Sarah Heltsley doesn’t believe in coincidences.
So, when her 4-year old daughter, Addie, who suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy, won a year’s supply of a special feeding tube formula, she was thankful — but not surprised.
Robin Gentry McGee (PHOTO PROVIDED)
Hope for an injured preacher
A tragic accident gave birth to Liquid Hope.
H.P. Gentry, who served for nearly a decade as minister for the Olive Hill Church of Christ in Kentucky, and his wife had moved to Ohio and were on their way to church in February 2005.
On his way to warm up the car for his wife, the 75-year-old minister slipped on a patch of ice and hit his head on the car door.
It seemed innocent at first. He drove to church. But, while reading a passage from the Bible, he had trouble formulating the words. Headaches followed — and emergency surgeries. Soon, he required a feeding tube for nourishment.
His daughter, Robin Gentry McGee, developed an organic, whole food supplement to replace the corn syrup-laden formula he was using.
“When I created Liquid Hope for him, I saw in a very short time — and the doctors even recognized — his physical health transition,” McGee, a chef and certified holistic health consultant, told The Christian Chronicle. The formula helped reduce his medications and improve his quality of life before his death in 2008, she said.
“Later, people found out about what I was creating,” McGee said. “I got numerous calls from people wanting the product.” She founded and serves as CEO of Functional Formularies, which produces Liquid Hope. She also authored a memoir, “A Turn for the Worst: Traumatic brain injury and a daughter’s search for answers.”
The preacher’s daughter said she’s thrilled that the formula now helps hundreds of children who must be fed through feeding tubes — including another preacher’s daughter, Addie Heltsley.
“There was no way God was not on this — making sure we were provided for,” said Heltsley, a member of the Peach Tree Lane Church of Christ in Yuba City, Calif., where her husband, Addam, preaches.
During the contest, Heltsley learned that the inventor of the formula, Robin Gentry McGee, had developed it to help feed her ailing father — also a Church of Christ minister.
That’s no coincidence either, Heltsley told The Christian Chronicle.
“The fact that she made it for her dad who used to be a minister — it’s six degrees of separation,” she said.
Addie has relied on a feeding tube for nutrition since she was about 16 months old. “She is like a hummingbird,” her mother said, “and just cannot eat enough for what her little body burns off.”
Despite the doctor-prescribed feeding tube formula, Addie suffered from a lack of energy, massive mood swings and constipation. Sarah Heltsley checked the ingredients label and didn’t like what she saw. She felt as if she had been serving her daughter chocolate milk and cake every single meal.
Addie qualified for a clinical trial and received a free, eight-week supply.
“All her problems resolved on Liquid Hope,” Sarah Heltsley said. “Every symptom she had cleared up.”
After the trial, Addie went back to her old formula — and her health problems returned. But Liquid Hope was expensive, and the family’s insurance wouldn’t cover it.
Then they learned about Functional Formularies’ Child of Hope Ambassador contest. The company asked for photos and testimonials from the families of children with feeding tubes. On the company’s website, visitors could read the stories and vote for one of the children.
The child with the most votes would receive a year’s supply of Liquid Hope — free. Functional Formularies selected 40 children to compete, including Addie.
For help, the Heltsleys turned to social media, contacting every Facebook friend they had. Church members across the Internet rallied to their cause, including Lisa Smith, whose husband, Shawn, preaches for the Vinland Church of Christ
“I asked people in person, on Facebook, through email and Twitter,” Lisa Smith told the Chronicle. “I contacted every group I could find on Facebook associated with Churches of Christ and made the appeal that a minister in the body needed their help.”
Addie thrived on the clinical trial — motivating Heltsley to fight for the free, year supply. (PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK)
The votes poured in, and Addie pulled ahead. In a Facebook message, one voter wrote, “I voted for Addie, but looking at all the pictures was heartbreaking. I pray for a foundation that could fund this formula (for those who can’t) pay for it.”
When the contest ended, Addie had the most votes — 10,905, a mere 33 ahead of a boy named Elijah.
Hours after voting ended, the company announced that, thanks to donations, Addie and Elijah both would receive a year’s supply of Liquid Hope — and that the 38 other children would get a free case. The company continues to collect donations to help families in need. (Find the online donation form here.)
The year of free food gives the Heltsleys time to work with their insurance company to help pay for Liquid Hope.
Recently, a cycling team contacted the Heltsleys and asked if they could raise money to help them pay for Liquid Hope after the free year ends — and to help with the family’s out-of-pocket expenses.
The official course for the “Hope for Addie” bike ride. (VIA FACEBOOK)
It’s another huge blessing, Sarah Heltsley said. But not a coincidence.
“My heart is so full,” she said. “Seeing my brothers and sisters helping us is truly inspiring.”