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  1. “Absolutely Magical” — 30th Anniversary Reunion Week at Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    That Christmastime-as-a-kid feeling came over Mike McKinley during the 30th anniversary reunion for the former golf tournament committee. For nearly two decades, the tournament raised funds for what became Reba’s Ranch House. 

    At the reunion, Mike’s friends were several years older than when they started the tournaments, but it didn’t take long for them to feel like kids at Christmas again.

    Mike (far left) with his beautiful wife speaking to Randy and Robert.

    “[Those years] gave you that excitement you only get a few times in your life,” Mike said. “It was genuine.”

    Thirty years after it all began, the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) and Reba’s Ranch House hosted three major reunions in September 2022 to bring together just over 100 individuals who served on the committees and the THF board of directors throughout the years. They traveled in from Virginia, Austin, San Antonio, the Dallas metroplex, and local counties to Reba’s Ranch House, and reunited after years of losing touch.

     

    Golf Tournament Committee Reunion

    An evening of food and swapping stories from the golf course brought back memories of a special time in the lives of those who took part in raising funds for the local hospital and the ranch house.

    At the reunion, Mike enjoyed rare conversations with old friends, the select few who underwent those days of setting up in the wind and rain, then golfing under clear blue skies and winding down the day, exhausted.

    “The reunion was very satisfying and fun, to go back and talk about stuff that you can’t talk about with just anyone,” Mike said.

    Reba sent a video of love and appreciation for the former golf committee members to enjoy during their evening. It brought up memories of how Reba helped hand out trophies after the tournament. Mike recounted attending Reba’s first fundraising concert in Denison when he didn’t know much about her.

    “We left that concert and I told Lynn, she’s really got a voice!” Mike recalled with a chuckle. “Little did we know we were going to get years more of her.”

     

    Development Committee Reunion

    “Absolutely magical” is how Sherry Christie described the reunion evening for the development committee that once oversaw the Memorial weekend fundraising efforts. 

    “My favorite moment was walking in the door and seeing the people that I hadn’t seen in so long,” Sherry said. “It brought back memories of how hard we’d laugh and how tired we’d get and how it all came together.”

    A slideshow in the dining room showed off hundreds of photos, and prompting stories and laughter. Then the big surprise came for the nearly 100 in attendance.

    “I turned around because I heard a voice that sounded like Reba,” Sherry said. “And there she was on a big screen!  We could see ourselves on the screen, too, so it was almost like in the past. She was as excited to see us as we were to see her.” 

    The party spilled onto the back patio under the night sky, the enthusiasm unabated. Jeanie Graber, another of the early committee members, shared her favorite part of the reunion. 

    “Hugging and laughing and reminiscing with all our friends,” Jeanie said. “Those human contacts, that was such fun. We were all thrilled to see each other and we were proud of the work we had accomplished.”

    “If we had to do another one of those [fundraisers], I know we could get it done,” Sherry said with a laugh. “I looked around and thought, we could do it all over again. We might have to start a little earlier and work a little longer, but there was enough enthusiasm there to put together another concert.”

    Before the night ended, the group gathered for a photo.

    “It was nothing but big smiles,” Sherry said.

     

    The Development Committee – Sherry, 3rd from the right, and Jeanie, 6th from the right.

     

    THF Board Reunion

    A young person couldn’t have lived in Denison during the ‘80s and ‘90s and not been part of those fundraising concerts with Reba.

    “I grew up going to all the concerts,”  said John Carey, a past THF board chairman. “As a young person, the concerts were awesome. You wanted to go see the show. Getting older and realizing what it was all about, makes it even more special.”

    For the past and present THF board members, the luncheon reunion was combined with the regular board gathering. The event gave an opportunity for board members to recall what built the THF and Reba’s Ranch House, and recognize those who conserved and perpetuated the legacy.

    “A lot of our board members didn’t know some of the past members,” Joe Fallon said. He is the current chairman of the board. “I thought it was great for them to meet and to show our appreciation, to say, ‘We have not forgotten that you guys did a lot of work and set us up for success. Job well done, and thank you.’”

    Joe Fallon

    Culminating the luncheon was the announcement of a significant donation to THF.

