to term was difficult. But after receiving counsel from relatives, friends and church leaders, Star and her husband, Aaron, decided to rely on a bigger power.
“It took us a couple weeks, but we finally realized that spiritually she was given this defect for a reason – that she doesn’t need to be here,” Star says. “We thought, ‘We will enjoy her for as long as we can, and if (God) needs her sooner, he has the power to take her.’”
Anna was born on Oct. 28, 2003, and Star, Aaron and their daughters Celeste and Sidney were able to hold, bathe and love her. As a keepsake, each family member has a mold of his or her own hand holding Anna’s hand.
On Anna’s first birthday, Star gave the community its own keepsake. It’s called The Chocolate Extravaganza and is a fundraiser designed to benefit the bereavement program at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
“We always talk about Anna, and with her birthday coming I wanted to do something to honor her,” Star says. “The bereavement program at the hospital has monthly meetings where husbands and wives who have lost a baby get together and share their feelings. (The program) means so much to me that I wanted to give back to it.”
In organizing the event, Star picked chocolate as a theme to spark community interest. Fourteen businesses set up booths with “all the chocolate you could ever eat,” and entertainment ranged from a ventriloquist to break-dancers. All the proceeds from the $5 entrance fee went to the bereavement program.
“It was a fun evening and a great birthday party for Anna,” Star says. “We decorated the event with balloons, and when it was all over we let the balloons go into the heavens. We let them go to Anna.”
The following year, Star was pregnant with her now 15-month-old daughter, Brooke, and wasn’t sure she’d have the energy to run the fundraiser again. Fortunately, this time she had some help. Utah Valley Regional Medical Center asked Star if she could use assistance in the planning. She agreed, and the result was The Chocolate Extravaganza benefit gala with a $150 sit-down dinner, entertainment by The 5 Browns and an auction of 30 memory books. This time, the proceeds went to the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit in addition to the bereavement program.
“It was a bigger, grander scale,” says Star, who is expecting her first son in August. “It was a great evening that made a lot of money for a good cause, and I was glad to be a part of it.”
For her part, Star created centerpieces out of the stories of 55 families who had either lost their baby or spent extended time in the NICU. The centerpieces were eventually given to the families as gifts, but at the gala they gave guests a personal insight into the hardships these families have faced.
“That’s the part I loved,” Star says. “Anytime a baby gets to be remembered is really important.”
Next year, Star plans to have The Chocolate Extravaganza be a two-day occasion to combine the best that both years’ events offered. There will be a sit-down gala dinner one night and then a family-friendly chocolate festival the next.
Creating the fundraiser was a way for Star to remember Anna and give back to the bereavement program that helped her family push through the difficult time. In addition, Star still attends the program on a regular basis.
“I don’t go to the meetings for me,” Star says. “Not that I’m all healed, but with time it does get easier to cope. I go for the person it happened to last week – for the person it happened to last month.”
Helping others grieve their losses has helped Star and her family survive their own.
“You can be miserable, unhappy and sad for the rest of your life, but it wouldn’t just affect me. It would affect my husband and my kids,” Star says. “They don’t deserve that, and neither do I. I had to find a way to make the pain positive.”
Like mother, like daughter.
THE DOOR OPENER
A chorus of greetings follows Brent Crane as he walks through the halls of the Food & Care Coalition in Provo. There are “hellos” to staff members, “good mornings” to volunteers and “how are yous?” to clients.
Brent, who is the executive director of the coalition, knows the names of clients and employees alike. He knows their background, their weekend plans and the well being of their family members.
He isn’t a typical boss, and it’s because he has atypical aspirations.
The Mapleton resident started working at the Food & Care Coalition 17 years ago. He had done several internships with various social service agencies but kept coming back to the same place.
“(I) found that I just couldn’t stay away from the Food & Care Coalition – its mission, the clients we served or the ‘heart’ that I found here,” Brent says. “I have always been an idealist and championed for the underdog – whatever or whomever they may be.”
That idealist nature has served him in helping people overcome difficult life circumstances. It has also come in handy in regards to compensation — or lack thereof. Brent’s first salary with the coalition was $15,000 a year for a consistent 70-hour workweek. The salary has since grown with the company, but it was the coalition’s mission of service that kept – and keeps – him going strong.
