Truth Frequency Radio
Aug 29, 2014

Hank Albee is the All-American boy. The sixth-grader at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School is an A-B student, an athlete, a big brother. He’s thoughtful, well-liked and still not too cool to enjoy doing things with his family.

Now add brave to that resume.

Just a little more than a month ago, Hank’s parents, Mark and Kim, learned their seemingly healthy son had a rare and aggressive type of brain tumor.

In the short span of time since, Hank has had the tumor removed during a nine-hour neurosurgery at Memorial University Medical Center, gone through post-surgical physical therapy, attended the first week of school and started the first week of a two-month regimen of specialized radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

To say the Albees’ world has been turned upside down is a given.

But their “new normal” isn’t all bad.

“For me, the overarching takeaway from all of this has been that people really are good,” Kim said. “With everything in the news these days, it’s easy to feel there isn’t a lot of good left in the world,” she said. “But the unbelievable support that we have received — frequently from the most unexpected of sources — has been mind-blowing. It sounds cheesy, but it has really reaffirmed my faith in humanity.”

Mark agreed.

“So many people have quietly stepped up with immeasurable help,” he said. “For example, I haven’t mowed my lawn since this happened. I didn’t ask anyone, but as soon as our neighbors heard about Hank, they started brainstorming ways to take some of the burden off.”

From the practical, such as helping with meals and chores, to uplifting the family’s spirits with signs and posters all over the neighborhood when Hank came home from the hospital, the kindnesses of friends, family and total strangers have made the unbearable bearable, he said.

On Sunday, the night Kim and Hank were to leave for Boston to begin his treatment, their neighbors on 45th Street put together a block party send-off.

“It was laid back and wonderful – the brainchild of people who knew nothing could take Hank’s mind off what he was facing like a lot of great friends and kids armed with footballs, soccer balls and skateboards,” Kim said.

“Hank’s flat-out best moment occurred when, thanks to the Iannone family from Blessed Sacrament, Benedictine football coach Danny Britt and quarterback Stevie Powers came striding up to the festivities bearing a football for Hank that was signed by the whole team. He was totally star-struck! He just kept staring at that ball and at them as if they might disappear if he looked away too long.

“The entire night was just what the doctor ordered, not only for Hank but the entire family,” she said.


More to come

But the surprises for Hank were just beginning.

Robyn Iannone, chief financial officer for the Savannah Area Chamber, shared her friends’ story with Visit Savannah president Joe Marinelli, who in turn alerted JetBlue that Hank and Kim would be flying with them the next day.

“When we arrived at the airport and started unloading our bags, JetBlue was right there with a welcoming party,” Mark said.

“They said, ‘Leave your car here, we’ll have security watch it; here’s a gate pass, Mark you can come down to the plane with them.’ They really went above and beyond.

“When we got to the plane, Hank met the captain and was able to sit in the cockpit.

“To me, as a father, that distraction for a very anxious Hank meant the world,” Mark said.

Mark told the JetBlue crew they would be seeing him and daughter Olivia a lot in the next few months.

“We are a very close-knit family, and we were determined that, with everything Hank was going through, we would find a way to still be a family Friday through Sunday. So I told them we would be flying to Boston with them every weekend until Hank and Kim were home.”

In addition to the rock star treatment for Hank in Savannah, JetBlue was waiting in Boston with an entire welcoming crew, Kim said.

“Full-on applause — along with a “Wicked Strong” sign — welcomed us to the Boston airport as we walked out of our gateway.”

But the airline wasn’t done.

“As a final, unbelievable gesture, Jet Blue has also provided Mark and Olivia with unrestricted travel certificates to Boston that will cover Hank’s entire treatment time frame,” she said.

“It’s hard to even express our gratitude, humility, faith in the kindness of strangers and love of JetBlue Airlines,” Kim said.

“We will forevermore bleed Blue!”


Long road ahead

As Hank and Kim settle into their small apartment in Boston, Blessed Sacrament has stepped up to make sure Hank’s studies are not interrupted, Mark said.

“They have put together an individual education plan for him with weekly lessons and work that Olivia and I will courier back and forth. They have set up a series of Skype sessions so Hank doesn’t lose that classroom feel, and they’ve helped us secure a tutor in Boston.”

All of these things have not only reassured the Albees as they prepare to live Hank’s motto of “Never Give Up,” they have reaffirmed the decision the young family made more than 10 years ago to return to the city where they met when Mark was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield to put down roots and raise their family.

“Our experiences since Hank was diagnosed are a perfect encapsulation of everything there is to love about Savannah and its people and the true meaning of home,” Kim said.

“From all of the meals and cookies that people have made us, to mowing our lawn, to cards handmade by children, to monetary donations to offset our travel and tutoring expenses, to taking 11-year-old Olivia out with their families to provide some fun normalcy for her — these acts of caring mean more than anyone could know,” Kim said.

Hank still has a long road ahead before he is declared cancer free, but the Albees are certain of one thing – they won’t travel that road alone.

“It sounds so odd to say that you feel blessed in this situation,” Kim said. “But we are truly and humbly blessed.”