Thursday, November 15, 2012

TOP STORY>>Riding for Raegan

By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On Aug. 9, 2011, Raegan Whaley, daughter of Shelby and Staff Sgt. Patrick Whaley, 19th Security Forces Squadron command support staff administrator, fell backward off a swing, landing on her head. Immediately after, she became fussy, sleepy and refused to walk home.

Concerned about their daughter, the Whaleys took her to the emergency room. There, Shelby and Patrick’s deepest fear came true. Raegan had a brain tumor that needed to be removed immediately. After five hours of surgery, a 5cm-by- 9cm tumor was successfully removed.

Raegan began to recover, and a week after the fall, she was released to go home. The Whaleys’ rejoicing, however, was short lived. They received the news that their daughter had stage 4 supratentorial primitive neuroecto-dermal tumor. They headed to St. Jude in hopes of saving their daughter’s life. Unfortunately, seven months later, on March 18, 2012, Raegan passed away from brain cancer.

In honor of her name and in memory of her struggle, the Little Rock Air Force Base Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club, along with the First Sergeants Council, created the first Raegan Whaley Memorial Diaper Run, which took place Nov. 10.

Terry Thomas, 19th Mission Support Group resource adviser and Green Knights member, said he and his partners wanted to do something to help Airmen on the base. When they heard about Raegan’s death, they knew that the diaper run was what they wanted to do.

“Though the story was sad,” said Thomas, “we thought we could make something good happen because of it. We talked to the parents first, got in touch with the first shirts and used Raegan’s name to title the run.”

More than 50 Green Knights, along with other bikers from surrounding areas, began the run at the M&M Stop and Shop and ended at the Little Rock Air Force Base Education Center, where more than $2,700 worth of donations, such as diapers, toys, money, gift cards, clothes and even a car seat were dropped off.

Master Sgt. Rodney Kizzia, 19th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant, said “We want to make this an annual thing, so we can give back to families in Little Rock and Airmen in need. Eventually, we would like to open this run up to Camp Robinson, the guard unit and the 189th Airlift Wing.”

Kizzia said the first sergeants will take the donations. They will keep it in storage for whenever an Airman in their squadron is in need. All the money raised at the event will be sent to St. Jude’s Children Hospital in Raegan’s name for cancer research.

Both Shelby and Patrick were amazed at the event’s turnout and how the community got together to support the run and their family.

“We didn’t expect so many people to show up and so many things to be collected,” said Shelby. “This whole experience has been humbling. We weren’t here very long when all this happened, and no one here knew Raegan. This base and the community have really made us a part of their family.”

Shelby’s parents, Margaret and Jeff Johnson, attended, as well as participated in the run. They both said they were honored to be a part of something that their granddaughter’s life had such an impact on. Jeff, who served in the Army for 25 years, said all the efforts the Air Force and the community of Little Rock made for this event was unbelievable.

Kizzia and Thomas said this run goes far beyond Nov. 10. They want to make sure Airmen with young children that are struggling know that they have help and that people care.

“I’m prior enlisted,” said Thomas. “I remember what it’s like to have two kids and a small income. If we can make it better by providing the basic necessities for some Airmen then it’s worth it.”

“I was in the Security Forces Squadron when Whaley first got here,” said Kizzia. “I along with others from the squadron took a collection and made a basket filled with things like coloring books, blocks, clothes and baby dolls to make her comfortable. We took it to her and her family’s home two weeks before she passed. I think it was kind of a bad day for her because at first she was kind of shy, but she slowly opened up and began to play with the stuff. Knowing that we made her feel good in her final days is why this is important to me. If there are families out there struggling or going through bad times, if we can make them smile at least for a day, it’s worth it.”

Donations can be accepted by any first sergeant on base. For more information about where to drop off donations, Kizzia said to contact any first sergeant on base.

Anything that a 10-year old child or younger can use is accepted, said Thomas.

“Food, money, toys and even gift cards are accepted,” he said. “Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. That’s what this is here for.”

Margaret said she is sure that Raegan would have been happy to see all the toys and items being donated in her name because she was a loving and giving child. Patrick said he is proud that his daughter’s name will live on through this run.

“I want the run to continue as long as possible,” he said. “I’m glad that Raegan’s death is honored by helping others out.”

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