“I decided that I wanted to pursue a career that focused on helping people and not necessarily the pursuit of money and wealth,” Brent says. “It has been a complete learning experience. I can’t see myself ever leaving.”
Part of that loyalty and passion come from Brent’s significant involvement in the company – both in time and skill. He still works 40-hour-plus workweeks and is the go-to man for the coalition’s marketing, personnel, administration and accounting.
“I had to become a generalist,” Brent says. “I’ve grown with the position, and the organization’s grown with me. It’s been extreme frustration to extreme joy and satisfaction – all wrapped up in one.”
The other motivation for Brent has been his family. He and his supportive wife, Shellie, have four kids.
“My family is probably one of the reasons I chose this line of work. I’ve seen so much hatred and abuse in the world that I wanted my kids to be exposed to serving their fellow man,” Brent says. “They might not be the smartest, they might not be the most talented, but I want them to serve people.”
In his own years of serving people, Brent is quick to recall the source of his inspiration and fondest memories.
“The clients – their successes, failures, tragedies and triumphs. They’re some of the most determined people I’ll ever know,” Brent says. “Despite their meager existence, they continue to fight through life with little acknowledgement or reward.”
Brent’s premier goal is to help clients with their fight through life, and he has set out to better accomplish that through a brand new facility in East Bay. The size and location of the property allows for a buffer zone from neighboring properties and also for future growth in the company’s housing and work training services.
“The new building is going to solidify our programs,” Brent says. “We have great programs ranging from the direct services, rental aid and shelter assistance to the dental project and storehouse project. But we just haven’t had the facilities and the staff to go with it. We’re hopeful the community will respond.”
Brent’s belief in the coalition’s programs and community support comes from advice he received a few years ago. A board member at the Food & Care Coalition asked Brent if he wanted to be a door opener or a gatekeeper. Did he want to spend his time and energy “creating opportunities for people or preventing or hindering them?”
“During my 17 years at the coalition, I’ve honestly tried to do the former,” Brent says. “We have been creative in our programming, allowed for significant community input and overall tried to be different for the right reasons.”
Brent has encouraged his employees to open doors as well – whether it’s to a high-powered businessman or a struggling client.
“I’ve always told them if someone walks in the door with a suit and tie, don’t treat them different than someone who walks in with all of their possessions and stinks to high heaven,” Brent says. “Our mission trumps politics, and if you have to choose between serving someone or following a policy, we always err on the side of the client.”
Although Brent does get paid, money is not what is ultimately important.
“It’s not what drives me,” he says.
Money does, however, unlock doors, and Brent keeps those doors revolving with his focus
on the client.
HOW TO HELP
The Food & Care Coalition has raised more than $4 million of the $11.2 million needed for their new facility in East Bay, and Brent Crane says every contribution helps.
“We want many hands to touch this project,” he says. “I want there to be community ownership.”
For more information on the new facility and how to get involved, e-mail Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provo’s Jessica Frischknecht describes herself as many things, but an angel isn’t one of them.
“I’m just a normal girl making it in the big bad world,” she says. “I don’t see why I would be an angel.”
But the “why” becomes obvious the moment you meet her – and so do the adjectives that describe her. Jessica is wise, witty and beautiful. She’s spunky, ambitious and intuitive. She is a confidant among family and friends, and an inspiration to strangers. She’s a fighter.
That drive and determination come from everything Jessica has had to overcome. She has a 13 percent lung capacity, and her disability has forced her to rely on others to be her “arms and legs.”
But her life, however difficult, is a miracle. She wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 2. She’s 23. And with today’s advancements in the medical field, she is looking forward to a bright future that she hopes will include getting married and having a family.
“She’s strong and intuitive – a wise soul. It’s what is in her,” says Janis Frischknecht, Jessica’s mother. “Everyone in the family goes to her if they need some counseling. She always has an angle the rest of us haven’t thought of.”
While perspective is something most of us lack, Jessica has it down in spades – and wit.
“Jessica once told her brothers, ‘If I were able to walk, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting around like you are,’” Janis says.
And when a family member complains, Jessica makes everything relative.
“What is there ever anything to worry about?” she has said. “There is nothing too intense that you can’t deal with and move on.”
