Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The December 5th Fund Creates Wonderful Memories for Families Facing Cancer

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2019 at 12:18 PM

click to enlarge The Johannes family. - COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • The Johannes family.

click to enlarge Jesse and Alecia Johannes. - COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • Jesse and Alecia Johannes.
Alecia Johannes was just 37 when her husband, Jesse Johannes, died last December from pancreatic cancer. The couple had four children between them and Alecia was about to encounter a holiday season in the first stages of overwhelming grief. She didn’t know what the future held, but she knew one thing for certain: She and Jesse had made the most of their time together.

Alecia credits The December 5th Fund with making the last days of Jesse’s life a joyous experience, filled with not just fun memories for the family but also essential and steady care for her and her children.

The December 5th Fund was founded by Tom Wiley, who aims to help families facing a devastating diagnosis to “forget cancer, just for one day.” Wiley knows all about how medical problems can impact a family. His wife died from cancer just three years ago and he immediately wanted to find a way to help other families who were traveling down the rough roads that he knew all too well.



His wife, Laura, had one last great day with her family, December 5, 2015, in which she woke up with her pain managed and her energy intact. It was near the end of her life, and she’d been in so much pain that she’d spent most of her time in bed, but this day was different. She got up, cooked pancakes for her kids and started decorating their Christmas tree.

Thrilled that his wife felt so good and was able to look after the children, Tom spent some time doing household chores and then the family went to see Santa and took a carriage ride to see Christmas lights at Tilles Park. It was the perfect day and a memory that he cherished when Laura passed away a bit more than a month later.

Aiming to give other families their own “December 5th,” Wiley founded this charitable organization to not only help out other families when they need it the most, but also to give them some great memories to look back on.

Last year, just a week before Jesse Johannes died, his family got their own special day. The Johannes family was given a full day of fun with friends while a separate volunteer crew from the fund took care of business back at their house.

click to enlarge Jesse Johannes at the Blues game. - COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • COURTESY ALECIA JOHANNES
  • Jesse Johannes at the Blues game.
In a summary of that day, The December 5th Fund wrote, “The day started off at Rooster on South Grand for 33 people; then everyone was treated to a bowling get-together courtesy of Pin-Up Bowl; after that, they enjoyed an all-inclusive game watching the St. Louis Blues take on the Vancouver Canucks. Meanwhile, over 30 volunteers worked tirelessly in below freezing temperatures to make sure the family came home to a stress-free environment.”

While the family was out enjoying their activities, their house was scrubbed, organized and manicured from top to bottom. (Including their yard.) Volunteers not only painted and decorated the space, but they also made sure it was all set up for Christmas. They did all kinds of things that Alecia wouldn’t have even thought to try to do. Then they moved on, but not without providing a bit of aftercare.

“The after care December 5th gave us was so helpful since life was crazy and so sad,” Alecia says, “It was nice to not have to think about those things. They provided house cleaning, weekly food delivery and laundry service.”

This month marks a year since her husband died and Alecia always looks back on their special day fondly.

“I’m so grateful to have had that one last great day with Jesse,” she says, “I will remember it always!”

To help the December 5th Fund move on to their next miracle, you can donate at December5th.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/december5thfund. The website also includes information about what they organization has been up to lately and a section where you can sign up to volunteer.

If you'd rather donate in person, Lavish Salon in Weldon Spring (1104 Wolfrum Road, Weldon Spring, MO; 636-477-7100) is hosting a holiday shopping party this Friday starting at 5 p.m. with drinks, appetizers and exclusive offers on services and high-end hair products from Redken, Pureology and more. A portion of sales will be donated to the December 5th Fund. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Email the author at jaime.lees@riverfronttimes.com
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