Sandy Buchenau – December 14
“We will survive because we are fighters.”
That’s what Sandy Buchenau says of herself and her twin daughters, Hannah and Haley.
When Sandy was 7 years old, she lost her dad. Little did she know that her sweet daughters would face the same pain at 9 years old when they too would lose their father.
Sandy married her high school sweetheart, Bob, when she was 19 years old. Fifteen years later they were blessed with tiny, premature twin girls. Sandy and Bob had the normal small struggles through life until the worst happened in 2008, a cancer diagnosis for Bob. Bob fought hard but ultimately lost the battle two years later.
The girls are now 16 and things are still hard. They miss their dad terribly and financially it has been really tough. Sandy works two jobs to try to keep up, but acknowledges that once you get behind it’s so hard to dig yourself out.
Sandy and her girls were chosen by Union Bank to receive a Magic Moment because of their hard work, unselfish lifestyle, and their ability to continually put others’ needs in front of their own.
All three were presented with winter necessities like coats, boots, hats, and scarfs. They also received gas cards and a few gift cards to enjoy dining and entertainment that they normally can’t afford to go. One of the things they used to love to do with Bob was fishing, and they’ll continue that tradition in his memory, as all three now have fishing licenses for next year. The family’s worn furniture has certainly seen its better days, so they’ll soon be cuddling up on their new living room couch (with some cozy blankets) on these cold winter nights.
Getting to know Sandy and her daughters through the Magic Moment was truly a bright spot for UBT, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to make this possible for a wonderful family.
We wish Sandy, Haley, and Hannah a most wonderful Christmas!
Diana Elias – December 13
It’s pretty typical to miss school due to a cold or illness, or just feeling run down. But can you imagine having to stay home from school due to bomb threats and violence?
Five years ago, Diana Elias was living in Iraq with her family just trying to stay alive. Going to school was not an option at times due to bomb threats, crimes, and other horrific events that a young child should not have to go through. Luckily for Diana and her family, they were accepted as refugees, and after a long process and journey they were able to call the United States their new home.
Here, Diana now dreams of becoming anything she wants. She has not let the cultural difference stop her. She quickly enrolled in English classes, became an active member in different organizations in high school, and even became the Homecoming Queen her senior year!
Now, Diana wants to give back to her community. Not only does she volunteer at different places, including at Bryan Health Hospital, she also wants to become a police officer. This summer, Diana obtained an internship with UNLPD, and said it has been great experience working with police officers who one day might just be her colleagues.
In Iraq becoming a Police Offer was not really an option, especially for a woman, but here she has the chance of becoming the first Kurdish police officer. To recognize her for being such a strong person despite the struggles she encountered while growing up, Union Bank & Trust selected her as a recipient for the Magic Moments program.
She is currently attending SCC, but plans on transferring next year to UNL to obtain her degree in Criminal Justice. To help her reach her goals, she was provided with a new laptop so she can do all of her school work. She also received a new iPod, Bluetooth speakers, new kitchen appliances (she loves to cook), and other gifts that she can enjoy in her spare time. The family also received a Lazlo’s gift card – their favorite restaurant!
This family has had to overcome a lot. Diana’s dad has also had multiple heart surgeries and they have had other health issues within the family. Despite all that, Diana and her family remain positive and happy, and we’re so happy to have met them. We wish them the best and Happy Holidays!
Jenifer Andrews – December 12
Jenifer Andrews is a perfect example of a person who always puts others first. Jeni is a single mother to two children, soon to be 7 and 8 year olds, Kyemani and Kalynna. Jeni works hard every day to provide for her family. Jeni’s official title may be Drug Technician for Adult Probation, but she is so much more to her clients. Jeni is a mentor to many of her clients as she goes above and beyond her responsibilities to help them as they face life’s challenges.
