If you travel about 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia, you’ll come upon the small town of Lansdale, Pa. And if you’re in the market for new floors, the locals will undoubtedly point you toward Broad Street, where Bee Jay Carpet One Floor & Home has been proudly doing business since 1975.
It’s here that Valerie Adams earned spending money during high school, working for her father and his partner in the late 1990s. As a sales associate in the wallpaper department, Adams honed her multi-tasking abilities and developed a passion for working with customers.
Even after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Clarion University and accepting a job at a nearby psychiatric hospital, Adams found herself drawn back to the family business, starting as her father’s secretary, learning the sales floor and ultimately earning the title of Office Manager/Sales Associate.
Adams married her husband Leon in 2009 and gave birth to sons Garrett in 2010 and Levi in 2012. It seemed like a storybook life, until the summer of 2012 when Garrett began experiencing chronic back pain.
Adams took her son to his pediatrician for X-rays to rule out any muscular skeletal issues. But within 24 hours, Garrett had stopped walking, sitting and eating.
An ambulance raced him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where after four days of tests, doctors diagnosed the 2-year old with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Most common in childhood, with a peak incidence between two and five years of age, ALL is cancer of the white blood cells. Malignant, immature white blood cells multiply and are overproduced in the bone marrow of its victims, causing damage and death by crowding out normal cells and spreading to other organs.
Though Garrett was initially diagnosed as “standard risk” with an 80% to 90% cure rate, after a month of intense chemotherapy treatment, he was downgraded to “very high risk” with a 75% to 85% cure rate.
With Garrett requiring undivided attention, in addition to 6-month old Levi at her side, Adams had no choice but to quit her job. She spent multiple weeks in the hospital with Garrett, who was so frightened and confused by the ordeal that he stopped talking and eating.
Thankfully, family came out in droves. Sometimes 15 people visited Garrett’s hospital room at one time.
Though Adams had health insurance through Bee Jay Carpet One, which covered the family’s co-pays, it did not make up for the sudden 50% drop in the family’s income caused by her inability to work. Expenses added up fast and Adams and her husband feared their ability to continue to make ends meet.
One day, an industry colleague telephoned the store manager at Bee Jay Carpet One and suggested Adams contact the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF).
Founded in 1980 by several prominent industry figures, led by the late industry icon and Hall of Famer, Walter Guinan, FCIF is dedicated to financially assisting any person involved in the floor covering industry—from installer up to mill CEO and everyone in between—who experience catastrophic illness, severe disabilities or other life-altering hardships.
Adams applied to the Foundation by submitting a simple history of Garrett’s condition, as well as providing details of her family’s financial situation. Within a matter of weeks, FCIF agreed to provide a grant of supplemental income, divided into six installments over a period of time.
“FCIF allowed me to stay focused on taking care of my family while not working,” said Adams, “instead of worrying how I would pay our bills and mortgage.”
Today, Garrett is in remission. He will continue to receive chemotherapy treatments through December 2015 and needs to avoid contact with anyone who may be ill due to his compromised immune system.
“I honestly don’t know what we would have done without the FCIF,” Adams continued. “It’s scary to think what could have happened had we not received help. We would still be struggling to make ends meet. We cherish every moment with our children, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.”
Editor’s note: FCIF treats all of its grant recipients confidentially. The only reason that Adams’ story is being told here is because she chose to go public. Valerie and Leon Adams hope to show their appreciation to the organization and give it a human face so that others may be aware of its extraordinary efforts.
Since it’s founding, the FCIF has granted more than $1.5 million to help those in need. Beneficiaries include retailers, installers, retail salespeople, distributor personnel, mill employees and executives. The Foundation ensures these philanthropic efforts are accomplished with compassion, confidentiality and preservation of dignity for the individuals concerned.
Financial help is viewed as an opportunity to say, “we care” to those in our industry.
For more information on the Floor Covering Industry Foundation or to help members of our industry family, like Valerie Adams, cope with life-altering hardships, please visit fcif.org or call (714) 634-0302.