Ensley and Chanel Thomas have called their daugther Kensley their “diamond” since they first saw her in a NICU incubator after being born prematurely at 23 weeks.
“She was in a glass case and we started calling her our diamond in the rough,” Ensley said, recalling a beautiful little girl hooked up to wires, machines and breathing tubes helping to keep her alive during those critical first months.
Kensley, of Warren, was born with a chronic, life-threatening lung condition that has had her in and out of the hospital throughout her 3-and-a-half-year life.
“We’ve never given up on our child; she’s a miracle from God,” he said.
This week, the Thomases met a generous family with a diamond-like connection of their own.
John and Denise Hirschbeck, founders of the Magic of Michael Foundation, named in honor of their son, presented Christmas gifts to 5 families who receive care through the Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley Palliative Care Program for children with chronic or serious health conditions. John Hirschbeck is a retired Major League Baseball umpire.
The Hirschbecks, their daughter Erin, Denise’s mother, Mary Ina Jones, and family friends involved in the foundation purchased, wrapped and presented gifts from wish lists worked out with the patient families, including their siblings.
“It’s very humbling and we’re truly blessed,” Ensley Thomas said.
This year marked the second year the Magic of Michael Foundation has worked with Akron Children’s on this holiday program, and because of the foundation’s growth it was able to help even more families this year.
“Christmas is about giving,” John Hirschbeck said. “Seeing the kids’ faces and knowing the hardships that are going on in these families makes it even more special. It means a lot to our family to be able to help, and it would to Michael, as well.”
Wanda Hughes of Youngstown, grandmother and caregiver to Akron Children’s patient Jeremiah Daye, a 9 year old who suffers from hydrocephalus, and her granddaughter Ja’Miyah also received gifts from the Hirschbecks.
“I feel blessed that we have people with hearts of gold who can help people like me,” she said.