When Lori Lee’s son, Folden, was battling leukemia, family members would ask him each day how he felt. His answer was always, “Me fine!” At age two, Folden lost his 15-month fight with the disease. In his memory, Lori, who lives in Smithfield, N.C., started the Me Fine Foundation.
For 10 years, the foundation has provided resources and financial assistance to families with children in treatment at the Duke University and University of North Carolina children’s hospitals. Lori’s personal goal has always been to help make the journey a little easier for the kids and families forced to endure the devastating lifestyle changes associated with long-term care for childhood illness or disease.
“During our own journey, we were surrounded by friends and family who helped us carry our overwhelming financial and emotional load,” says Lori. “We realized that families just like ours came from all over the world, leaving behind their support systems to acquire the state-of-the-art and, in some situations, last-chance treatment for their children. Parents and caregivers lose jobs, homes and many of their personal possessions to gain access to the treatment required to save their children.”
The Me Fine Foundation has helped more than 900 families from around the world. The foundation has raised well over $1 million for its mission, with the largest percentage going directly into the hands of parents and caregivers who might have nowhere else to turn for financial relief.
Beyond providing financial assistance, Me Fine takes a hands-on approach to helping families. The foundation has remodeled substandard housing so that a child could go home after treatment was completed, organized last-minute trips for families, and provided Christmas gifts and birthday parties for hundreds of kids. Foundation volunteers have been present to hold hands during end-of-life situations. The organization has saved homes from foreclosure and kept power going.
Part of Me Fine’s business model is self-sustainability. To that end, it operates the Second Hope Shop, a successful thrift store in Princeton, N.C. The shop enables Me Fine families, as well as local residents, to purchase affordable furniture, clothing, appliances and other items. Revenues help offset the foundation’s operating and administrative costs.
Lori has overcome tremendous challenges to build Me Fine into a successful foundation. She worked while dealing not only with grief over her son’s loss, but later, a personal struggle with breast cancer.
“I think it has been a personal challenge on so many levels,” says Lori. “I’ve had to watch other children endure what my son went through. I’ve had to see the fear in caregivers’ eyes as the reality of the situation sank in. It’s all a little too familiar sometimes.”
Asked what motivates her to continue giving her time to Me Fine, Lori replies: “A great love for a little boy named Folden Lee and the knowledge that every year hundreds of other kids will fight a similar battle — and something I can do might make it a little easier.”