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Family in crisis: Silent auction fundraiser to help with financial need

By Staff | Aug 28, 2015

Family portrait.

In 2010, both Lisa Younk and her then 12-year-old son, Evan, were diagnosed with incurable illnesses. Each would require ongoing treatment.

One such diagnosis in a family deals a staggering blow. Two such diagnoses, and in the same year, is bewildering and heartbreaking.

In the face of these frightening illnesses, this close-knit family, James (Jamie) and Lisa, sons Brendan and Evan and daughter Marissa (Missy), simply drew closer together, strong in their determination to face the future as one. They called themselves “The Fabulous Five.”

*’They are all kind of best friends.’

Family friend, Sarah Torres, says that the Younks are “all kind of best friends. I can’t think of a family that gets along so well.”

The Younk family’s heart is big enough to embrace others, as well. Jamie and Lisa have always welcomed into their home young people who need help.

“Lisa,” said Torres, “is selfless. She is always thinking of others before herself. ‘Come to our house if you ever need anything,’ she’d always say. ‘Our door is always open.'”

Characteristically, a few years ago, the Younks took in Hunter, who is now 14 and a member of the family.

A family with four teens, who may at any given time be sheltering a friend in need of support, is a busy family, tearing off in every direction to school and work every day. And yet this family made sure that at least once a week they all sat down for a meal together. They also enjoyed family activities like boating, fishing and camping. The boys loved to tinker on cars with their dad. Brendan, the eldest, wanted to be an auto mechanic.

Jamie Younk had a landscaping business, named for his kids, of course. BME (Brendan Marissa Evan) Landscaping. “He is so sweet and loving to his kids,” said Sarah Torres. “Everybody loves him.”

‘If it wasn’t for the three of them, we would be on the streets.’ Lisa Younk

Jamie was a good neighbor, too. Until late January of 2011. One day he climbed a ladder to a neighbor’s roof to help with a repair, slipped and fell head first onto concrete. For the next three months, Jamie was hospitalized at Tampa General, where he received physical and speech therapy for his injuries. He could no longer work.

So his kids stepped in and took over the landscaping business. Every day after school, the teenage siblings worked until dark making the rounds of their customers’ yards. The money they earned kept a roof over the family’s heads.

The family drew closer still, working shoulder to shoulder to keep the family together, to stay strong.

* Four years later

On April 9, 2015, Brendan, now 20, was on his way to school at 7:30 a.m. As he proceeded down Cape Coral Parkway West, a car ran the stop sign at Southwest 25th place, smashing into the right front end of Brendan’s red Kia SUV, driving the car into the front yard of a house across the street. When the ambulance arrived, both drivers were unconscious.

The tourist who ran the stop sign was released with minor injuries, but Brendan Younk, who was now, with his siblings, the mainstay of his family’s financial support, was in an induced coma, paralyzed, with significant brain injury.

His mother, Lisa, whom Torres describes as the “rock” of the family, a woman with her own life-threatening illness, a woman nursing her youngest through his illness and her husband through his debilitating injuries, stayed by her eldest son’s side in the hospital, holding his hand and talking to him nearly around the clock.

At present, the neurological after-effects of the accident are ongoing. Brandon will need more surgeries to address his complicated injuries. He has been on a ventilator so long his throat needs treatment to help him swallow. He doesn’t remember much about accident, or about his life before the accident, says Torres.

But with their arms linked around one another’s shoulders, the Younks celebrated Brandon’s 21st birthday with him in the hospital. Smiling. Glad to be together still.

* ‘Text me when you get there.’

Through all the unspeakable terrors and heartache of the past five years for the Younks, Lisa and her daughter Missy, who were best friends, drew even closer. Missy was the support that her mother needed to stay strong.

She was also her family’s pride and joy. Missy’s ambition was to be a trauma nurse or flight medic. And despite all the hardship and emotional distress the family had endured through her high school years, she earned an Associate Degree in Nursing from Edison State College in 2012, was “Student of the Year” in her senior class and, in 2013, graduated high school Summa Cum Laude with a 4.79 grade average with a dual degree-both her high school and her degree as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

After graduation, Missy became a CNA at Health Park Hospital on the Cardiac Care Unit, and a student at Southern Technical College, studying to be a Registered Nurse. The family was looking forward with pride to her graduation in December of this year.

Missy’s own pride and joy, after her family, of course, was her royal blue, 2012 Suzuki GSXR600. Fun-loving by nature like her mother, she enjoyed, after long hours of work and school, the exhilarating sense of freedom it gave her to take a ride on her bike.

Although Missy was a careful and responsible driver and her bike was properly equipped for road safety, mothers worry, so whenever Missy cranked up the Suzuki, Lisa always sang out, “Text me when you get there.”

This past June 27, Missy was rounding a curve on Imperial Parkway, just north of East Terry Street in Bonita Springs, when her brakes locked.

Her mother received the phone call around 2 a.m. Her only thought was that the call was a mistake.

* Lost Without Her

In an instant, Missy was gone. The family, her mother says, is lost without her.

Asked to make a statement about her family’s future, Lisa Younk said the following:

“We move step by step, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. Always praying that nothing more will ever tear our family apart any more than it already has been. We will always be together and always be the ‘Fab Five’ no matter where life leads us and Marissa will always, always be with us in our hearts, minds and the twists and turns we are always given! There will never be a moment that Marissa will not be a part of our everyday lives no matter whatever else happens to us again! Hopefully one day we will find some peace, faith and comfort in this crazy place we call life. Nothing will EVER rip us apart or the closeness that we all share with each other. We have a family bond that will never be broken by anything or anyone.”

Although Missy is no longer with her family in body, the family unit is unbroken. The text message that her mother never received on June 27 has come to Lisa like the warm breath of a whisper in her ear. The message is enduring. There never need be another.

“I’m here, Mommy.”

* A youth and a lawnmower

The hard reality is that youngest son Evan is now the sole support of the family. The household expenses he is trying to meet now include, along with normal living costs, bills for months of intensive care, future surgeries and rehabilitative care for Brendan, rehabilitative care for Jamie, and continuing medical treatment for himself and his mother. They also include the funeral expenses for his sister, Missy.

If readers would like to help this youth and his struggling family help themselves, any one of three options are available:

-Attend the silent auction at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening (Aug. 29) at Studio 7 Cafe & Coffee Co., 1404 Del Prado. Sarah Torres, who has organized the fundraiser, said that the auction offers something for everyone, from helicopter rides, kayak trips, and boat cruises to restaurant and salon gift certificates, from oil changes to car washes, from tickets to the Fort Myers Miracle Game to scuba diving certification and painting classes. The event will include free food and beverages and live music.

-Give to the Younk family on their GoFundMe page.

-If you are in need of a landscaping service, you might consider contacting BME Landscaping at younkfundraiser@gmail.com.

For more information or to assist, email Torres at younkfundraiser@gmail.com .

In 2010, both Lisa Younk and her then 12-year-old son, Evan, were diagnosed with incurable illnesses. Each would require ongoing treatment. One such diagnosis in a family deals a staggering blow. Two such diagnoses, and in the same year, is bewildering and heartbreaking. In the face of these frightening illnesses, this close-knit family, James (Jamie) and Lisa, sons Brendan and Evan and daughter Marissa (Missy), simply drew closer together, strong in their determination to face the future as one. They called themselves “The Fabulous Five.