    “The day escalated,” John said. “It went from this jovial time of all of us getting together and enjoying each other’s company, to the reflection of the 30 year anniversary of the ranch house, to ‘oh, by the way, we received an extra six million dollar gift to continue our mission.’”

    The gift came from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, a contribution tied to a larger effort to identify and support organizations across the U.S. who are making a difference in health equity in vulnerable populations, including rural communities.

    John Carey

     

    Others Not Forgotten

    A common thread through all three reunion events were quiet moments of remembering those who were missing. Many people who took part in the original effort have passed on, making the reunions all the more precious to those who could come.

    “The ranch house and the foundation have been in existence long enough that we are now beginning to lose members,” John said. “[The reunion] was a reminder of everyone’s hard work and how successful the foundation has become, but I think it was there, also, to keep us connected.”

     

    The Next 30 Years

    Remembering the past paves the way to keep the ranch house and its mission at the forefront of the area communities.

    “There were people over the years who were really interested in what was done, and that was brought up in the conversations,” Mike said. “I told someone, ‘Just think, a quick 30 years and we can do this reunion again.’” 

    He laughed, then added, “Most of us are still healthy and going strong.”

  2. Touring Reba’s Ranch House with Reba McEntire

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Ten minutes before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Reba’s Ranch House facility on Memorial Day 2010, Michelle Lemming answered a call from Dr. Darius Maggi.

    “I’ll see you tomorrow at the grand opening,” he said. “I’ve got it on my calendar.”

    Michelle, CEO & President of the Texoma Health Foundation, nearly dropped her phone. “Dr. Maggi, it’s today!”

    After weeks of frenzied preparations and moving, the ranch house team had met a significant goal: to open the new facility on Memorial Day. The sentiment harkened back to the long weekends filled with fundraising for the hospital and the original Reba’s Ranch House. Concerts, golf and fishing tournaments, parades—all the events culminated in the original house and now, by extension, the new ranch house.

    Everyone gathered under the white tent on Memorial Day 2010, including Reba McEntire and her family, awaiting the grand opening ceremony. But Dr. Maggi, the man who had asked Reba to become involved in the medical endeavors in the area years before, hadn’t arrived.

    “It’s tomorrow,” Dr. Maggi insisted with Michelle over the phone. Then he laughed. “I’m pulling in now.”

     

    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting

    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting.

     

    On that day of sunshine and jovial spirits, the ceremony kicked off with flags and prayer, Reba speaking and thanking all the contributors, and there were hugs and kisses all around. 

    The party moved up the stone sidewalk beneath the wood beams that stretched overhead, holding up the portico. The beams let guests know they had arrived at the ranch house—their temporary home away from home. The exterior of the house is a symbol to the community, representing thousands of hours and years of fundraising poured into the ranch-style house.

    The roof itself was used to design the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) logo. 

    “We didn’t have a logo,” said Tony Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance and former THF board member. “It clicked with me one day that those beams could be part of the logo.”

     

    Tony at a holiday event with Reba’s Ranch House partner, Grayson College and Culinary Chef Joanna Bryant.

     

    Under those beams, Reba McEntire cut the red ribbon to open the home to an average of 800 weary caregivers annually.

    Kent Black, a founding member of THF, had the honor of giving Reba her first tour. Past the open, friendly welcome desk, they could veer left where the walls are filled with the history of the house. Photos, posters, newspaper clippings, and a written history tell the story of those years of fundraising that created this comforting place for caregivers. 

    Across from the wall is the entrance into the library, a quiet sanctuary. Filled with touches from the original ranch house, it’s a place where difficult conversations and prayer happen as staff and volunteers care for caregivers going through some of the greatest trials of their lives.

    The kitchen opens as a bright space where guests can take meals and bond with others going through similar situations. The wood hutch represents this bonding. It was built and donated by a former guest who had received the comfort the ranch house offered. The kitchen was designed around accommodating the hutch.

    From the bedrooms with handmade quilts to the relaxing outdoor areas, Reba was able to see how carefully planned every square foot of the ranch house was to give caregivers a refuge in the storm of their lives. 

    On that Memorial Day 2010, everyone knew their years of tireless work was worth every minute.

    “The highlight was to see the facility finished and know the history of how many people worked on it, and the whole Reba history in Denison,” Tony said. “To understand the history and then see the present and know what’s going to happen in the future because you’ve got the staff and the funds to make significant progress in the health of our region, that’s what I thought about.”

