Monday, December 30, 2019

What is better? Term insurance or whole life?

Couple looks to the future - Photo by Tatyana Kasova/Pixabay
One of the most frequently debated questions as it relates to financial planning and personal finance is debate surrounding what type of life insurance a family should have. Everyone seems to agree that life insurance itself is a good idea. However, when the question becomes whether to go for a term policy, which is only good for a set number of years, or for a whole life or universal life insurance policy that is permanent - well, it was an age old debate when I started working for Merrill Lynch back in the 1990s. More than 25 years later, this debate still hasn’t been settled.

I'm my opinion, the entire term insurance versus whole life debate boils down to two questions that everyone has to answer for themselves. There aren’t any purely right or wrong answers in this debate; only one that is right or wrong for your own unique circumstances.

The first question related to this life insurance debate is:can you afford to buy enough coverage to protect your family with a whole life policy?

If you can afford a whole life insurance policy that provides enough coverage to protect your family adequately, great. A whole life or universal life policy might actually be a good idea for you to consider. However, if you cannot afford as much coverage as you need with a whole life policy then, in my opinion, you have to go with a term policy.

In my professional opinion as an insurance agent who blogs about his neighborhood as a passion project, it is always better to have a term life policy that gives your family the coverage and protection that you need rather than a whole life policy that doesn’t.

The second question that I believe one should ask is: what would happen to your family if you died the day after a term policy expired?

Let’s say, as an example, that you're comparing whole life police and a 30-year term one. If you are confident that 30 years and one day from now, your kids will be on their own, your mortgage will be paid off, your spouse won't need your income, and you're not going to have to get a new policy then, by all means, go with a term policy.

Take the difference between your term and whole life policies and invest it or - if you prefer - buy an even bigger boat.

However, and I cannot stress this enough, having to get a new life insurance policy 30 years from now will be a disaster in the making for you. At minimum, you will be 30 years older and that means your rates will be drastically higher.

Plus, there is also a very real possibility that your health will be worse 30 years from now than it is today. This, in turn, raises the possibility that you won’t even be able to get a new life insurance policy when your term one expires.

And there you have it, the two questions that I believe will enable every American family to decide for themselves whether a term insurance policy or a whole life one is better for them.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next week for more advice on your home, money, and life. The rest of the tips are are avilable here.

Please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas, Detroit

Close-up of a Christmas tree
I want to mention that this is the 14th Christmas I have had the pleasure of spending as the publisher of the Warrendale Detroit Blog. While I never thought it would happen, as I look back over the years, I realize that my readers and neighors are some of the best gifts that I could get.

This may seem corny but I'm incredibly serious when I say this. I have met some absolutely amazing people while writing for this blog. I've seen a number of challenges of the past 14 years - from the death of my father to one health scare or another as well as a series of personal and financial crises. In so many of those moments, it's been my friends and neighbors who have helped me through those challenges.

I am grateful for each and every one of you. I truly do consider your friendship to be an incredible gift. If I never had the chance to tell you in person, I want you to know that I am grateful for this gift that I have received.

Thank you. I thank each and every one of you who have gotten to know through this blog. As I prepare to move into my 15th year with the Warrendale Detroit Blog and milestone of one million views, I do so with gratitude and joy.

To each and every person in the Warrendale neighborhood and beyond, I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope each of you gets to spend time with your friends and family this holiday season. I also pray that each of you receives a gift as wonderful as the one that I have received through your readership and support.

Merry Christmas, Detroit.

Love and laughter,
Frank P. Nemecek
Founder & Publisher of the Warrendale Detroit Blog

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Housing market to remain a seller’s market in 2020, experts predict

Key in the front door to a home - Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd/Pexels
The housing market is likely to remain a seller's market throughout the United States, according to a survey of 500 of the top real estate agents across the nation that was conducted by HomeLight. This is largely consistent with other forecasts for the local market in Detroit.

Several other experts predict a generally positive housing market forecast in Detroit for 2020. While some skeptics argue that a real estate crash is imminent, the Warrendale neighborhood and other parts of Detroit simply do not have properties that are overpriced to anywhere near the degree that are cited in their alarming predictions.

