The kindness of strangers made all the difference in the world to Valerie Sanderson and her husband, Kyle Thickson. For one thing, it means a durable roof over their heads, courtesy of ROE Roofing. For another thing, it came at a time when it seemed like all life had for them was bad news.
“I was stunned. I was amazed. And I was grateful. I'm not normally a crier, but I burst into tears and just couldn't believe it,” Sanderson said after receiving some long-awaited good news from a representative from the company.
“He just kept on saying, ‘Yes, it's true. We're really going to do this for you. I know there are a lot of people out there who could probably use it more, but why not you? You guys have been through a lot. This is one thing that we can do for you to relieve some of the burden.’ So then we just waited for the rain to stop.”
The story starts earlier this summer but the background takes us back to September 2017 when the couple welcomed their child, Lucas, into the world. Lucas, as it turns out, had his own surprises lined up for his parents but they made for some interesting challenges, especially health-related challenges. Before he was even a day old, the nurses called him a “lazy baby,” Sanderson said.
“Within seven days, we went to the Stollery because he was unresponsive ... even unresponsive to diaper changes. They thought that he had a severe dairy allergy,” she continued.
His condition meant he wasn’t gaining weight as babies should, and he even went through periods of being “lethargic, flaccid.” Eventually, he was diagnosed with a severe milk and soy protein allergy called FPIES (food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome), which meant that he needed special formula. Alberta Health covered a year’s worth of the expensive formula (at more than $1,000 per month) but the problems didn’t stop there; they only multiplied.
“Just before his first birthday, bottom line, they started discovering more things with him. Now he goes to the Glenrose, he sees lots of specialists ...”
At the end of May, he was diagnosed as severe on the autism spectrum disorder with social anxiety, and both severe feeding and severe sleep disorders. A few weeks ago, blood testing revealed that it is all caused by a chromosomal abnormality, which can cause some gastrointestinal issues, severe insomnia and psychological issues such as schizophrenia.
“Bottom line, mom cannot go back to work.”
This left Kyle as the sole financial provider for the family. This spring, the couple realized that their house needed a new roof. They called around and lined up ROE Roofing for a quote, scheduled to take place on July 5.
Unfortunately, Kyle came home from work with a letter in his hand the day before that. His full-time job as a maintenance person at a downtown Edmonton church was being downsized to part-time, his benefits taken away.
“I didn't even have time to call ROE Roofing and tell them to cancel the quote. We were actually supposed to be going later on that day to see Lucas's pediatric dietitian. I get a knock on the door as we're getting ready and it's Troy, the gentleman who does the quoting for ROE Roofing,” she continued.
In their conversation, Troy offered some tips on how the couple could help their current roof last maybe another year or two. They also talked about why the order was being cancelled and about life with Lucas.
They figured that was that, but a week later, Troy showed up again. This time, he had that good news to pass on, all thanks to company owner Jason Roe.
“What we try and do as a company has been something I've been working up to: the bigger we get, the more we can do. This is what we do. There's no reason why we can't. We love what we do. This is what we can do,” Roe said in describing his philosophy of serving the community.
“It just sounded like for a young family, they just needed a break. Sometimes just doing a good thing for somebody gives them a little extra hope just to get through and makes them feel better.”
He said that most of the cost for the project was simply in terms of sweat. Roofing is definitely labour-intensive, he said, and thanked Monarch Exterior Centre for teaming up with Owens Corning to provide the company with shingles at a discounted rate to help out as well.
On the day of the work last Saturday morning, Roe even had an unusually full contingent of 10 workers from “two of his best crews” show up to get the job done. They turned the event into a version of a picnic party to help extend the heartwarming sentiment of the occasion.
“We did the house in four hours, which is pretty amazing in itself,” he noted.
“They were very, very pleasant to deal with. They loved us after so it was really nice to do it for somebody that took it really well.”
Meanwhile, Kyle’s job gets downsized at the end of August. Until then, he’s looking for other full-time work or even a few part-time jobs, ideally in a warehouse, even something that requires a forklift operator, someone who can paint, work on a scaffold, or any kind of general maintenance work. While he job hunts, the family can at least rest a little easier knowing they can count on the heaven-sent roof over their heads.