Jessica’s philosophy of facing life head on comes from her aversion to fear. Too often, she says, people let fear consume them – which ultimately prevents them from new and different experiences.
To combat the common trait, Jessica is writing a book slated to hit shelves in the fall and wants to start a magazine called “Shattering Boundaries.”
“I want to convince people to step out of the box and do stuff they normally wouldn’t do,” Jessica says, which includes changing the disability culture and redefining the idea of “normal.”
For her part, Jessica has thrown her “box” away. She continually tries new things and is involved in a number of activities. She takes art and graphic design classes, creates and sells cards of her watercolor paintings and has an eye for fashion. Jessica also has a Web site (www.jessicajaneil.biz) where visitors can log on, learn about her and see her work.
In May, Jessica competed in the Ms. Wheelchair Utah pageant. She received the Inspiration Award “in recognition of her inspiring attitude and motivating personality,” which follows suit with Jessica’s attitude toward life.
“It’s fearful to get on stage, but she wasn’t afraid at all,” Janis says.
Jessica spends much of her time on the computer chatting with pen pals and working on graphic design projects.
“The computer gives her the medium to bring the world to her,” Janis says. “She is a whiz at it, and she’s always said the computer is the great equalizer. It puts her on a level playing field – it’s a meeting of the minds.”
Jessica’s ultimate hope is for a “meeting of the minds” in everyday circumstances; for people to see that she – and every disabled person – is not just beautiful on the inside but beautiful period.
It’s what her magazine will focus on, and it’s what becomes logical and apparent after spending time with Jessica.
“She sees herself as an activist,” Janis says. “(The magazine) is a good way for her to try and make a difference for other disabled people. She has a lot to teach.”
IN HER OWN WORDS
“I am a friend, sister, daughter, cousin, granddaughter, niece, teacher, woman. I am a daughter of God, who is loved. Although I haven’t experienced much physically, I have been blessed with many things. I can take my spirit with me everywhere I go, and with that, I have every right to be confident with who I am – because my spirit is beautiful.”
– An excerpt from Jessica’s book in response to her own question, “Would I rather have a different life in order to be able to walk?”
THE LITERACY ADVOCATE
Lorraine Vance almost didn’t make it as one of our angels.
Not because her story didn’t inspire us, and not because there were more qualified people. Rather, she didn’t want to be interviewed.
“I don’t like things to be about me,” she says. “I’m nothing special.”
We beg to differ.
Lorraine works as an adviser at the American Fork Literacy Center, but her sizeable influence transcends her simple job description.
“Mrs. Vance is truly the heart and soul of the literacy center,” says Anita Babb, who nominated Lorraine as an angel. “Her quiet mentorship is changing the lives of children in our community.”
That quiet mentorship includes tutoring both kids and adults, but her lessons aren’t restricted to academics. Lorraine is constantly concerned with the social wellbeing of her students.
“All the people who come in here are my kids, and I try to encourage them to be the best they can,” Lorraine says. “I will help anyone who needs it. That’s my goal.”
Lorraine’s face lights up when she talks about “her kids,” and she is quick to rattle off their accomplishments. Some are graduating from high school, another is attending college and one wants to be a doctor. When speaking of the latter, Lorraine’s face spells nothing but faith.
“She’ll get there,” she says.
Part of Lorraine’s interest is that she’s a self-proclaimed softy for reading.
“Anytime I hear about anything that has to do with helping children read it is something I want to be a part of,” Lorraine says. “Because to me that’s the most important thing. If you can’t read you can’t do anything. Reading unlocks all doors.”
Lorraine first got involved in literacy programs when her two daughters performed well in school. She decided if she was lucky enough to have children with high aptitudes, she was going to help friends, neighbors and strangers be just as lucky.
“I decided this was going to be my payback to the community,” she says. “And I’ve helped ever since.”
Lorraine’s background as a schoolteacher has helped her make those “payments,” not to mention her volunteer work with elementary schools and literacy programs. She even co-founded “RAD Reading,” a “read and dream” program created to promote literacy among kids.
“Once you become a schoolteacher you never give up wanting to help children,” she says. “When I see people who can’t read, it really does break my heart.”