     

    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire

    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire in the new ranch house.

     

    Celebrate Reba and the next 30 years of the ranch house! Give a one-time donation or recurring gift here.

  3. “Reba-time”—The Beginnings of a Big-Hearted Journey

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Music. Food. Parades. Golf tournament. True red, white, blue, and country music Memorial Day weekends came alive in Denison, Texas, all thanks to hearts as big as Texas.

    Over 30 years ago, a tradition started with an entire community coming together for what some dubbed “Reba-time.” The annual fundraising weekend for the local hospital captured the American spirit of selflessly serving your fellow man.

    That was how Dr. Darius Maggi saw it, those early days when, what was then the area’s nonprofit hospital, the Texoma Medical Center was known for having nearly every health offering available at the time. There were few things not housed under its roof.

    And from the beginning, raising funds for health initiatives was all about one thing: The care of the patient.

    The need for care extended to caregivers of patients. This means to create a “caregiver of the caregiver” emerged after one question proposed by local businessman Jerdy Gary, who later became the first chairman of the Texoma Medical Center Foundation (TMCF). The foundation that would ultimately help establish the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) so many years later.

    “Jerdy knew Reba (McEntire) and her family members were my patients,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “So he asked if I thought we could get Reba to do something [for the hospital]. I said, ‘Well, I’ll ask her.”

    Dr. Maggi did just that over lunch one day with Reba. The conversation sparked a monumental time of fundraisers that spanned two decades. Part of those funds built Reba’s Ranch House—a home for caregivers to find refuge while their loved one is hospitalized.

    “It was such a phenomenal community effort across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma,” Dr. Maggi said. “Incredible for a town this size.”

    The first Reba concert was held with her full band in the old Denison High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon in 1987. But they didn’t end there. They spilled out into white tents and parties, then grew every Memorial Day weekend, capturing the heart of surrounding areas with Denison’s Memorial Day Parade, a Reba Charity Golf Classic, home-cooked food, and of course, Reba’s concerts.

    Though simply a small town, the heart of Denison and the communities that surround us could fill Texas. From business owners, to hospital staff and volunteers, to the ladies on the Reba Development Committee, the community came alive to prepare each year for Reba-time.

    “It was a happy time because it was community,” Dr. Maggi said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be about. Our main reason when we set out with all this was to be the beacon of care for people.”

    It all began with that question posed by Jerdy to Dr. Maggi, who remembers Jerdy being like, “a big teddy bear.”

    “He had so much love,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “He was the son of a governor, and he knew something about promotions. He had that deep voice and could articulate extremely well. But he wasn’t about himself. He did not want the limelight, but he had a lot of respect from the community as a great leader.”

    Jerdy passed in 2021, just shy of this 30th year celebrating the opening of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992. But his legacy echoes in the halls and lives through every person who finds refuge within the ranch house.


    After 30 years, Reba’s Ranch House—owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation—still opens its doors to care for caregivers. You can show that same care that began with “Reba-time” by donating here.

    GARY SEWELL / HERALD DEMOCRAT Reba McEntire cuts the ribbon held by Herman Ringler and Dr. Darius Maggi to officially open the new Reba’s Ranch House.

  4. Denison Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Cap Chesser and Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Cap Chesser (right) with friend friend Kris Spiege at the Denison Chamber awards banquet

    On Cap Chesser’s long list of charitable giving and volunteer work, Reba’s Ranch House stands out for reasons that go back a long, long way…

    In third grade, Cap was growing up in east central Oklahoma, near Prague, when his family needed to make an emergency trip to the hospital in Oklahoma City. Cap’s mother was in a bad way during her third pregnancy and they didn’t know if she would survive it.

    During those worrisome days, Cap’s father rented an apartment a full mile from the hospital for the family to stay in during the ordeal.

    Mom was okay, and still is at 93-years-old. But when Cap walked the halls of Reba’s Ranch House, he knew the difference a home away from home, so close to the hospital, would have made for his family back then.

    “I was struck with the mission of Texoma Health Foundation and what they do, and then with Reba’s Ranch House,” Cap says. “I started giving annually, but got more active when I felt there was a need. In 2008, I really started stepping into the waters there.”