The housing market is likely to remain a seller's market throughout the United States, according to a survey of 500 of the top real estate agents across the nation that was conducted by HomeLight. This is largely consistent with other forecasts for the local market in Detroit.

There is one cautionary note in the data released yesterday. While it is still a seller's market, with demand significantly outpacing supply in many parts of the country, there is a danger in overpricing a home that is for sale. No matter how hot a market is, there is always an upper limit to what buyers are willing to pay.

Individuals who are looking to sell an existing home in 2020 still have to balance their own desire to get the highest possible price with a realistic understanding of what the real estate market will bear. This is one of the key areas where the advice of an experienced real estate agent who knows the Detroit market can be invaluable.

With a cautionary note about overpricing duly given, the overall outlook for the housing market in Detroit for 2020 is a positive one. Existing homes that are in good condition and reasonably priced should continue to sell well. Moreover, the prices that these homes are sold for should continue to climb at rates that significantly outpace inflation.

My note about existing homes being in good condition is an important additional caveat. One of the things that the recent data also showed is that, as prices continue to climb, buyers are beginning to insist on more repairs being done to the home before they take possession.

This trend at the national level continues to be seen at the local level. Homes in the Warrendale neighborhood that are in good condition continue to command top dollar. Meanwhile, existing homes that are in poor condition and need many repairs are languishing unsold for months at a time.

Again, one of the things that an experienced real estate agent can help sellers with tremendously. They can point out what repairs are most likely to be an issue for the buyer and where to best invest a home improvement budget.

This, course, is simply a summary of their 43-page report. The full forecast of the housing market for 2020 is available in its entirety here.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Disposing of perscription drugs properly - a guide for 2020

Perscription drugs - Photo by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay
It's a sad fact that one in four teens in the United States, according to data compiled by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. To make things even worse, most of these kids are getting their drugs not from shady dealer but from their own medicine cabinet.

Because of this, one of the best ways to stop perscription drug abuse is to dispose of unused, expired, or unwanted medications properly. Disposing of these drugs keeps them out of the hands of teens or anyone else who shouldn't have access to them.

As an added bonus, disposing of perscription drugs properly also prevents them from getting into the soil or water supply. When this happens, the medications that were designed to heal humans become an environmental hazard for fish and wildlife. After all, these medications were intended for humans and humans only.

All of these reasons make it incredibly important for perscription drugs to be disposed of properly.

For those readers who live in the Detroit area, Henry Ford Health Systems has a total of nine locations throughout Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties where people can drop off unused, expired, or unwanted medications. I used their service myself recently when my doctor changed one of the medications that I take; leaving me with a couple weeks of my old medicine still at home.

A complete list of these nine locations can be found on their website. Besides these Henry Ford Health Systems, one can also find several other locations where people can drop off perscription drugs in Oakland, Macomb, MonroeWashtenaw, and Wayne counties by clicking on the appropriate links. Each of these locations will ensure that the drugs are desposed of properly so they don't become a problem for someone.

Last, but not least, for those individuals who are looking to dispose of perscription drugs outside of the Detroit, many pharmacies have drop boxes nationwide where patients can dispose of them safely. One can find their nearest location by visiting this website and searching by address or by ZIP code.

With this many options for safe disposal available, I hope that we will soon see a dramatic drop in the number of teens who absue perscription drugs that they find in their own homes.

This guide to disposing of perscription drugs - updated for 2020 - is your Tip of the Week for the week of December 23, 2019.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next Monday for more advice on your home, money, and life. In the meantime, please feel free to check some of our previous Tips of the Week.

Thank you for visiting the Warrendale Detroit Blog.

Closing in on one million views


I was reviewing where a lot of things in my life stood over the weekend. Most importantly of all, I was doing some planning for the coming year. It was while doing this that I discovered something that I think is rather cool.

As of this writing, the Warrendale Detroit Blog has received a total of 961,247 unique views since I started it on a whim back in December of 2005. That isn't a bad number for a blog that focuses on one particular neighborhood in one particular city.

