Cave Spring High School, Class of 1979, recently held their class reunion. In addition to the traditional gathering meant for reconnecting and reminiscing with long-ago friends and classmates, it was also a fundraiser for one of their own who has fallen seriously ill.
Until a few years ago, Dean Kemp and his wife Cheryl were living a normal and happy life in Richmond with their twin sons, Tyler and Reece. In October of 2007, Dean was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Shortly after, they moved back to Roanoke to be closer to Dean’s family so they could better cope with their situation. Cheryl has been his primary caregiver for the last three years, spending hours every day monitoring Dean’s condition and the machines that allow him to continue to live and breathe.
Dean is now completely confined to a special bed and chair. A ventilator breathes for him. He cannot speak and has no movement. Amazingly, his eyes are bright and he works to communicate through those sparkling eyes.
ALS is a progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. Even as the body fails, the mind remains sharp and fully aware of what is happening. Life expectancy in ALS patients ranges between two and five years from the time of diagnosis. There is no cure.
Adding to the family’s troubles, it is almost unbelievable that Cheryl was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. She remains a tireless rock for Dean even as she struggles with her own condition. To their great credit, Tyler and Reece are incredible boys who remain strong and try to support their parents in every way. Tyler and Reece are seniors and are both co-captains of the Cave Spring High School football team.
Like many in such a dire situation, Dean and Cheryl are proud and don’t want to be a burden on others, even when offers of help are made. However, their situation is so severe that the Class of 1979 decided to set up the Dean Kemp Special Needs Trust, to receive contributions to be used for Dean’s needs and to help with his tremendous expenses.
It is expected that upon Dean’s passing that the remaining funds, if any, can help his twin boys with their college education. Both boys will graduate from Cave Spring in June of 2011. It is hoped that both the financial and emotional support coming from this effort will be a boost for this family in need.
In addition to the CSHS Class of ’79, anyone who would like to help the Kemp family can contribute to this fund. Checks should be made payable to the Dean Kemp Special Needs Trust c/o Bob Boehling, 178 Bogey Lane, Salem, VA 24153.