    Among Cap’s many charitable contributions, scholarship establishments, and volunteer activities—he was the Paul Kisel Volunteer of the Year 2021 through the Denison Chamber—one of them is the “Leadership Denison” program. Cap helps organize the different areas of focus—from government to tourism—and he puts the ranch house on the agenda to tour during the medical focus day.

    Though someone else guides the leadership group tour, Cap is always there with them to go through the house. They see the footprints Cap and his wife, Jacqueline Vandiver Chesser, have made through the years. It started when the couple sponsored the laundry room, because just like any house—it piles up.

    But it’s the quality of the house that captures people’s heart and attention.

    “It’s an eye opener from the standpoint of how nice the facility is,” Cap says. “They thought it was going to be like a hotel, but it’s not. It’s a completely encapsulated home for the people who are going to be there awhile.”

    After Christmas each year, Cap asks for the ranch house’s leftover wish list for the Denison Rotary Club to take care of. He makes shopping trips to make sure everything is checked off, even if it’s non-glamorous items like dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.

    “There are things that people don’t think about,” Cap says. “One year, the thing that jumped out at me was that they needed a whole stack of trash cans. It’s one of the less beautiful gifts I’ve ever given.”

    But one of his most beautiful gifts was after his wife passed in 2020. Cap set out to keep her memory as part of the places they both loved and admired.

    Cap and his wife, Jacqueline

    One of those was Reba’s Ranch House, and Cap sponsored what he calls the, “I miss you, Mommy,” room. It has a crib, rocker, and a fridge—everything to make a mother feel at home when undergoing a medical crisis.

    It’s the kind of room his wife would have appreciated, and his own mother as well. The impact of their family’s medical crisis early in his life is one reason why the ranch house holds a special place in his heart, and always will.

  5. A Real Thanksgiving

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Scrumptious aromas accompanied the spread of food laid out for Sarah Bradford, her family, and other guests at Reba’s Ranch House on Thanksgiving Day 2019. When the staff invited Sarah to sign up for the communal meal, she had no idea it was going to be an actual Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of their family’s health crisis. There was an abundance of turkey, ham, dressing, and all the trimmings.

    Having to spend the holiday away from home in order to be near their loved one at the hospital was strenuous, but it turned out to be a real family and friends Thanksgiving for Sarah, her two teens, and mother-in-law, Shirley.

    When Sarah’s sister-in-law, Kelli, was admitted into a Texas hospital with pneumonia in October, a series of trips began for the family. 77-year-old Shirley started making the eight-hour one-way drive from Arkansas to be with her daughter, Kelli, as much as possible. The family alternated stays in different hotels — some of them dicey. Sarah was constantly concerned about her mother-in-law’s safety, finances, and the lonely drive. Shirley was exhausted and had run out of money for hotels. 

    But in November, their caseworker shared about the option of staying at Reba’s Ranch House. Shirley would have been forced to drive back-and-forth to Arkansas at least four more times had she not stayed at the house.

    “I never knew something like this even existed,” Sarah says. “Every day, someone would bring food and donate it, mostly from churches. When I was not there, I felt so much better knowing Shirley was being taken care of. She literally would not have a dime left if she had to pay for all that. Plus she made friends and they were able to comfort each other. It just made it so much easier on her.”

    On Thanksgiving weekend, Kelli faced a tracheotomy. Sarah and her 16-year-old daughter Annie and 14-year-old son Asa made the urgent trip from Arkansas to be with Kelli and Shirley. They likely could not have made the trip without the option to stay at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “We had already been down there several times, and spent a lot of money,” Sarah says. 

    The four of them bundled into one of the rooms at Reba’s Ranch House with a queen bed that Shirley and Asa shared. Staff members brought in two cots. The family had fun pushing them together at the end of the large bed for Sarah and Annie.

    Kelli was not doing well that stormy weekend. It was emotionally draining for them all, especially Sarah’s teens as they watched over their aunt. But Kelli took a turn for the better after the visit. She didn’t need the tracheotomy.

    “We stayed with her for four days,” Sarah says. “She couldn’t talk on the phone, so us being there lifted her spirits and helped her get through it. I really, really believe that. She was so sick.”

    The family experienced a real Thanksgiving at Reba’s Ranch House, a place Sarah believes helped save Kelli’s life.

