ST. GEORGE — Welcome home banners, pink ribbons, balloons and 200 people lined 5-year-old Taleah Stevenson’s neighborhood street Thursday, welcoming her home after a six-month stay in Salt Lake City where she received cancer treatment including a bone marrow transplant at Primary Children’s Hospital.
In 2011, at the age of 2, Taleah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After going into remission a year later, she relapsed in March this year and was admitted to Primary Children’s Hospital, her uncle Taylor Orr said.
In June Taleah received a bone marrow transplant from her then 6-month-old sister Tait. The Stevenson family received the good news on Tuesday that Taleah’s body accepted the transplant 100 percent and they could return home to St. George.
“She should not have to go back to the hospital,” Taylor Orr said, “(she) just will go to the doctor for checkups and then will be going back less and less as she gets better.”
Through word of mouth and social networking the family invited people to celebrate Taleah’s homecoming; what they didn’t expect was to come home to a previously unfinished basement, now completed with a new playroom for the four Stevenson children, Taleah, Slade, 3, and Sloan and Tait, 10-month-old brother and sister twins.
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Videocast by Samantha Tommer, St. George News
The home improvement project was undertaken by Taleah’s grandparents the Orrs, her uncle Taylor Orr, the At The Crossroads program for troubled young adults, Dixie Direct and 1 Law on Tuesday night.
At The Crossroads owner and Taylor Orr’s employer, Brian Virgin, had challenged the Crossroads young people to do service. So when Taylor Orr mentioned the project, and text messages were sent out, about 20 people gathered to clean, move furniture and set up the playroom.
“This is awesome,” Virgin said Tuesday night. “What else would we be doing right now? Sitting on the couch watching TV and wasting time. Here, I’m with good friends, colleagues from At The Cross Roads, ya know, quote, unquote ‘troubled kids’ and they’re out here on a week night helping their buddy and a family they don’t even know. It’s pretty great.”
Dixie Direct and 1 Law used recreational vehicles to bring the Crossroads youth to the Stevenson home to help with the project.
“We have teamed up with Brian and the kids from ATC before,” Dixie Direct owner, Tony Chambers, said. “We thought this was a great chance to help them and help this family.”
The work done was something Tosha Stevenson, Taleah’s mother, had been wanting to do but had no time or energy to do, Taylor Orr said.
Taleah has dealt with cancer her entire life and will not be able to attend school or play with kids for four or more months, Trisha Orr, Taleah’s grandmother, said.
“She has not been a normal kid, but for her to have somewhere to play, while every other kid gets to go to the park, is so cool,” she said. “She gets to come home to something special.”
Taleah’s attitude throughout the process has been positive, Trisha Orr said.
“We went out to dinner with her last week,” Trisha Orr said, “and she’s there with all these adults and says, ‘Cancer is really hard work – I think cancer is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.’ It’s the hardest thing any of us would have ever done.”
After the relapse, Taleah was mad and wouldn’t talk to her family until two weeks later when she said she knew if she beat it once she could beat it again, Trisha Orr said.
“She’s already had such a bonding process with her sister,” Trisha Orr said of Taleah and Tait. “Heavenly Father sent this baby to help her and they’re already bonding.”
The community stood to greet the cancer survivor in the Stevensons’ front yard, now filled with pink hearts on sticks popping out of the lawn like dandelions, pink balloons, special notes of hope, and welcome home banners spanning the garage doors.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” Trisha Orr said. “Seeing them drive up was so fulfilling. It was awesome.”
As the Stevensons rounded the corner to their home they were greeted by neighbors, family, friends, the Desert Hills High School cheerleaders, football and volleyball teams.
“Taleah’s dad was our football coach for two years and he left to spend more time with the family,” Desert Hills football player and neighbor Cole Benson said.
The Stevenson family is looking forward to putting this time behind them and to be together as a family again.
“It will be great to have the playroom for her,” Tosha Stevenson said. “She will be pretty confined for another six months to a year, and it’s nice to have that place for her. For her to have someplace to play and be like a normal kid will be amazing.”
Samantha Tommer and Rhonda Tommer contributed to this report.
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