Even with all of this on her plate, Jeni finds the time to be a full-time student at Doane University and is expected to graduate in May. Jeni is not only getting her degree to provide the best possible life for her and her family, but to also lead by example for her clients as a positive role model. Between caring for her kids and going to school, Jenifer struggles with day-to-day costs. She often times must sacrifice her own needs and desires so that she can provide for those around her.
After the shock wore off when Jenifer was informed that she had been nominated by her co-worker Norma to receive a Magic Moment, she again thought first of others. Jeni thought others must be more deserving and first shared the things she hoped could be provided to others in her family.
Jenifer is a great example of selflessly helping others, and Union Bank was excited to spoil her for a change.
For Jenifer’s Magic Moment she has received a gift basket with many items to help relax and pamper herself, including an afternoon at Hype Salon and Spa. Jenifer has recently had some car troubles and received a gift card for service from Honda of Lincoln, along with gas gift cards from U-Stop. Jeni was also given gifts cards to Gate 25 and Buffalo Wings & Rings to enjoy a night out with friends in the Railyard, where she can cheer for the Big Red in some of her new Husker clothing.
The family also all received new winter gear from Scheels as well as tickets and a souvenir bag for a night out at the ballpark to go see the Lincoln Saltdogs play next season. They will also stay busy with their annual passes to the Lincoln Zoo and the Lincoln Children’s Museum. When they are home they can enjoy some new movies and pick from some new board games. The family also was given new kitchen dining ware and pots and pans as Jenifer prepares to move.
Among the new toys for Kyemani was a NinjaGo Lego set, some baseball equipment and a Smithsonian Science kit. Kalynna’s toys included a Trolls scrapbook, an Amazon Fire Tablet, and an erasable easel to draw on. Kyemani and Kalynna will also be enjoying a new bunk bed as well as some new clothes.
Sutton Kelly & Family – December 9
When Mike and Sasha Kelly were married in December 2012, doctors told them it may be difficult for them to have children due to Sasha having Crohn’s Disease. However, they soon found out they were expecting and could not have been happier. They started the normal progressions of preparing the nursery, having baby showers, and ultimately for the baby’s arrival. Sutton came into the world in January 2014, six weeks early, due to Sasha’s Crohn’s Disease. After a month in the NICU, Mike and Sasha were elated to bring their little girl home.
The following months were filled with lots of pictures, laughter, and love. It wasn’t until 6 months when Mike and Sasha began to realize she wasn’t keeping up with a lot of the typical infant milestones. At that point, their journey began. After speaking with multiple doctors, they believed she had Hypotonia, which is a medical term meaning low muscle tone and reduced strength. The goal was, through physical therapy, her muscle strength would be increased and Sutton would lead a normal life. But this wasn’t the path they’d travel. After months of therapy and minimal progress they needed answers. Sutton was now 1 year old but unable to sit independently, crawl, or make an effort to walk. The decision was made to consult specialists in the field of Hypotonia and Neurology.
After a long 6 months of EMG tests, genetic studies, brain and spine MRI’s, there were no answers; only more concern and questions. Finally, after multiple tests were sent to different parts of the nation they received a direction, Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (CMD). CMD is a disease of the body that causes gradual muscle degeneration. With that diagnosis, more tests were run. After approximately a year of hospitals, doctors, and heartache, it was determined Sutton had a form of Muscular Dystrophy that affects fewer than a dozen people worldwide. Specialists told the Kelly family that Sutton would be in a wheelchair and unable to perform the typical tasks we take for granted such as dressing herself, brushing her teeth, or bathing. In addition to this news Mike and Sasha were told their little girl’s life expectancy is a great unknown due to the rarity of her current condition and it would be a gradual result as times goes on.
To put the disease in perspective, Sutton battles a common cold like a typical child would battle pneumonia. Despite all of the battles Sutton goes through she is extremely social, loving and funny. Sutton has taught Mike and Sasha more than they could imagine in the short two and half year she’s been with them than they have learned in 28 years themselves. She has received opportunities to be an ambassador/sponsor for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, who has been invaluable in assisting the Kelly’s with the life changing condition. Sutton was a representative for a MDA Poker Run, the U-Stop MDA Shamrock Fundraiser and a top participant in the 2016 MDA Muscle Walk.