  6. Keeping the House Feeling Like Home and Hope

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Cameron Bates entered the dining area at Reba’s Ranch House to check on things. As an intern at the house, he was accustomed to making rounds, doing any clean up, and helping guests. But that day was different. A lone woman stood in the kitchen, crying.

    Having worked at the ranch house since 2019, Cameron had seen people come in from all walks of life. One thing he learned from his parents: You never know what someone is going through, but you can always pray with them.

    Cameron asked the woman if he could help and she told him she was having to let go of her son that day. They talked and prayed, then she gave Cameron a big hug. 

    “She said, ‘You don’t know how much that helped me,’” Cameron recalls, then added, “When people come here, they have a lot on their shoulders. But at the ranch house, we can stop whatever we’re doing and sit and pray with guests. Prayer is very powerful.”

    Joining up with Reba’s Ranch House was a natural fit for Cameron’s life as a college student, despite the two-hour round trip drive he makes to the house from his family’s cattle ranch. Growing up on the ranch, Cameron became a lifelong fan of Reba McEntire. When he received the call that they had accepted him for the intern position at Reba’s Ranch House, he was over the moon.

    His official internship ended after graduation, but he just couldn’t leave. Though he had started his own business, Cameron chose to remain with the ranch house part-time.

    “When you walk through the door, it feels like home,” he says. “I knew it was a special place from that first time.”

    Cameron has a hand in nearly every aspect of the house to keep it feeling like a home — and like hope.

    “When the guests come back and forth from the hospital, we know it’s hard for them,” he says. “Anything I can do to make their stay more comfortable, I’ll do it.”

    One question he often hears when checking people in at the front desk is, How long do I have?

    “Reba McEntire wanted the ranch house set up to allow them to stay as long as their loved one is in the hospital,” he says. “That’s the most beautiful thing. People are travelling from out of state and may have to be here for weeks. I’ve heard of people staying in their cars or sleeping on a park bench. For someone to come here and not have to pay anything, that shocks many people. Reba has put her heart and soul into this place, and being able to work here is a dream come true.”

     

    Reba’s Ranch House is owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation. If you would like to become a caregiver of caregivers like Cameron, you can contribute to the house today through donating or volunteering.

     

  7. The Heart Mender

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Philip McKinzie opened his eyes…and had no idea where he was. There he lay in a hospital bed, trying to get oriented. But his two daughters were there as Phil gradually learned he was coming out of a chemically-induced coma after 8 days.

    What started as an annual check up for Phil’s heart stents turned into emergency open heart surgery. His daughters rushed in from Colorado and Frisco, Texas, and were the very first guests at Reba’s Ranch House’s new facility.

    “My daughters told me they had stayed in the ranch house,” Phil recalls. “They told me what a delightful experience it was, and how grateful they were to be that close to the hospital. The people there are so gracious, and the community supports it so much with bringing in food.”

    This wasn’t how Phil first learned about the ranch house, though. He was on the TMC Foundation board in the 1980s when the dream for the ranch house was born and was one of the founding board members of the Texoma Health Foundation when it was created in 2007.

    Throughout the years, Phil continued his involvement with the ranch house and area hospitals. He’s held an interest in medicine from boyhood when he longed to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and namesake, Philip Lee Cane. Dr. Cane started practicing medicine during the days of Indian Territory, settling in Albany (Oklahoma) in the 1870s. Dr. Cane retired in the 1940s at 85-years-old.

    “He was the light of my life,” Phil says. “I loved that man, and I wanted to be a doctor.”

    Though Phil ultimately went into banking, his interest in medicine continued. It led him to help recruit physicians for area hospitals, serve on the TMC Foundation board (which morphed into the Texoma Health Foundation), and help with the founding of Reba’s Ranch House.

     Phil moved between Oklahoma and Texas throughout his life, and is now settled in the Celebration Senior Living of Denison, a stone’s throw from the ranch house.

    “I told them if they cut a furrow through the woods and build a bridge over the creek, I could walk over there, because we’re that close,” he says. 

    Grounds of Reba’s Ranch House

    Phil didn’t know that when the second facility was built in 2010, his two daughters would be its first guests as he recovered from open heart surgery in a nearby hospital.