In an era when some of the internet giants starting to think more and more about hyperlocal marketing and hyperlocal search engine optimization, a 14-year old blog about one particular is a bit of a trendsetter.

The really cool thing, in my opinion, is where this trend is likely to take this blog. Assuming my math is correct, the Warrendale Detroit Blog should see its one millionth view later this year. In fact, it should happen right around my birthday in August.

One million views.

For a little bitty hyperlocal website.

I can't help but feel that this is really cool. The fact that - with around 5,000 views per month at the moment - the Warrendale Detroit Blog should cross the one million views threshold around my birthday is icing on the proverbial cake.

I want to thank each and every one of the people who have helped and encouraged me in this project over the years. Your awesome reaches throughout the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit and beyond.

Thank you, everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Mayor Duggan celebrates the Stategic Neighborhood Initiative


Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Stategic Neighborhoods Initiative. This is a public-private partnership to improve some of the neighborhoods in our city, such as Warrendale.

This initiative got a large boost recently. The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation announced a $10 million grant to support the neighborhoods in Detroit. Those funds will go towards citywide development of our ten targetedneighborhoods on streetscapes, commercial corridors, and parks.

"We are improving neighborhoods in Detroit for Detroiters," Duggan commented.

They and our other corporate partners have already made an incredible impact, and it is my hope that others will join us in continuing our mission of creating a stronger Detroit for everyone.
Mayor Duggan's team posted a video of his remarks about the Stategic Neighborhoods Initiative to his Facebook page.

I have embedded this video above. I encourage everyone to take a moment to watch it.

Mayor of Taylor among those indicted

Mayor Richard Sollars of Taylor - City of Taylor photo
A 33 count indictment was unsealed this afternoon chargingMayor Richard “Rick” Sollars of Taylor, Michigan, Shady Awad, and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum with conspiracy to commit bribery in a scheme spanning from 2015 to 2019, United States Attorney Matthew Schneider announced.  The indictment also charges Sollars and Awad with seven counts of bribery each, and charges Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of wire fraud.

According to the indictment, Sollars helped Awad’s real estate development company Realty Transition LLC obtain scores of tax-foreclosed properties owned by the city of Taylor.  In return, Awad lavished Sollars with thousands of dollars in cash and over $30,000 in renovations to Sollars’s home, over $11,000 in renovations to Sollars’s lake house, and over $12,000 in new household appliances.  The appliances included a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, a $1,600 cigar humidor, a vacuum cleaner, and a clothes washer and dryer.  The free renovations provided to Sollars by Awad include hardwood floors on every level of Sollars’s Taylor residence, hardwood floors at the lake house, a garage door, a new front door, cabinets, and a refurbished lake house deck.  The Indictment also alleges that Jeffrey Baum received bribes from Awad and another developer, in exchange for Baum’s help in obtaining tax-foreclosed properties from the City.

Text messages between Sollars, Awad, and Baum cited throughout the Indictment document the bribe scheme.  In one text, Awad states as follows: “My relationship with Rick is worth $1 million so whatever it takes I’ll pay for it” in telling a contractor to do free work on Sollars’s lake house.  In another text, the Indictment states that Awad told Sollars that Sollars was Awad’s “silent partner” in Awad’s real estate development business.  Sollars, 45, is a resident of Taylor.  Awad, 39, and Baum, 44, are both residents of Allen Park, Michigan. 

The indictment also charges Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of Wire Fraud, alleging that Sollars and Baum defrauded donors to Sollars’s campaign fund in three ways.  First, Sollars would take checks from his campaign account and write them payable to a particular market, purporting to pay for catering for one of Sollars’s events.  Instead, the market owner would cash the campaign checks and give the cash back to Sollars, with no catering provided.  Second, Sollars and Baum would direct Sollars’s supporters to write checks directly to the market for events that never occurred.  Sollars would get cash and scratch-off lottery tickets from the market owner.  Third, Sollars and Baum would solicit and accept thousands of dollars in cash contributions to Sollars’s campaign.  Instead of depositing the funds into his campaign account, Sollars would simply keep the cash and use it for personal expenses.