Lorraine averages about 50 students at a time, all of whom “come and go.” Many of her students speak English as a second language, and Lorraine works hard to ensure their success and self-confidence.
“I try to teach my students that their (native) language is an asset,” she says. “But they often tell me they can’t learn or they’re not smart. They are smart. It’s just that somebody somewhere told them they couldn’t do it.”
Lorraine has made it her personal mission to show kids and adults everywhere they can succeed.
“We had a woman come here and she just blossomed when she learned to read,” Lorraine says. “It was like a flower unfolding, and it was really rewarding. It all is. It’s a situation where you can’t lose – it’s a win-win.”
“I have seen how she wraps the students coming into the literacy center with love. She has great patience, too. She has made the basement of the library a place of refuge and learning.”
— Anita Babb of Highland, who nominated Lorraine as an angel
Not only is Dr. Kimball Crofts an angel, he’s also a chief. Chief of Adenkyira, Ghana, to be exact.
He was inducted during his second year of humanitarian work in the country, and 3,000 Ghanaians gathered at the ceremony. The appointment was a surprise to Kimball, whose first clue about impending royalty came when his name was called and he was hoisted onto the shoulders of natives.
“I didn’t know what they were going to do with me,” says Kimball, owner of Aesthetica, a plastic surgery and medical spa in Lindon. “They dropped me off in this little room filled with people. There were tribal women dancing and they told me I had been made chief.”
Kimball was then dressed in a robe and given a sword and key to the city. He was also given a fox’s tail on a staff (to be used sparingly) for bestowing blessings.
“It was a big honor,” he says. “They gave me a queen mother, and I had girls fanning me for two to three hours. I’m still chief there in that community, and every time I go back it’s a big deal.”
Kimball’s experience in Adenkyira follows suit with his chief life philosophy: If you do the uncommon, you experience the unique. And in nearly 10 years of humanitarian work in Africa and China, Kimball’s unique experiences have ranged from trials to triumphs.
Kimball first got involved in medical missions after hearing of the student-created organization HART (Humanitarian Aide Relief Team) from a nurse at his local practice. He soon found out the group needed a surgeon in Ghana, and two months later he was in the country on a self-funded trip.
Kimball’s main focus on the six- to eight-day missions has been the Buruli Ulcer, a destructive bacterial disease in the same class as leprosy.
“When we arrived at the hospital for the first time it was an eye-opener difference in cultures and how blessed we are here,” Kimball says. “But we went straight to work in treating the horrible disease. I had never seen the disease myself, but you just jump in and go to work.”
Kimball’s leap of faith – and skill – has been going strong since that first day in the Ghana hospital, and much of the credit goes to his patients.
“It gets in your system. You get over there and you just fall in love with these people,” Kimball says. “It’s that human connection where people can unite with each other. It’s not just about giving money. There is a cross-culture exchange, and it’s important to come over and be a part of their community.”
While Kimball has given a substantial amount of money through the years (including a $25,000-medical clinic he’s preparing to build in Ghana, West Africa), his main focus is on educating the locals about treatments.
“One of the biggest parts of our organization is not just serving but outreach,” Kimball says. “The key is not so much what we do in the week as much as the education and exchange. The whole concept is to enable them to take care of their own communities.”
Kimball goes on the medical missions at least once a year and is accompanied by teams of 20 to 25 “great medical professionals.” But Kimball also likes taking non-medical volunteers.
“I love taking new people over and watching it change their lives. It’s amazing how it can affect people,” he says. “I took my niece, and when she came home … she said, ‘I’m grateful for my clean lawn, water I can drink, food, friends and my family.’ Kids never think about those things. But now she does.”
Kimball insists his label as an angel wouldn’t be possible without the support of his teams – both in Africa and here at home – who “work their tails off.”
“This acknowledgment represents the whole team being honored,” he says. “The work is crazy – sometimes scary – but there have been so many good people who have gone with me. People just get over there once and want to get back.”
“Kimball went into medicine because of his dream to improve people’s lives and has made that dream a reality. He not only spends large amounts of time and money helping people across the world, but also here on the home front. Free time is practically non-existent for him, because whenever someone calls with a medical emergency, it’s Kimball to the rescue … He really is an angel.”
– Margie Call of Orem, who nominated Kimball as an angel