2018 SJ5K Families

Their stories are awe-inspiring:  full of courage, struggle, love, family, and hope.  Read on.


Donna BArnes

Donna was recently diagnosed in August 2017, with stage four metastatic pancreatic cancer with a cancerous spot on her liver. She has an overflowing amount of support from her family, friends and her work family at Plymouth High, and throughout the entire school district. Donna has been the Plymouth High School cafeteria manager, and has passionately enjoyed her career there for the past 20 years. She is loved by all, students, teachers and her colleagues alike, within the entire district. Her faith, family, friends, and wonderful coworkers is what is getting her through these difficult times. She has weekly chemotherapy treatments that can last up to fourteen hours a session. The cancer has also caused her to have multiple blood clots that cause severe swelling from thigh to foot. She has had multiple inpatient procedures at U of M hospital due to complications from her cancer. Donna and her husband Dave have raised their children, Steve and Matt, in the Plymouth-Canton area and their sons graduated from Plymouth High School. Steve is now a math teacher at West Middle School, and Matt is a chef at the London Chophouse. Donna lives each day believing cancer is just a chapter in her life, not her story. 



Makenzie Carpenter

Makenzie has been active her whole life, and was very involved in Celtic soccer. Last Spring, she started getting light-headed and dizzy at practices. It was later found out that she has Dysautonomia, which causes her autonomic nervous system not to work properly.  These are things you can’t control like your organs and blood pressure. Dysautonomia, especially the type that Makenzie has, is extremely rare and not well known. There is no cure for the autoimmune disease, just medications and therapy to treat symptoms as they occur. Makenzie is on a lot of medications, still trying to find ones that work, and has had to relearn how to walk. She  also has Gastroparesis Disease, which is the complete paralysis of the stomach causing severe pains and unable to drink or eat normally. Both of these Chronic Illnesses have no cure and limited facilities to help control the symptoms. Despite these daily struggles, Makenzie remains optimistic and is always smiling.



byron wydendorf

In January of 2011 at 2 months old Byron was given the wrong medication due to a pharmaceutical error, which caused neurologic/brain damage to right side of his brain. In September of 2011 Byron had his first EEG which confirmed his diagnosis of epilepsy, along with being diagnosed with developmental delay and failure to thrive. He had been gradually getting more and more severe seizures to which in 2015 at the age of 4, he was diagnosed with LGS (Lennox Gastaut syndrome) a rare form of epilepsy, shortly after Byron was diagnosed with hyperglycemia with no known cause. Due to the neurological damage in his brain it has also affected his intestines causing severe motility issues that puts him in the hospital often. Byron currently receives majority of his nutrition via his feeding tube and is on special plant based formula to try to help is motility issues and maintain his weight. Byron has been through a lot in his short life, yet he conquerors his daily regimen of medication, glucose check, tube feeds and hospital stays all while still having a smile on his face and acting like a typical 7 year old boy. 


jennifer kelley

Jennifer has been battling breast cancer on and off for the past ten years. As of recently, she has metastatic breast cancer stage 4 that had spread to her lymph nodes and several areas of her spine. However, this incredible woman is so much more than that. When asked what is keeping her going, she says it is her family. She loves her two children and her husband Brian so much. Jennifer’s daughter Jessica is a sophomore at MSU and is studying Kinesiology, and her son Adam is 16 and attends Starkweather. They both went to Farrand Elementary, then Central. Family is very important to Jennifer, and they love listening to music and making music together. The family dog is also a big part of Jennifer’s life, the dog is named AJ, a combination of her two children’s initials. She loves taking him on walks around Kellogg Park during the warmer months. Jennifer and her daughter ran the SJ5k in 2015, and she is very excited to be a part of such a wonderful community.



andrea faught

In October of 2017, Andrea Faught became very ill. She thought she had a bad case of influenza. After a few weeks she was still sick with her symptoms including a fever, chills, extreme fatigue, and body aches. When she made an appointment to be seen by a doctor, they discovered that her blood pressure was extremely high and the doctor felt that she was very pale and in need of a blood transfusion. The doctor directed Andrea’s daughter Alexis to take her directly to the emergency room to receive a blood transfusion. At the hospital she was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease. Her kidneys function at less than 10%. She received multiple blood transfusions after she was admitted to the hospital, and stayed there for over a week. Now, she has to attend dialysis treatments 3 days a week, and take multiple medications each day. Dialysis lasts 3.5 hours each time, and leaves her completely physically drained. She has to do this for the rest of her life, unless she gets a kidney transplant. She is a part time Executive Assistant at Dick Scott. 


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tom finfrock

Tom Finfrock retired in 2015 as plant engineer at Plymouth High School. He spent 32 years working for various schools in the Plymouth-Canton school district including Central, Eriksson and Discovery. Tom planned to spend his retirement doing his favorite things, including traveling, running, gardening, and hunting. Most of all, Tom's plans including spending lots of time with his wife Janet, son Bryan (Michelle) and daughter Meagan (Paul) and his young grandchildren. In December of 2016, Tom was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and began treatment with intravenous chemotherapy in January of 2017. Over time, his condition improved enough to convert to oral chemotherapy. Since early January 2018, Tom learned that his cancer has progressed and his pain is more difficult to manage. This has required more trips to the hospital and now he is again on a more aggressive combination of chemotherapy. Throughout all of this, Tom has been surrounded by support and love from Team Finfrock, which is made up of old friends, coworkers, and of course his close family. 



becki kasinger

Becki was diagnosed with stage four metastatic colon cancer last may. They tried a few things, but none of them worked. Now, she has chemo every other week for three continuous days. The chemotherapy has left her immune system so weak she cannot leave the house. This is awful for her since one of the things that gives her the most joy in life are taking walks in the sunshine and flowers with her dogs. She loves nothing more than a stroll in a botanical garden or around Kellogg Park and the fountain in Downtown Plymouth. She is being considered for a clinical trial. Her main priority in life is being a mom. She loves her daughters and there is nothing she wouldn’t do for them. She especially loves cooking for her daughters; she is an amazing chef. To keep her spirits up, she listens to Prince. You will never find a bigger Prince fan. Her daughter Shannon graduated last year from Canton, and her sister, Bridget, graduated from Salem in 2012. Bridget was living in Colorado, but had to move home to take care of her mother. Shannon is in college at UCLA.


gideon and scarlett rhodes

Gideon and Scarlett are six years old, and are inseparable twins. They were delivered early by emergency c-section, and have both had medical problems their entire lives. Scarlett has had two surgeries but is doing very well, and is a kindergartener at Bird elementary. Gideon has had 53 surgeries, most of which had to do with correcting the alignment of his spine, and correcting the positioning of his intestines. Despite being fed through a tube and being in a wheelchair, Gideon is full of life. He loves Star Wars, his sister, and going to school. He has a full-time parapro, but his parents are overwhelmed with joy to see their two children being so successful and being able to go to school. Scarlett has been a huge help in caring for her brother and keeping his spirits up. Her favorite princess in Moana.



alyssa garland

Alyssa has an inoperable benign brain tumor in her pituitary gland. It is known as a Pilocytic Astrocytoma. She was diagnosed at the end of her freshman year. Alyssa was homebound her sophomore year as she received a total of 52 treatments of chemotherapy. She is now in remission and is doing well but is struggling dealing with the harmful effects chemotherapy has on her body. She has to get MRIs done every six months at C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital. She is often there seeing other specialists to deal with the aftereffects cancer has had on her. Alyssa is a senior at Salem and is very close with her family and her best friend. She is a loving person with such a big heart, and loves spending time with both her best friend and her sister.  She also loves shopping and listening to music.