The Indictment also seeks forfeiture of $205,993 in cash seized from Sollars’s home on February 10, 2019.

Schneider was joined in the announcement by Steven D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.  “Federal law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute any public officials who choose their personal greed over their public oath.”

"Any time an allegation of corruption is brought to our attention, the FBI's Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force will investigate it thoroughly. Public corruption at any level undermines the community's faith in their elected officials and does long-term damage to government institutions," said SAC D'Antuono. "With that in mind, we encourage anyone who believes they have information about corruption to contact the FBI at (313) 965-4545 or tips.fbi.gov."

The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dawn Ison and R. Michael Bullotta.

An indictment is only a charging document and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Rouge Park: A year in review

Rouge Park in Detroit - Photo by Frank Nemecek
2019 has brought some tremendout improvements to Rouge Park. As the year draws to a close, I want to review some of those great moment and give everyone a look into what the new year has in store for the largest park in Detroit.

 We saw the first leg of the Scout Hollow Nature Trail open this year. 2019 was also the year that:

  • Completion of the new Sorensen Historical Interpretive Trail;
  • Repairs made to the pool house at Brennan Pool;
  • New roof for the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center and their horse barn;
  • 355 volunteers came out for Rouge Park Appreciation Day. They collected 388 bags of trash, 15 tires, 16 appliances, and 135 cubic yards of invasive plants. They also planted 135 plants and improved 900 feet of trail;
  • Three separate additional work days with another 135 volunteers to improve the prairie, clean up trash and cut brush along the bike trail; and
  • Planted 25 new trees in the Sorensen Recreation Area thanks to a partnership with the Greening of Detroit.
The Friends of Rouge Park also worked with GM Cares to reclaim the Joe Prance Butterfly Gardens and Trail. This included removeing broken picnic tables and other improvements.

Jacqara Jackson joined the Friends of Rouge Park in February as their part-time project manager. She quickly jumped into organizing our annual meeting, annual cleanup, volunteer day,s and improving our communications with our first electronic newsletter and social media.

As for the coming year, we are expected to see the Sorensen Recreation Area completed in 2020 as well as a walking loop, picnic shelter, playscape, sports fields, and connection to the historical interpretive trail. Major improvements are expected at the archery range. A new splash pad, picnic shelters and a playscape are coming to the Brennan Recreation area.

The completion of new soccer fields in the Cozy Corner Recreation Area and a new large picnic shelter donated by GM.

But none of this would be possible without your support.  Please consider a donation at this time of year.  Checks can be made out to the Friends of Rouge Park and mailed to 9509 West Parkway, Detroit, MI 48239 or you can donate on our website www.rougepark.org.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Get the best workout with the right exercise clothes

Young woman working out - Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Exercise and working out are great. It's not so great when your clothes hinder you. Yes, a white t-shirt might do in a pinch, but ideally you should wear the best clothes for the job. According to an article from Lifehacker, your workout clothes can make a difference in how well you get into shape.

It’s crucial you consider your workout clothes just as much as the workout itself. Your clothes need to match the exercise and your body type.

Consider the following:

  • Stick with loose and comfortable clothes
  • Clothing should not impede your activity
  • When running or biking, don’t use loose pants
  • For most activities, find fabrics that wick away sweat

Workout clothes aren’t just about wearing any old rag anymore. Science, function, design and fashion are all factored into sport’s wear these days. Everything from simple guy’s workout t-shirts to women’s hoodies have been engineered to provide top performance and look stylish.

Exercise gear also acts as a lifestyle gear. Consider how multi functional your workout gear should be. Are those shoes just for the gym? Or will they be for everyday use? Can you wear that t-shirt everywhere?

Workout clothes for men should be comfortable, durable and rugged. The same goes for ladies workout gear, which should be stylish but also able to withstand the reps of any activity.

It's essential that your clothes can handle the intensity of your workouts. The last thing you want to happen is for a mishap or accident to ruin your workout, or worse, cause an injury. Injuries can be caused by improper clothing.