    After his recovery, Phil became a volunteer “heart mender” for six years, sitting with families whose loved one was undergoing open heart surgery. He would stay with them for hours, bringing coffee and giving the family updates on what was happening. 

    And he let them know it was okay to take a rest at their room in Reba’s Ranch House. 

    “We could call them if they were needed and they’d be right there,” he says. “It’s amazing what the Texoma Health Foundation has accomplished [with Reba’s Ranch House]. It’s indescribable.”

    Reba’s Ranch House

  8. The Joys and Health of a Volunteer

    “Giving of both money and time generally boosts wellbeing

    more than people expect. Volunteers tend to weigh less,

    to feel healthier, to have a lower chance of suffering a heart attack,

    and to score higher in every happiness domain.”

    Blue Zones Newsletter

     

    The purple stems above are enchanting if you glance their way. But if you Focus, you realize the stem is filled with tiny individual purple blossoms that fill a cone shape at the end of the stem.  When you look at the flowers in your yard, what do you see? Do you see unknown faces “whispering” your name?

     

    Stop! Join the sweet call of service and lower your blood pressure.

     

    When volunteering for a non-profit, you realize how important it is to instill the feeling of hope in those you serve. Focus!

    Who are you passionate about? Do you have 2-4 hours of precious time to donate to a special soul who may be 5 or 95, but desperately needs to know someone out there still loves them? Seems like such a small thing, but it is a mountain to climb for those who need you.

    Everyone welcomes a smile, a bag filled with a coloring book and crayons, or a new book to read or to have read to them. Open your heart as you would open each little flower in your garden and Focus on the scent, the delicate texture and how they react not being a part of their mother plant core. You will learn how most of those who need your service feel everyday as they haven’t been given the core to hold on to. Serve by taking food, serve by bringing stamps, serve by talking and praying with those who need it.

    You are special to so many more people than you can ever imagine. Focus on Volunteering!

     

    Always wishing you hope and warmth in your home,

    Marilyn

    Reba’s Ranch House Director

     

    Discover how you can help at Reba’s Ranch House by clicking on our volunteer page here.

  9. One of God’s gifts — Susan Hooper’s Story

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Susan presenting at the Volunteer Luncheon

    In the serene setting of the library room at Reba’s Ranch House, Susan Hooper settled in with Phil Roether and his sister. They were there to discuss a topic Susan knew well — Phil’s sister was preparing to face her battle with breast cancer. 

    “I told my sister, ‘Why don’t you come talk to Susan?’” Phil recalled. He is an original board member of the Texoma Health Foundation. “‘Susan has been down this road.’”

    A fixture at Reba’s Ranch House, Susan had battled breast cancer and was always ready to come alongside anyone making their own journey. But she did more than equip people—she was ready to enter the battle with them.

    “You knew you had a warrior on your side,” said Dr. Darius Maggi. He is also an original board member of the Texoma Health Foundation, which manages Reba’s Ranch House. “Her attitude was, ‘I’m with you. I’ll hold your hand. We’ll go into battle together,’” he continued. “The Good Lord put her on the earth for that reason. We need people that love people and take care of people like Jesus did. If anyone exemplifies that, Susan does.”

    Susan first entered Texoma Health Foundation (THF) almost 15 years ago when she was battling cancer for the first time. Like so many she has helped since, Susan had been sent home with stage IV cancer. A business owner facing the high cost of health insurance, Susan had no options for treatment or surgery available to her. She called her dear friend and THF Foundation Board Member, Judge Horace Groff who connected her to the foundation’s Cancer Fund. The fund was able to provide dollars to open the door to life saving treatment.

    So thankful for what the foundation had done, she joined all volunteer activities for the patient assistance fund and Texoma Health Foundation.

    “She walked into my office one day and said, ‘I want to give back,’” said Michelle Lemming, THF CEO. “Fifteen years later, she has been a tireless advocate to the community, a fundraiser, and a loving friend to countless residents facing a cancer diagnosis.”

    She eventually joined the Reba’s Ranch House staff in Guest Relations before the Room for Hope was founded in March 20, 2012. There, Susan had the opportunity to fulfill her passion for supporting and assisting those who were beginning their battle with cancer. Today the room assists men and women in their fight, both financially and with needed personal items for the battle.

