Don't just say you love, show your love.
Welcome to the Lynne Mitchell Foundation
Everyone understands the significance of a mom and the type of impact moms have in our lives. My mom was a tremendous person who had a profound impact in my life. This is the woman who taught me “Don’t let anyone define you, you define yourself.” This is the woman – the 6th of 12 children – who fought hard to create a better future for herself – moving to the U.S. at age 22; working and going to school; obtaining a degree in hotel management; earning a scholarship to university in Germany – having a successful career in hotel management---this is the woman who never ever forgot where she came from. This woman, my mother, was Lynne Mitchell and this foundation honors her legacy of love.
In 2009, at the age of 62, my mom was diagnosed with Familial Amyloidosis. For two years prior she was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis, often with life threatening symptoms and the doctors had no answers for us. I remember the day the doctors finally diagnosed her condition. I remember how relieved I was to finally have a name for what was wrong. Until they explained what it was. You see, Familial Amyloidosis is a rare genetic condition that she was born with. Her entire life her liver produced abnormal proteins called amyloids - that for 6 decades deposited in every organ, muscle and tissue of her body. At age 60 she began to experience heart failure and a host of other serious medical problems. Up until age 60, she was a healthy, vibrant woman. I called her the energizer bunny because she could never sit still. She was always doing something.
I remember after her diagnosis, doctor after doctor told me, take your mom home and get her affairs in order, there is nothing we can do. I stood on a mountain of no’s before I got one yes. And that yes came from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. The Mayo Clinic said bring your mom here; we will evaluate her. The typical treatment for patients with familial amyloidosis is a liver transplant - because the liver is the factory where the bad proteins are made. But in my mom’s case, the amyloids had practically destroyed her heart so her treatment was a heart and a liver transplant.
There’s so many different things I learned from my mom’s illness, so many highs and lows – so many life and death situations. And for my mom, to keep her going when things were getting so difficult, to keep her going in order for her to continue to fight when her body was becoming so frail, I found that the most important thing was giving her an ounce of hope; and the most important thing for the family was to have an ounce of hope. Somebody once said that “hope in the future gives you power in the present.” I can’t begin to tell you how important it was for us to just have hope; to just know that there’s a possibility that these transplants could go through for my mom, to know that there’s just a possibility that the Mayo Clinic was going to be able to do better than all the different hospitals that were able to do absolutely nothing.
My mom used to always tell me, “don’t just say you love, show your love.”
When she was in Rochester, MN waiting for her heart and liver transplants she had medication being pumped into her heart 24/7 to keep it beating. She had a little battery-operated machine strapped to her at all times. We had to put new batteries in every single day because we could never take a chance that the batteries stopped working. She could barely walk. But she was still trying to find a way to show love. And during this time my mom adopts not one, not two, but three kids in Jamaica. She had started the process before she became ill and after she was diagnosed, she refused to give up on her dream to give these kids the hope of a better future. And I won’t forget this. There was a point where my mom had to fill out some paperwork and she had to send the paperwork back to the Government in Jamaica for the kids she was adopting. And the Post Office was a 5-minute walk from her apartment. But because of the fact that she is frail and she needs a new heart, she can’t do anything excessive. And for her – a 5-minute walk was excessive– but my mom decided she had to get this paperwork off – because you can’t just say you love – you have to show you love. It took my mom over 30 minutes to do a 5-minute walk because she had to - Walk and Stop; Walk and Stop; Walk and Stop - just to put those papers in the mail. And it’s when I look back at those types of stories that I get what my mom always meant when she said, “don’t just say you love. “
My mom, this person who helped shaped me into the person I am, I lost her on September 27 2012, however, what I haven’t lost is the kind of heart that she had. This Foundation is work from the heart and I know in my heart that it’s not about what life takes away from me, it’s about what I do with what’s left. I miss my mom, I sure wish she was here, but it’s about what I do with what’s left.
And so I started thinking of ways that I could honor my mom. And I looked at my life, and the privileges I have enjoyed personally and professionally - attending the University of Chicago; Northwestern Law School, and working for a major law firm, working for major companies such as AutoNation, Burger King, Bacardi, Del Monte and Panera Bread; traveling all across the world; being in meetings with highly influential people; and being able to do so many different things. And when I think about how beautiful and how amazing it has been for me in my personal journey, I think about what it was that created that change for me and it was just an opportunity, a simple opportunity that I got because my parents left this poor, rural community in Jamaica to come to the United States to pursue a better future for themselves and some hope.
I was 3 years old when my parents left and 8 years old when they returned. And for those 5 years that my parents were away, I lived in a tiny house in this rural community in Jamaica with no electricity and no indoor plumbing and an outhouse for a bathroom. We drew water from a tank. Cooked outside on coals. I walked miles to school and – I went to a one-room schoolhouse. So I am 100% clear that there is barely any kind of distinction between me and the kids that are back in that same rural area in Jamaica; the one thing that I got that they don’t have is opportunity. The one thing that kept my family going was the fact that we had hope. And so what I am doing through the Lynne Mitchell Foundation is creating opportunity and sewing seeds of hope. Because back in that same rural area in Jamaica there is another Marlene, there’s another Lynne, and the only difference is opportunity and hope. And going back to what somebody once told me: that hope in the future gives you power in the present – I know that in order to empower these kids right now, I have to help them to see some hope for the future. And so I do that through education. I do that by actually giving them opportunity. But one thing I know is that I can’t do this by myself.
The Foundation began its work in 2012, just months after my mom passed away. We have worked since then in the rural area in Jamaica where my family is from. We have provided scholarships, meal and transportation programs, school supplies and more. And now we are expanding our program beyond this area to assist eligible Jamaican students by offering them scholarships for high school, college or post graduate work. We want to help these students obtain the kind of education that can allow them to change the legacy of their last name; to give them the kind of education that’s going to allow them to provide for their families. To give them the kind of education that’s going to allow them to completely change the landscape of their life – because these kids and their families, don’t have the financial means.
We are here to help create change. We are here to fulfill our mission of "Loving Children . . . Changing Lives."
Lynne Mitchell Foundation