The wash cycle is also an important factor to consider. If you are working out a lot, your clothes will need to last. Make sure you review the washing instructions and follow them accordingly.

With these tips in mind, you will find great clothes that keep you cool, comfortable and fashionable whether you are breaking a sweat or just hanging out.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next week for more advice on your home, money, and life. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.

Detroit-area toy company teams up with Toys for Tots


With the the holiday season in full swing, Magformers of Canton, Michigan announced its partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Designed to assist the less fortunate, Toys For Tots is a top-rated charity that distributes millions of gifts to less fortunate children every holiday season. Magformers will be participating by donating over $25,000 worth of toys through a buy one give one program available now on  Magformers.com.

“As an industry leader in magnetic building toys, we believe it is vital for children to develop through creativity. The importance of giving back and being kind is not overlooked when it comes to our mission. This partnership is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to our products and teach them lessons in STEM early on. We hope our work with Toys For Tots inspires others to pay it forward this holiday season.” says Chris Tidwell, CEO of Magformers.

The Marine Toys for Tots Program has been delivering hope to less fortunate children since 1947. The foundation helps bring the joy of Christmas to kids in a variety of ways, by delivering a message of hope, by helping kids build and restore self-esteem and by inspiring children to give back. Last year, with the help of team members, partnering businesses and volunteers the Marine Toys for Tots donated over 18.5 million toys, games, and books to over 7 million children in need.

During the partnership, Magformers will contribute over $25,000 worth of toys to the Toys For Tots foundation. Furthermore, Magformers will be participating in a buy one give one program for select products purchased on the Magformers website. The toys include products from the STEM.org authenticated plush line, Dolce and Clicformers lines. Consumers can help the cause this holiday season by purchasing top-selling Magformers products such as the Amazing Construction 70pc Set, the Dolce Mouse Backpack and many more.

Magformer’s partnership with the U.S. Marine Toys For Tots foundation will run until December 31, 2019. For more information on Magformers, Clicformers, and Dolce visit, magformers.com. To learn more about Toys For Tots and how you can donate visit toysfortots.org.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mayor Duggan holds annual meeting with Detroiters


On November 19 of this year, Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit held his annual meeting with the residents of District 7. This, of course, is the area that includes the Warrendale and adjacent neighborhoods in our city.

Thee mayor's annual meeting with residents, by the way, is required by the City Charter, Mayor Duggan is required to have a scheduled community-wide meeting with residents in each of the Detroit's seven City Council districts at least once each year.

While the City Charter does not specify a particular day or time for these meetings, Mayor Duggan has traditionally held these meetings in the fall each year since he assumed office in January 2014. He normally begins these meetings with a short presentation. After that, each and every Detroit resident is invited to ask him any question that he or she wants.

Senior members of his administration are generally present as well. This enables them to add additional details and to resolve problems that residents bring to him.

Councilman Gabe Leland, who represents District 7 on the Detroit City Council, also attended this meeting. He also spoke at it and addressed concerns raised by local residents.

Video from this meeting is embedded above.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Friends of Rouge Park are hiring an intern

River Rouge Park - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The nonprofit advocacy and service organization Friends of Rouge Park are looking for two qualified interns to help them organize volunteer work days in the natural areas of the park. One internship will run from January to May while the other will run from April to August. Both positions pay a stipend of $500 per month.

College students who are majoring in environmental studies, natural resources management, parks management, community engagement, or related fields are preferred.

Those wishing to apply for this position at the largest park in Detroit should ideally possess good communication skills. The group is also seeking interns who have a background in management of natural areas as well as:

  • Knowledge of invasive species and native plants;
  • Invasive species removal methods;
  • Certified pesticide applicator is preferred;
  • Experience working with a diversity of volunteers; and
  • Good computer skills including spreadsheets, social media, and website updates.
The intern should also must be comfortable contacting corporations to ask for volunteers and donations.

Duties for this internship will include assisting in the development as well as implementation of a plan for the management of the prairie, trails and natural areas in Rouge Park.  This will involve but is not limited to: prioritize projects, recruit volunteers, organize volunteer work days, train volunteers, develop core volunteers as well as corporate volunteers, develop partnerships, and solicit corporate donations and volunteers. The interns will also engage the local community in these efforts and in the park.

