Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2016
Written by 

Ohana in Supporting Brenden and Caleb

Daniel and Christina Whitmore have experienced two miracles recently. Daniel, diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at age 19, bounced back without the usual interventions. In recent years, though, he had been put on the heart transplant list.

Their three older children, who’d been doing online school at home, had to return to traditional classrooms while their parents made countless visits to a hospital in Milwaukee. The couple asked for a month to decide on Daniel’s treatment.

They worked with physicians to adjust his medications, though they were told this wouldn’t work. Daniel was a rare case who bounced back once, doctors said, but that would never happen twice. Prayer has changed that, Christina said. “When Daniel had a check up at the end of March, his doctors told him, ‘You look great. Your blood work’s awesome!’”

Their children have returned to online schooling and were able to take spring break a week later than most students. Knowing they couldn’t afford a family vacation, the Whitmores decided that Daniel would take just their oldest son, Carson, to Florida.

However, they found that planes returning to Florida were nearly empty, and airlines would give huge discounts to passengers. So Daniel and Christina flew with Britney, 14, Carson, 9, Caleb, 7, Brenden, 5, and Ava, 3, for $29 per person.

Flying home would be much more expensive. Because they’d need a rental van in Florida, they checked the price of driving it for the week and returning it to Milwaukee. “Renting a minivan would have cost $800,” Christina said. “That was less than we’d pay to fly back. But by chance, we clicked on a website to look at a 12-passenger van. With taxes, driving it and returning it to Milwaukee came to about $105.”

It’s Caleb and Brenden’s needs that have the family looking for a third miracle. A service dog will be trained to disrupt behavior that causes problems or makes it possible for the boys to hurt themselves. This dog will also be trained in search and rescue, in case either boy wanders out of sight and toward possible danger.

“We had a donor give money toward the cost of a service dog for the boys,” Christina said. “When we pick up the dog at 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio, we’ll have to stay for two weeks and train with the dog. Community Benefit Tree is helping us raise funds toward traveling expenses.”

Daniel had tried to set up a raffle event himself and discovered he’d need a license to do that. They were looking for a venue and when they toured one location, the manager asked, “Have you heard of Community Benefit Tree?”

When they got home, the DJ for whom Daniel had left a message called back. When they told him about their raffle plans, he also asked if they’d heard of Community Benefit Tree. “When two people in one day mentioned them, we began to think there was something to that,” Christina said. Immediately after they left a message for Executive Director Heidi Frederickson, a third person asked them if they’d talked to CBT.

“Community Benefit Tree uses a ton of input from families,” Christina said. “They wanted to know what we were looking for and told us about fundraising options. They partner with you to make it through an extremely hard, stressful, and sad time. They give you the resources and tools you need, but they don’t try to put the spotlight on CBT. They want it to be all about you and about what works for your family.”

“We’re doing a Celebration of Support on May 21 at The Bar on Lynndale Avenue,” Christina said. It’s called Ohana in Supporting Brenden and Caleb because they love Lilo and Stitch, and “ohana” is Hawaiian for family. The event is open to the public and readers can find more details at the CBT website: Click on Celebrations, then scroll to Brenden and Caleb Whitmore. Those who are unable to attend can make donations via the website.

Kathi Bloy

The Community Benefit Tree Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by Christian values. Our mission is to help individuals and families struggling with a medical crisis financially, emotionally, spiritually and with practical resources. We celebrate people’s lives and support by helping family, friends or co-workers plan a Celebration of Support event for their loved one. In the last 10 years, these one-day events have helped more than 500 families with funds for living and medical expenses. Community Benefit Tree also provides education, support, resources and financial assistance for families. For more information, visit or contact CBT staff at 920-422-1919.

Kathi Bloy is a freelance writer from Appleton.

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