    “Most people came in with a relative or friend,” Susan said. “They usually felt bad and thought they looked bad. After trying on wigs and playing for a time, everyone was in a better mood. We prayed and talked and ended up being one big family.” 

    Susan in the Room for Hope

    It wasn’t only Susan’s dedicated work that made the Room for Hope thrive; it was the heart, positive attitude, and hugs she had for anyone who crossed her path.

    Betty, Phil’s wife and a volunteer for the ranch house, said, “Susan’s attitude is an example of how important being positive is to your health.”

    Susan, second from left.

    Susan’s declining health ushered her into retirement, but not the end of her legacy at Reba’s Ranch House. A new fund is being created in her honor: The Susan Hooper Cancer Care Fund. 

    One goal of the fund is to assist people who face the same struggles Susan did, helping those who have no insurance or are underinsured receive the treatment they need.

    “The fund in my honor means the world because a fund will continue helping people long after I can, personally,” Susan said. “What a great feeling for anyone!”

    Through the fund, Susan will continue as a warrior alongside patients and guests at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “When you come into the ranch house, you are uncertain of your life at the moment,” Susan said. “To help someone clear their mind is a tremendous gift. Just talking and praying accomplished this with people.”

    Phil added, “My sister still remembers how calming it was to talk to Susan, to understand someone else who had been through the battle, what to expect; and that it can be okay.”

     

    If you would like to contribute to Susan’s fund and be a warrior for men and women fighting cancer, please donate here.

    (Click on the dropdown arrow next to the “Area of Interest” title and select “Susan Hooper Cancer Care Fund”)

    Christmas floral design by Susan

  10. Third Graders, Bible Pages, and Loads of Grocery Sacks

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Reba’s Heroes:

    A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    From the early days of Reba’s Ranch House, the heart of volunteers beat throughout the space to bring peace and comfort to all the guests who walk through the door.

    This series is our chance to publicly thank our precious volunteers who consistently show up and provide for the many needs we have. The ranch house operates like any home — laundry, meals, cleaning, bedding, prayers. 

    We couldn’t exist without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you!

     

     

    Sweet Innocence

    “I wonder if they liked my picture, or if my verse helped them?”

    These are sweetly innocent questions third graders at the Texoma Christian Schools ask as they color pumpkins, flowers, and chapels on their cursive pages’ borders. 

    Their teachers, Kathy Lindsey and Twila Thomas, explain to the children that they will never see the person who receives their Bible verse page. But they can pray for them and know the people will be touched by the pages sitting on nightstands in the guest rooms at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “We tell them, ‘Before you start coloring and writing your verse down, we want you to pray about that paper you’re decorating, and pray for the person who’s going to receive it, even though you don’t know who they are,” Kathy says. “And they do; they say a prayer for the person that’s going to read their Bible verse and see their coloring.”

    For the past twelve years, Texoma Christian School’s Third-Grade classes have adopted Reba’s Ranch House for their annual Care-A-Thon project. Kathy puts out large paper grocery sacks in the fall with a list of things stapled to the sacks that the pantry at the Ranch House needs — from cake mixes to spaghetti sauce — and the children take the empty sacks home to fill them. Once full, they return them, and many ask if they can do another one, excited as they watch the sacks fill the back of the classroom. They’re reaching the goal: filling up the pantry at Reba’s Ranch House! One hundred children have walked through the door at the house for the project over the years.

    “I tell them there’s a loved one at the hospital, and they’re tired,” Kathy says. “They need a place to shower and get some rest rather than sitting in a chair all the time.”

    The class, with moms and grandmothers along to help, arrive at Reba’s Ranch House, they are welcomed in.

    “Marilyn will give them a tour, and they see Reba’s guitars and that the house even has a place for little ones,” Kathy says. “And if we’re really, really quiet and there is an empty room, Marilyn will show them the quilts and the beds where the guests stay. At the end, the moms have pizza delivered, and we sit in the kitchen there with our very good manners.”

    When parents and grandparents experience the work that goes on in Reba’s Ranch House, some decide to come back and volunteer.

    The children also visit the kitchen pantry where the staples they collected are stored. They present their Bible pages to Marilyn, knowing the pages will go on nightstands of guests staying at the ranch house.

    “They get it, that people are tired and need a good place to sleep,” Kathy says. “The children pour their little hearts out for them.”