A Rochester foundation dedicated to helping young families touched by cancer has received a "tremendous gift" from the family of two figures in Michigan history.
A representative of the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation said she reached out to the New Day Foundation for Families after reading about New Day last month on Rochester Patch.
The story inspired Tiffany Patzer of Rochester, who is the great, great niece of Talbert and Leota Abrams. Patzer worked to award New Day a $12,000 grant.
"I read the article and it really touched me, what New Day was doing," said Patzer. "My daughter has two kids in her class who lost parents to cancer. I lost a co-worker to cancer.
"My family and I are fortunate to be able to help."
It's a small world
Patzer did not know the Spehn family before reading their story on Patch; it turns out, they live in the same Rochester neighborhood.
She had heard about Michael and Gina Spehn and their bestselling book, The Color of Rain, published in 2011. The book tells the story of the loss of Michael's first wife, Cathy, and Gina's first husband, Matt, to cancer. The story chronicles Michael and Gina meeting and helping each other through their grief; it goes on to tell the story of their eventual marriage and blending of their two families (they have five children between them).
The Spehns created the New Day Foundation for Families to support other young families facing cancer.
It's a cause Patzer believes in.
"I have looked into other cancer support programs, and none of them have quite the mission of immediately helping families the way New Day does," Patzer said.
Patzer, along with her brother, mom and uncle, administer the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation. Among other causes, the foundation supports a parenting program at Beaumont Hospital; they have also given $2 million to the Library of Michigan.
This $12,000 grant to New Day is only the beginning, Patzer said.
"We never make a one-time grant," she said. "Our goal is to build a partnership that is ongoing."
Thanks to the aerial mappers
Patzer said her great, great aunt and uncle, Leota and Talbert, were pioneers in the aviation industry in Michigan.
According to Talbert Abrams' obituary, which was published in the New York Times after he died in 1990, the couple founded the Abrams Aerial Survey Company, which did aerial mapping on almost every continent. The company was hired to photograph the route for U.S. 27 in Michigan, making it the first highway built using aerial photographs.
The Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University is named after Talbert; so is a mountain in Antarctica (Mount Abrams).
"We are very fortunate because our foundation is able to pick and choose which organizations we support, and we're not restricted by any rules," Patzer said. "That's why we're able to pick things we are passionate about."
Help for families
The $12,000 will go a long way toward New Day's mission of offering financial assistance as well as emotional and spiritual guidance to families burdened by cancer.
“Michael and I know firsthand what the help of others and the love of God can do in bringing hope for a new day,” said Gina Spehn.
“New Day was founded by and for people who have lived with the realities of terminal cancer and its effects on families. We are so thankful to Tiffany and her family for their tremendous gift. It will help so many families in need.”
The Spehn's book, Color of Rain, was recently released in a paperback edition. (Read the first two chapters here.)
To learn more, visit www.foundationforfamilies.com.