The heartbreaking, yet hope-filled story of how two families found faith, hope and love in the midst of tragedy, is the catalyst behind New Day Foundation for Families.
Gina Kell Spehn (Executive Director) and husband Michael Spehn are the co-founders of New Day. After each being widowed with young children then marrying in 2007, the legacies of their first spouses, Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn, who both died of cancer only six weeks apart, live on through New Day and its mission.
New Day Foundation for Families is where hope begins for families fighting cancer, providing financial stability and profound hope to cancer patients, spouses, and children. While grief resources and counseling are offered, the group's primary purpose is to significantly reduce financial and emotional burdens on cancer patients and their families while they are in the fight against cancer. By reducing the effects of financial toxicity and emotional stress caused by cancer, New Day can have a positive impact on treatment outcomes and survivorship.
"The families we serve are in real need because cancer comes with costs that are beyond the physical," said Gina. New Day provides hope and support for families battling any form of cancer. "As a family who's been affected by rare forms, we recognize that cancer is cancer – it doesn't discriminate. And neither do we."
Michael and Gina met in 2006, six weeks after Gina lost Matt to leiomyosarcoma. She attended the funeral for Michael's wife, Cathy, which took place less than a month after Cathy was diagnosed with brain cancer. Matt and Cathy were childhood friends who grew up in Rochester Hills, where Michael and Gina currently live.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, Michael and Gina had each become single parents –Michael to one girl and two boys, and Gina to two boys. "I was a widower with three children under the age of nine," said Michael. "Without support and community I would have been completely lost, and that's a big part of what led us to create New Day."
Last fall, after experiencing double vision, their son Sam was diagnosed with Stage IV giant cell Glioblastoma Multiforme, brain cancer.
"There's a prayer vigil, a hockey game, events taking place to honor my son's cancer battle," said Gina. "We want people to remember that there are thousands of others who are battling this, too. It's important to keep the message out there, that the need is great."
"The Color of Rain," co-authored by Michael and Gina and published in 2011, was borne of their desire "to write down what was on our hearts, for the sake of our kids." said Michael. "Our faith was in evidence on the pages. We realized this could be something of a narrative that could serve others. There's a lot of tears, but a lot of laughter and hope."