Sutton’s favorite news to share is she is now a big sister! True to her sister’s path, 5 weeks early in June of 2016, the Kellys were blessed with their second daughter, Leighton. Leighton was diagnosed with Duodenal Atresia or “Double Bubble” prior to birth. Double Bubble has several effects, one of which is increased amniotic fluid in the womb, and the other, in Leighton’s case, is a complete disconnect of her lower intestine. Hours after birth, Leighton and Mike were transferred from St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Lincoln to Children’s Hospital in Omaha, where Leighton immediately underwent bowel surgery to connect her intestine. After a month in the NICU, Leighton was able to come home and meet Sutton and the two quickly became best friends. Thankfully, at 5 months old, Leighton does not appear to have any long-term effects from surgery and does not seem to be affected by Muscular Dystrophy.
Before the birth of Leighton, Sasha worked as a grade school teacher but is now a full-time stay-at-home mom taking care of both Sutton and Leighton. She is providing constant care for both the girls to ensure they stay healthy and happy. The Kellys’ long-term goal is to ensure Sutton is not limited by her disabilities so she can enjoy and experience things just like any other child.
We were excited to provide a Magic Moment for this amazing family.
Sutton received a special lightweight portable seat that promotes inclusion and participation in everyday life.
Sutton is attending preschool and loves spending time with her friends, so she’ll enjoy her new Frozen toys, books, painting sets, and games.
Queen Elsa from Frozen even joined the presentation, and put a huge smile on Sutton’s face!
Little Leighton will enjoy a bunch of new toys, too.
Sasha was provided with gift cards for a pedicure/manicure, massage, Bath and Body Works gifts, and more.
Mike, a Finance Manager at Sid Dillon in Lincoln, was given a variety of gifts from Scheels.
The whole family will enjoy memberships to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, plus gift cards for dining and entertainment.
Mike, Sasha, Sutton, and Leighton are embracing the path they are given and adapting to accommodate their growing needs each day. They look forward to many more memories along the way!
Bowers Family – December 8
Matthew Bowers is a loving, hard-working husband and father. His wife, Kendal, nominated him to receive a Magic Moment for all that he does for their family of seven. Matthew and Kendal have five children between them (Abbey, 16; Lauren, 15; Cooper, 11; Hudson, 8; and Owen, 6), two of whom have special needs. Matthew is the sole provider for the family, as Kendal’s full-time job is caring for the children and their home.
To accommodate their large family, the Bowers family purchased a 100-year old home with much needed space, knowing there would be necessary updates to the home along the way. Those necessary updates came sooner than expected when the air conditioning unit went out over the summer on a 100-degree day! They were able to find someone to repair their older unit, but knew they would need to purchase a new unit soon, as the illness of one of their children causes the inability to regulate his body temperature correctly. To provide Matthew with some much-needed relief this Christmas, he received a brand new HVAC unit and insulation courtesy of A4K Plumbing, Heating, and Air. The roof was the first project on the list that Matthew hoped to tackle, so he was also provided with a brand new roof and gutters, courtesy of Nelson Contracting. Matthew also received a new grill to create meals on for the family.
Having a family of seven undoubtedly makes things tight around the holiday season trying to make a memorable Christmas for the family. To help makes things a little easier this Christmas, all five of the children were given a brand new coat for the winter season. Abbey and Lauren received shirts, bath and body works sprays and lotions, makeup, and gift certificates to get their hair done. Cooper, Hudson, and Owen each received a tablet to keep them busy during their frequent car rides to appointments and activities. Cooper and Owen received Lego sets to build, while Hudson received a Peppa Pig toy. The household wouldn’t run nearly as smoothly as it does without Kendal holding it all together, so she was given a gift certificate to get hair done, a spa package, and a 4-hour cleaning session.
