Community rallies behind Strickland family
The six Strickland siblings, who lost both their parents to cancer, work hard to help each other. The oldest, 24-year-old Keegan, does his best to raise them but is thankful for the help of friends and family.
Extended family and the community are helping the children move forward and deal with the daily work it takes to make sure five children are well cared for.
Some nights, dinner arrives, like the one regularly prepared by a teacher at the kids’ elementary school and a friend of their late mother.
She says "I told her before, that we'll make sure your kids are taken care of forever.”
For Keegan it’s one less task, “I don't have to come home after work and worry about cooking dinners. You guys do it all for me.”
Dinner is just one way a community is helping the six Strickland children, 24-year-old Keegan, 15-year-old Riley, 13-year-old Carrington, 11-year-old Jackson, eight-year-old Avery and five-year-old Nevaeh.
Two years ago the kids had both parents, Wayne and Yvonne, but both lost their battle with cancer, leaving Keegan to take on a challenge beyond his years.
"I wish [Yvonne] was still here. But, I know I have to keep going, you know, for the five of them. Because they've always been everything for me."
His sacrifice is not lost on his siblings, Carrington says "it's probably really hard for him, being 24 and watching over five of us."
The daily activities for the children include many of the same things their parents once did for them, including simple things like picking up the youngest after school.
And there are helping hands at home, aunts who help with chores and who, along with their grandmother, spend time with the children.
Aunt Riny Zweers says “It's hard enough if it's one, but when both parents go, yeah there is a little bit of anger. You can that it in the kids once in a while, very upset and very mad a little bit, but then it goes away. They are all so loving kids and they’re all so supportive of each other.”
And she tries to offer words of encouragement to the new head of the household, "Just to be there for an extra ear, just for an extra ‘What do you think?’ Because he's not sure, he's a kid himself."
It's a fact not lost on Keegan, but he's confident his guides are still with him, "Whenever I’m questioning myself, I just kind of think, 'What would my mom have told me?'"
And when insight can't help, the community has stepped in to ensure Keegan is on the right path.
Keegan admits sometimes "I’m new to all this, I don't even know what I need. Anything and everything is helpful in every way."
Among those leading the charge are Wayne's co-workers, who've been active since he died.
Julia Boose worked with Wayne's and says "He was respected by everybody, liked by everybody, and you just think, there but for the grace of God. We’ve all got kids, you do what you have to, you just feel like you have to do it."
Even the children’s grandfather, now in his 80s, insists on doing his part by cutting the lawn, with each little contribution helping to restore the family’s spirit.
Carrington says "It is hard but I love my family, we’re all sticking together, which is good."
So with friends, family and each other to rely on the Strickland kids are pulling through.
And the family believes everyone’s efforts won’t go unnoticed by their parental angels.
Zweers says "Thank you so much, it's quite overwhelming, and she touched so many people's hearts. And she would be smiling down from heaven and giving everybody a hug. This is really amazing, thank you very much, from all our hearts, we thank you."
To learn more about how you can help support the Strickland family, click here.