College students who are interested in applying should send a cover letter and resume to rougepark@gmail.com with “ATTN:  Internship” in the subject line. The deadline for applying is December 13, 2019.

Detroiter charged in child pornography case

Prison cell - Photo by Ichigo121212/Pixabay
A Detroit man was indicted yesterday on charges of production, possession and receipt of child pornography, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin announced earlier today. Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D'Antuono of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

Indicted was Wade Preston Streeter, 49 of Detroit. Streeter was arrested on November 21 on a criminal complaint and was held in custody while charges were pending in his case.

According to court records, Streeter is alleged to have sexually assaulted and covertly produced sexually graphic photographs of minor boys as well as engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the minor victims.  This alleged conduct took place both at his home in Detroit as well as on a tugboat that he owns.

The FBI is asking for the public’s help to identify potential victims of Streeter, who would befriend young boys on Facebook and other social media sites and then arrange to meet them privately.

Anyone who may have been victimized by Wade Preston Streeter, or anyone who may have information about his alleged criminal behavior, is encouraged to call (313) 426-3880 or email the FBI at DetroitShipTips@fbi.gov.

The FBI is legally mandated to identify victims of federal crimes that it investigates. Identified victims may be eligible for certain services and rights under federal and/or state law. Victims in this investigation can find information about the hearings in this case at https://www.justice.gov/usao-edmi/united-states-v-wade-streeter-docket-19-mj-30602.

It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys April Russo and Barbara Lanning.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

One more Christmas miracle

Recent photo of Vivian Lemire - Family photo
As we get closer to Christmas, I become more and more of a sucker for news stories with a happy ending - especially when they involve sick children. Today, such a story comes to us all the way from Missouri, courtesy of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association

Vivian Lemire will celebrate her ninth birthday shortly before Christmas. Then on December 31 her family will ring in the New Year by remembering their post-transplant homecoming two years. These December celebrations are made possible by another family, complete strangers, who chose to donate their child’s liver and kidney during the most difficult of circumstances.

Her parents Cara and Rich Lemire are no strangers to loss nor to big gifts - especially ones that are life-saving. When they found out in 2010 they were pregnant with a daughter they would name Vivian, they were excited and anxious. Four years earlier, they lost their first child to Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease.

The condition caused their first baby’s kidneys and liver to swell and take up space the lungs needed to grow properly. Cara and Rich were completely unaware of her condition before her birth and they only had two days with their daughter, Renee, before she passed. They allowed themselves time to grieve before considering another pregnancy, but with support from their medical team they decided to try again.

“Once we were pregnant again we were thrilled,” Care explained, “but we struggled to let ourselves feel we could ‘get ready’ for her. We had walked this journey before and worried it would lead to the same heartbreaking place. Vivian’s early ultrasounds showed no sign of ARPKD and we felt encouraged about not experiencing a recurrence.”

ARPKD is a rare inherited childhood condition where the development of the kidneys and liver is abnormal. Over time either of these organs may fail. Even though ARPKD is rare, it is one of the most common kidney problems to affect young children. PKD International, a global network of patient organizations, estimates that 1 in 20,000 babies are born with this disorder. The condition often causes serious problems after birth.

At Cara’s 32-week pregnancy check, an ultrasound showed that Baby Vivian’s kidneys were enlarged with cysts and her amniotic fluid was dangerously low. The Lemires were devastated when they were told the baby also had ARPKD. “It was a crushing moment, but we were determined to give Vivian the best chance we could at survival,” Cara said.

When the baby’s heart muscles began to show signs of hypertension, the doctors determined they could not wait any longer and Vivian was delivered a few days before Christmas 2010. The baby’s lungs had some underdevelopment but she was able to breathe with minimal assistance. Vivian’s next challenge was severe hypertension and renal failure with kidneys that were estimated to be the size of adult kidneys in her tiny body.

