MONMOUTH — The Walkers have been a part of the Western Oregon community for decades.
Kellen Walker has coached the baseball program for the last 11 seasons.
His wife, Tyler, was a softball player at WOU and is a member of Western’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Walker’s daughter, Lucy, 3, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in November, the WOU community stepped up to help raise money for her treatment.
The Walkers had noticed a difference in Lucy. At first, they attributed changes in behavior to a cold she had been fighting and other life events.
But over time, they became more worried.
“Our once energetic, fun loving and lively girl was now lethargic, unable to walk more than a short distance and was constantly complaining that she didn’t want to do anything,” the Walkers wrote on the fundraising page. “It just didn’t make sense.”
Doctors told the Walkers to go directly to Doernbecher Childrens Hospital in Portland.
“The hour and a half drive to Portland seemed like an eternity,” the Walkers wrote.
Once they arrived, it was confirmed.
Debbie Wakem, mother of WOU baseball player Justin Wakem, helped organize a fundraiser to help cover medical costs at www.youcaring.com/thewalkerfamily-1011671.
WOU athletics department and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee will also be selling #LucyStrong T-shirts at all home games for $12. All proceeds will go to the Walkers.
Wakem, who lives in Portland, has had experience working with families who have battled various illnesses.
When she heard what the Walkers were facing, there was no doubt what she would do.
“I had gotten word that Lucy was diagnosed with leukemia,” Wakem said. “They had been at the hospital, I want to say about three days at that point. I reached out to them to see if I could stop by.”
Wakem had talked with other families who had dealt with illnesses and asked what was most helpful. The answer, Wakem said, was the simple things, like blankets.
When she visited the Walkers, she heard some difficult news.
“The doctor came in and forewarned them that they heard the Ronald McDonald House was full,” Wakem said. “I looked at the Walkers and told them if that’s really the case, I don’t know how close you have to be to the hospital, but our home is open to you.”
The Walkers took Wakem up on her offer and have been living at her home since Nov. 7.
Wakem has helped in any way she can, whether that means watching Lucy’s sister, Gracie, or giving emotional support.
There was initial reluctance by the Walkers to agree to a fundraiser, but Wakem said travel costs to and from Portland, hospital stays, meal costs and more can add up quickly.
“I think it’s hard (to ask for help) in general,” Wakem said. “They didn’t want to put their burden on someone else. But, this is a three-year long process to fight leukemia. I told them as much as they wanted to do it on their own, they really need the help.”
The Walkers agreed, and the community responded.
The fundraising page’s goal is $25,000. As of Monday, more than $20,000 had been raised.
“I’ve been amazing at how the community has come together,” Wakem said. “I think it’s meant a lot to the Walkers that they have a whole community behind them, that they have other people in their lives who support them.”
Whether it’s a gift card for a coffee, money to help cover medical costs or a letter to express support, Wakem said it all means a lot to the Walkers.
“They are overwhelmed with gratitude,” Wakem said. “There’s not a word in the dictionary that expresses how truly grateful they are.”