The family also received movie passes, Lincoln Saltdogs tickets, and gas gift cards from U-Stop.
Braelyn’s Story – December 7
Stacy Stemper, like most mothers, only wants the best for her children, Braelyn (7) and Asher (3). She is their parent, friend, and advocate. Soon after Braelyn turned one, she began having seizures and their lives would be forever changed.
Braelyn was diagnosed with severe epilepsy and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which is a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures. Intellectual development is usually impaired and the seizures typically do not respond to seizure medications.
Braelyn, now 7, has become completely non-verbal; Stacy has become her voice.
In January of 2016, Braelyn suffered from a fall at school. This fall led to multiple Emergency Room visits to treat a baseball-sized lump on her forehead and concussion symptoms. Days after the fall, the bruising on her head, neck, face, and eyes made Braelyn unrecognizable and she could not communicate to her family what had transpired due to her non-verbal state. The stress from what occurred has since led Braelyn to homebound schooling.
In March of 2016, Braelyn underwent surgery for a Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS). The VNS is an implanted pacemaker on the vagus nerve in the neck that can sometimes improve seizures. Braelyn is a candidate for brain surgery; there is an operation called Corpus Callosotomy that separates the two halves of the brain to interrupt the spread of seizures from hemisphere to hemisphere. This procedure, as you can imagine, will certainly impact the routine of this family and will require even more support and care from Braelyn’s loved ones. She is scheduled to have this surgery January 9th in Omaha.
Through Braelyn’s diagnosis, Stacy has been the “family coordinator,” making sure that homebound schooling, therapy sessions, and doctor appointments are attended, all while working on her own education in Nursing School. This family is a true display of strength, perseverance, and love.
Chelsie Stemper, Braelyn’s aunt, and her boyfriend, Grant, wanted the family to have enjoy some stress-free family time this Holiday season, prior to Braelyn’s surgery. For UBT’s Magic Moments team, it was an easy decision.
Braelyn and Asher love to jump and bounce — what better way to enjoy year-round jumping than an inflatable jump castle?
If the jumper needs to be taken outside, we have also provided Braelyn and Asher with coats to keep warm while the jumping continues!
Stacy is sure to enjoy the spa kit and the gift certificate to Tranquility Spa, where she can be pampered and de-stress.
With Braelyn’s homebound schooling, we were excited to provide her with an Amazon Fire Kids Edition so she can continue her schooling as well as be able to download additional educational and play-time apps.
Asher is sure to keep busy with the puzzles he received and his imagination will continue to grow with an assortment of coloring and doodle books.
The family was also presented with several U-Stop gift cards to ensure that they don’t have to worry about gas money while traveling to doctor appointments, therapy, school, and now to the Lincoln Zoo, where they received a family membership!
It was a great opportunity to be able to meet with Braelyn and her family and to be able to share in this magical time of the year!
Thompson Family – December 6
Cheryl and Paul Thompson are a hard-working couple and loving parents to Lucy (5) and Clara (6 months). They have owned a small bridal shop called Elegant Occasions for the past five years, and Cheryl has been employed there since 1999. This is not just a business to Cheryl and Paul but a second home where employees are considered family. Paul works from home for the Department of Veteran Affairs. Friends of the Thompsons say they would do anything for anyone and are wonderful parents.
Their story begins in January 2016 when Paul started having horrible pains from what he thought to be acid reflux. As the pain was worsening and just wouldn’t go away, they made an appointment for Paul to see a gastroenterologist, but had to schedule an appointment in July, still several months away. In the interim, the pain became too intense for Paul and the family made a trip to a hospital emergency room. Although Paul’s ER visit didn’t reveal the cause of his pain, it did result in his appointment with the gastroenterologist being moved up. Finally, they thought, Paul would have some relief.