At two weeks old, Vivian had her first kidney removed and began dialysis 24 hours a day. Four weeks later Vivian had her second kidney removed. The Lemires had to travel 40 minutes from their O’Fallon, Missouri, home to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis four days a week for Vivian’s hemodialysis. Each session was four hours long.

Vivian spent 278 days of her first year of life inpatient enduring several surgeries, battling infections and treating complications of her compromised immune system. Vivian’s medical care made it nearly impossible for both Cara and Rich to keep their full-time jobs; therefore, Rich decided to step back from his career to manage Vivian’s medical schedule of appointments, treatments, specialists, back-and-forth commutes and many more of her complicated medical demands.

Cara and Rich knew Vivian would need a dual life-saving transplant (kidney and liver) for long-term survival. At the start of 2012, while in the midst of Vivian’s hemodialysis sessions and appointments, a transplant social worker suggested Cara and Rich reach out to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association to learn more about fundraising for transplant-related expenses. On January 31st, Cara called COTA’s toll-free phone number and completed COTA’s Patient Agreement.

COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so all contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and COTA funds are available for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses.

On March 8, 2012, a COTA fundraising specialist travelled to the Lemire’s hometown to train the volunteers for the COTA campaign in honor of Vivian. This group of family members and friends, quickly got to work organizing fundraisers to help with mounting transplant-related expenses. Numerous COTA fundraisers were held and the team surpassed its $60,000 goal in a short amount of time.

When Vivian was 2½, the transplant team at Cardinal Glennon officially listed her for a dual kidney and liver transplant. Cara and Rich were anxious but were excited to continue their family’s transplant journey. However the wait became lengthy and Vivian’s case became more complicated as she grew. Cara and Rich were eventually told by the Cardinal Glennon transplant team they were no longer able to perform the life-saving dual transplant Vivian needed.

“We will never forget the moment our nephrologist, whose guidance we trusted, told us if Vivian were her child, she would take her to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford,” Cara said. Soon after that recommendation, the Lemires flew to Palo Alto, California -- more than 2,000 miles away from their Missouri home. Cara says at their very first meeting ‘everything clicked.’ The Lucile Packard transplant team agreed that, when the time came for Vivian’s dual transplant, the Lemire family would need to temporarily relocate to California and start her transplant treatment plan.

In August 2017 after two years of being listed and a near match, the Lemires finally got The Call for both a kidney and liver match for Vivian in California. Cara remembers feeling like their bags were in their hands before they even hung up the phone. It was indeed the call they had been waiting for since the day Vivian was born. On August 9, 2017, Vivian received a kidney and liver transplant and her second chance at life. Cara and Rich received the greatest gift imaginable.

The dual organ transplant went well but required a longer recovery time for Vivian, which meant the family would be in California for an extended period of time. Cara took a leave from her job and the family was able to stay in the Ronald McDonald House very close to Lucile Packard. “With our home and jobs halfway across the country, COTA eased the financial burden and enabled us to be at Vivian’s side during her transplant and lengthy recovery,” they said.

On December 31st, four and a half months after her life-saving dual kidney and liver transplant, Vivian and her parents were able to return home to Missouri. It was indeed a positive way to step into the New Year and their new post-transplant life.

“Even before Vivian was born, we knew a transplant was likely in our family’s future. When it became clear the best outcome of Vivian’s transplant would be achieved at a transplant center more than 2,000 miles away from our home, we also knew we were going to need help to make everything work financially. With home and jobs halfway across the country, COTA eased the financial burden and enabled us to be at Vivian’s side before and after transplant. It is a tremendous gift to know COTA is here for our family now and will be … for a lifetime,” said Cara and Rich.

Today Vivian is enrolled in elementary school, which she loves and where she is thriving. She loves dancing, singing and participating in any type of music. Vivian is thrilled to be making new friends at school. This Christmas will likely be full of celebration and joy for the Lemires as they enjoy the holidays in their own home. Vivian is indeed a gift for Cara and Rich who went from wondering when The Call would come to now watching their beautiful daughter enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the season. They will indeed remember their special donor angel this holiday season as well.