Three local families say their personal experiences have shaped their outlook on life in different ways after adversity brought them closer together.
The Alan and Holly Cook family, Shana Cureton family and the Nathan and Angela Rogers family were recognized last week during a National Family Week event at Columbus City Hall honoring Families of the Year, coordinated in Columbus for the past 27 years by organizer Judy Lifferth.
Organizers had sought nominations of families that work together, play together and overcome obstacles or adversities with grace and dignity.
The three families shared their stories with The Republic.
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Alan and Holly Cook family
Alan and Holly Cook saw the Columbus community rally around their daughter Alana this past year.
Alana Cook’s ordeal began after she was hit by a dodgeball while on fall break in October 2015. Diagnosed with a concussion, Cook was treated for a week-and-a-half by a pediatrician, but her condition worsened. She was so ill she couldn’t get out of bed, so her parents took her to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
The girl underwent a five-hour MRI, and a CT scan showed some type of mass. Doctors put a shunt in the back of her head to treat hydrocephalus, which occurs when excess cerebrospinal fluid collects in the brain’s ventricles.
Holly Cook said her daughter was fighting for her life because of the hydrocephalus. Doctors think when the dodgeball hit her in the back of the head, it shifted the tumor and caused the fluid to build in her head, Holly Cook said.
Doctors performed surgery Nov. 4 to remove the tumor. After that, Alana spent most of the winter undergoing radiation therapy at the Chicago Proton Center, then went through five rounds of chemotherapy at Riley in the spring.
On July 7, she was pronounced cancer-free.
Holly Cook acknowledged that when faced with a difficult situation such as the one her family had to deal with, “you do what you have to do to get through it.”
She said the experience brought her family a lot closer, extending her gratitude toward the community for its support.
“You have to swallow your pride sometimes and accept help from others,” Cook said. “That’s something her father and I have had to do and we’re very thankful and very humbled.”
Alana Cook, now an eighth-grader at Northside Middle School, also said the experience has allowed her to look at life in a different perspective.
“I just want to say thank you. And I can’t say it enough times because without my basketball team, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” she said.
Shana Cureton family
Shana Cureton said her life has changed for the better after a difficult family circumstance.
The mother of two children, Caleb and Aubrie, moved from Louisville to Columbus in the spring of 2014 because their father was stationed at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh.
However, the effects of his seven previous military deployments and post-traumatic stress disorder took a toll on the family, Cureton said. The family found help at Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, briefly staying in its emergency shelter.
The Curetons eventually were able to secure transitional housing and now resides in a three-bedroom home in Columbus.
Shana Cureton was hired as a clinical assistant professor at IUPUC and is working toward her doctorate degree.
Caleb, 14, also learned about the Boys and Girls Club in Columbus after being introduced by another boy who was staying at Turning Point. That organization, Cureton said, has has a positive impact on her son.
“Over time, he got comfortable with the place and the people and he just flourished there,” Cureton said.
In fact, Caleb was honored as this year’s Columbus Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year.
Cureton described her son as a leader who supports her family even as she keeps busy working toward her degree.
“I’m in awe of my kid,” she said.
Cureton said she and her family members are looking ahead to the future.
“It’s been an amazing ride — a lot of lows, but also a lot of highs,” she said.
Nathan and Angela Rogers family
Angela Rogers said her family is still grieving over the loss of her husband Nathan, who died unexpectedly April 24, 2015, at age 34 due to sepsis. Angela and Nathan Rogers were married for 16 years, she said.
Rogers was joined by her 18-year-old daughter Alexis and 11-year-old son Talan in receiving the award. Nathan had worked at Columbus Container for nearly 15 years.
Nathan Rogers’ obituary summed up what was important in his life: “He was a lover of life and is remembered by many for his radiant smile and infectious laugh. He enjoyed boating, fishing, golfing, traveling and spending time with his family and friends.”
Angela Rogers said people shouldn’t take a day for granted, not even for a second.
“You see one person one day and the next, they’re gone. You don’t know how long you have with your loved one,” Rogers said.
Alexis said the death of her father has brought her family closer to each another.
“It’s something you’ve got to push through,” she said.
National Family Week in the United States takes place the week of Thanksgiving, having first been proclaimed by President Reagan in 1987. The Columbus event — which attempts to promote and strengthen families — has been organized for 27 years by Judy Lifferth. The annual recognition program has involved the city’s mayor — from Bob Stewart to Fred Armstrong, Kristen Brown and Jim Lienhoop — as well as state Sen. Greg Walker of Columbus, representatives from local schools and local ministers. National Family Week is supported by the Ohio-based Alliance for Children & Families.