On August 1st the Thompsons celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary. On August 2nd, they received the devastating news that Paul had been diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. Given the progression and rarity of the type of cancer, combined with Paul’s young age, his physicians found his case particularly challenging. This made a scary situation even more terrifying for Paul and Cheryl. Frightened at the aggressive nature of the disease, the Thompsons recently flew to Houston to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for evaluation and tests.
Paul started chemo treatments upon their return, and has been hospitalized twice now for C Diff and dehydration. Having to focus on Paul’s health has been daunting for Paul and Cheryl; at times they have felt isolated and have certainly missed out on much with their young family. Paul often lacks the energy and strength to help around the house, so often when Cheryl gets home from work she spends most of her time rushing around the house caring for everyone’s needs and trying to keep some order in the chaos. This past summer, Paul had planned to build a large wooden playset for his girls, but his health has not allowed him to do so.
The Thompson family was selected to receive a Magic Moment to provide the family with some much needed joy. The family was surprised with memberships to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, so they can enjoy endless hours of family fun. Paul is an avid Husker fan and received some comfy sports apparel. He will also be receiving an Amazon gift card to purchase some of his favorite Tom Clancy audio books to listen to during his treatments. Lucy loves Disney characters, so we presented her with some of her favorite movies and toys. Clara received toys, books, diapers, and sheets for her crib. When feeling good enough for a night out, Cheryl and Paul can enjoy movie passes and gift cards for dinner. Atlantis Salon and Spa was kind enough to give Cheryl a 60-minute massage, shampoo, style, and and makeup. Sunny Nails came through with a pedicure for Cheryl to enjoy a little relaxation time. Best of all, Clara and Lucy will be enjoying that new backyard playset!
This family has had to overcome such a hard time this Holiday Season and we’re happy to provide them with a bright spot at this time of year.
Cheryl has started a hashtag, #thompsontough, and has t-shirts to purchase to help funds/awareness for Paul’s cancer available at this link https://www.bonfirefunds.com/paul-thompson-stomach-cancer-fight-club
Simmons Family – December 5
When you take a quick glance at the Simmons family they would look like a normal Lincoln family to most. Erin is a single mother who loves both of her kids and strives for them to achieve their goals. Florissa or Flo, as she goes by, was a track star at her high school in Rogers Arkansas, and graduated high school before moving to Lincoln. Erica is your typical high school student, attends Lincoln Southwest as a freshman, loves doing people’s hair and makeup, and like her sister, loves dogs. What you can’t see from the outside is the pain this family endures each and every day.
In March of 2013, during track season, Flo started to experience pain in her stomach, and as a precaution, went to the doctor. The news couldn’t have been much worse. Flo was diagnosed with two malignant tumors in her stomach. The cancer was treated with chemotherapy until September of 2014 when she was rushed to Rogers, Arkansas where the tumors had to be removed. The surgery was major and by the end, two brick-sized tumors were removed. This brought hope that things might start to look up for this young family.
The Simmons tried to maintain a normal lifestyle through this time, and needed to be closer to family, so they decided they were going to move back to Nebraska. Flo was very close to graduating so the family briefly separated. Erin and Erica moved back to Nebraska with nothing but the clothes on their backs and Flo stayed in Arkansas with their family there until she was able to graduate. When Erin and Erica arrived in the spring they had no home to go to, and turned to the closest thing they had to parents: Kim and Mark Kunz (Erin’s aunt and uncle). They brought Erin, Erica and eventually Flo into their home for almost five months until they were able to find an apartment for themselves.
Things again were finally starting to look better as they had a new home, family that loved them, and each other, until this July when Flo was once again in the emergency room. The cancer had spread throughout the lining of her liver and bladder, along with her large and small intestines. The doctors gave her a diagnosis of stage-four ovarian cancer, the most advanced stage.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend a 19 year-old girl and her family spending more time thinking about funeral plans than what this Christmas might bring, but through it all the family holds on to each other and looks forward to each day they have. Through such an awful situation the family remains positive, which is why Kim and Mark Kunz nominated this family to be one of our Magic Moments recipients, and have another bright memory.
