It’s one of those moments when you wonder what it all means. I met a little boy and his family a little over a year ago. His name was Weston Keeton(in the middle), Mom, Julie, was as kind, patient and gracious as they come; as real as a good, almost overwhelmed mom is. Julie and her husband, Adam, and their children are from Tennessee, but Julie and Weston had been living in Philadelphia for almost a third of Weston’s life. He needed a heart transplant. Waiting and going in and out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became the way of life. Julie talked about how kind and great CHOP and all of Philadelphia had been for her family, The Gift of Life staff was stellar. Some Mummers from Fralinger String Band became friends of the Keetons. Adam had to keep working in Tennessee and take care of the other kids, except for when they could all get away to be with Julie and Weston here, as Weston hoped for a matching heart. Lots of folks were doing everything they could. But, now, 7-year-old Weston Keeton has passed away. I thank Weston for his smile and for the courage a little boy cannot understand but lived everyday. May Julie, Adam and Weston’s brothers and sisters come to understand their grief and find the answer.
Praying, hoping and all around banking on the best for young Weston Keeton. The young Tennessee boy has been living up here in Philadelphia for a long time, a couple of years, since he was 4, a third of his life so far, as he waits for a heart transplant at CHOP. (He’s the 3rd child from the left.)
His mom, Julie, has been with him. Dad, Adam, has been working in Tennessee, but comes up as often as he can. Siblings are here off and on. It’s not been easy for the Keetons. But, it has been especially hard, of course, for Weston. When I met him back in December, he was able to live for awhile at the Gift of Life House with his family. He is a happy, beautifully rowdy kid by nature.
Things are getting a little tough for Weston. Hang in there, buddy.
The biggest reason I love the Mummers are the people who Mum and one teenager is a perfect example of why. 13-year-old Julia Parmisciano is a smart, upbeat, talented person. She’s a fan of the Mummers. Julia is also a heart transplant recipient. She suffered cardiac arrest last spring while at Epiphany of Our Lord School at 13th and Jackson. Julia was lucky to survive. She was taken to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she waited for more than 6 months for a heart transplant operation. Doctors think she had lived with a weakened heart since contracting a virus at a very early age. In late November, the donor heart became available and she underwent the operation. She came home to South Philadelphia in time for Christmas and to see the preparations for New Year’s Day. Her mother, Grace, and her whole family have been wonderful in supporting Julia. Her friends have sprung into action, too. They have started the Hope for Julia Fund to defray some of the big bills that insurance won’t pay. How you can help is farther below.
Julia made great friends while she was in CHOP. She plays the guitar really well. She played with Selena Gomez , and met Ryan Seacrest and Joe Jonas who stopped by CHOP. Gomez and Jonas autographed her guitar. But, as cool as all that was, it was Julia’s hospitalized friends and the nurses at CHOP who impressed her the most. Now, Julia wants to be a cardiac nurse when she grows up.
I was at her house when members of several Mummers clubs came by to serenade Julia and boost her spirits. They came from Quaker City String Band, the Jester’s (Julia’s favorite), South Philly Vikings, Satin Slipper, Avenuers and more. Quaker City played “When You’re Smilin’.” Julia had to wear a mask that day, as she will for a little while longer, to prevent infection. But, no mask could hide her happiness at seeeing Mummers and seeing that so many people care about her. Julia is glad to be home.
As an aside, I want thank the members of two string bands who in the past week have given me awards. Avalon String Band for induction into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame and for broadcasting the parade, and Quaker City String Band Friday night delivered its Humanitarian Award to me. Both are extremely kind and reflective of the great hearts of Mummers.
If you can, donate to help Julia’s family, send a check to:
c/o Hope for Julia
1544 Packer Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19145