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Jefferson Award Winner Helps Families Deal With Health Emergencies

PALO ALTO (CBS 5) - When faced with serious health issues, families often struggle financially. But one Peninsula mom left the high tech industry and started an organization that helps take some of the stress out these families' lives. Cindy Campbell says this is her way of paying it forward.

Two spirited toddlers sit on the carpet with their parents, snacking on cookies and looking at toys. You wouldn't know by looking what they've been through. But 28-month-old James and 16-month-old Nicholas McCarty were both born with congenital heart defects. They've endured surgeries and countless treatments at the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. But that hasn't been their only challenge. Their mother Ashly Ebeling says they uprooted from Maryland to be near the doctor who has saved their boys' lives.

"Ronnie and I gave up everything to come out here," Ebeling explained. "We both had full time jobs. I was a social worker and he was a construction worker. We owned a house, all of our family is back there, so we gave it all to come out here."

That's where Cindy Campbell comes into the story. Campbell started an all-volunteer organization four years ago called Human Connexus. She raises money to give to families just like this one to help them get through these difficult times.

"About 50%t of the individuals that get a serious illness will file bankruptcy," Campbell said. "What Human Connexus does is we sponsor them $500 a month for six months. That's enough in order for them to save their home, to save their car, to be able to pay their bills."

Working with different hospitals in the Bay Area, Campbell gets referrals from social workers. But what makes Human Connexus unique is the way Campbell's help goes beyond the financial.

"They connect you with the resources you need, and just being supportive - you know, Cindy would often email and check in and ask me how the boys were doing," Ebeling remembered.

In fact, Campbell knows all of the 24 families she's helped so far, like baby Logan's family. The little girl was was born with a spinal disorder. Her mother had to take a leave of absence from work, so Human Connexus helped pay medical expenses.

On this day, Campbell had brought along donated clothing for James and Nicholas, just one more think to make their journey a little easier.

"We want to provide as much as we can to them so they can cross over that bridge of their financial hardship," said Campbell.

"I really admire that she started the foundation and that it's gotten so big and it's able ot help families like us," Ebeling added.

So for offering support for families facing the financial and emotional stress of serious illness, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay area goes to Cindy Campbell.


(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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