Since the family came back to Nebraska with almost nothing, Union Bank provided Erin with household items to make her apartment feel more like home, including new pots and pans, kitchen and bath towels, curtains, and bedding.
Flo opened up a new pair of boots, along with some brand new clothing to help winter feel a little bit more comfortable. She also opened up a new tablet to help her with the down time during her chemo treatments. Flo will enjoy her new drone, something that she can get in trouble with, as she has been described as the “funny one” in the family. Her sister Erica opened up a pair of new Jordan shoes along with a new bedding set for her room. She enjoys doing makeup and hair, so she received products to continue her joy of cosmetology. She also received a new tablet to play with while she is with her sister during chemo or just hanging out at home.
The family is so close and wants to spend each moment they still have together, so to make it feel a little more like the holidays, they received a new Christmas tree, ornaments and tree skirt to spruce up their apartment. As a way to relax they will be receiving gift certificates to get their nails done and gift certificates for massages. To help them get around they will also be receiving some maintenance for the van, and $200 in gas cards to make the trips less expensive.
This is a very special family and the Magic Moments family wishes them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Remington Family – December 2
Becky Remington lost her husband, Michael, in 2012 after a brief battle with brain cancer. This left Becky as a single mother to two teenage girls. To make matters worse, this fall she was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She has been undergoing treatments ever since she learned of the diagnosis.
Since both Becky and Michael have been diagnosed with cancer, the question was raised as to why this could have happened. A test was done to measure the level of radon in their home. The results showed that there was a high level of radon in the home, which likely was the cause of the cancers. The family had to pay for the large expense of the radon mitigation, which will leave Becky a limited budget to provide the wonderful Christmas her daughters Rachael and Izabelle deserve.
Through all this Becky has kept a positive attitude and even embraced the side effects with her unique sense of humor. She always shows up to her job as the Security Entrance Monitor at Lakeview Elementary school with a smile on her face, ready to support the students and her co-workers any way she can.
This is why Union Bank wanted to select the Remington family with a 2016 Magic Moment.
The Remingtons were presented with a new laptop for the entire family to enjoy. Becky also received a new tablet to use while she is undergoing treatments, as well as a gas card from U-Stop, a Garmin Vivofit 3, and a Pioneer Woman cookbook, among other gifts. The girls received new earbuds, a Bluetooth speaker, a new flatiron, and various other gifts.
Union Bank was happy to help bring some holiday cheer to this deserving family.
Palermo Family – December 1
Grace Palermo is the Director of the Tree House Child Care Center in Hickman. Her husband, Nicholas, passed away unexpectedly a little over a year ago, leaving Grace and her three children (Samantha, 14; Grayson, 11; and Gemma, 8) to miss him.
The family had been in the process of building their dream home in Hickman when this happened, but were unfortunately forced to abandon that plan. With nearly all of their resources tied up in that home, just getting by is quite a challenge these days.
Grace’s manager nominated her and her children because of all they have faced in the last year and wanted to have something good happen for the family and give them all a reason to smile this Christmas.
Union Bank was happy to provide this wonderful family with a Magic Moment and help bring them some holiday cheer.
With winter arriving soon, new coats, hats, and gloves are a must-have.
Grace is an avid runner so new shoes and a Fitbit along with some running gear were presented to keep her in stride.
Samantha received a new watch, Bath & Body Works lotions, and a gift card for a massage to spend some quality time with her mom.
Grayson received some new snow boots, a warm sleeping bag, a new shirt, and some cool soccer gear from Scheels.
Gemma, the youngest, received some good-smelling lotions and sanitizers from Bath & Body works, Legos, and a teddy bear.
Grace received some massage gift cards to relax and enjoy some down time, a gas card from U-Stop, a new skillet for cooking and a new waffle maker for those lazy weekend breakfasts.
We wish the Palermo family a Very Merry Christmas!