PRINCE GEORGE - It was a great day. In fact, Rachel Buckley and her family exclaimed it was the “best day ever!”
That was Saturday when the Prince George family was whisked away from their home in a stretch limousine to start their day at Cracker Barrel, then to Swaders and back home for a surprise — a newly installed playground.
“It’s like recess, but at our home,” 9-year-old Rachel said when she returned to discover the equipment which included two swings, sitting spaces in a small club house, slide and protective roof.
It was brought to her and her family (dad Army Staff Sgt. Sgt. Akean, mom Danette, brother Joshua and sister Alyssa Buckley) through a partnership between BB&T and non profit group ROC Solid.
Volunteers who came out to help in the endeavor were proud to take part in something that could change a family’s life - a life that hasn’t been easy in the past year for the Buckleys.
Last year, just around Valentine’s Day, Rachel was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I have some tough days,” the vibrant elementary school student said. “I feel good — today was a good day.”
When her family walked into the backyard in their Baxter Subdivision home, they shared tears, laughter and lots of hugs as they were greeted by those who made the “great day” happen.
“This is such a blessing,” Danette Buckley said. “I never knew how caring people could be, even strangers. Really, I don’t know any of you who have done this, and to see complete strangers willing to do this for Rachel and our family ... well ... it’s just amazing.”
“We have had some ups and downs, but with the support it’s made it all not so devastating,” Danette said. “This is such a surprise, and it’s such a sign that we are not only supported through work but also the community.”
She is a teacher in Prince George and expressed her appreciation of support throughout this challenging year. That was shown with Assistant Superintendent Lisa Pennycuff, her husband Richard and other school administrators there to cheer on their fellow co-worker.
The appreciation also extended to the many volunteers greeting the family on their return to their home from the fun-filled day.
Those included volunteers with four BB&T branches, two in Petersburg, Edgehill in Dinwiddie and the Hopewell branch.
Craig Face, who is the manger of the Crater Road branch pulled up his sleeves with many of his coworkers to build the playground, add mulch and cut down branches.
Each year, BB&T branches are allotted a certain amount of funding for what is called a Lighthouse Project to help those in their area in need. This time, they combined forces with the help of ROC Solid that helps families who are facing challenges associated with cancer.
“I took so much joy in that, and now to bring the four branches together is a way to help a family who has the struggles associated with cancer,” he said. “It’s very heartfelt for me.”
And Rebecca Smith with ROC Solid has the same feelings. She shared that she lost a good friend in high school to cancer.
“To be able to do this is awesome,” she said, adding that the organization helps many families who are touched by the disease through providing bedroom remodels for older children and playgrounds for younger kids.
“This is a way to take them out of that cancer world and give them a chance to play,“she said. “It’s beautiful.”
And for Rachel, it was “super great.”
“It’s swings and a rock wall and a whole lot of fun,” said the bright eyed student who continues schooling at home. “Just what I wanted. Wow.”