By Kara Blomquist
Ragan Bedinger was not expected to survive the day she was born.
Ragan was born without skin or muscles in her stomach area. She has undergone more than 50 major surgeries in her 23 years of life.
She had a close call in second grade when an infection landed her in the ICU for months, according to a video online, “The Ragan’s HOPE Story.”
During this time, the doctors told Ragan’s parents that their daughter would die within a few hours, said Delena Stuart-Watson, Regan’s mother and founder and missions director of Ragan’s HOPE. After hearing this, Delena said she sat down and prayed.
“At that point, it was as if I could just hear his voice,” she said in the video. “God said, ‘Do you get it? I didn’t give Ragan to you because you were strong. I gave you Ragan to make you stronger. What are you going to do with it now? What are you going to do that will glorify me?’”
Delena said this is why she created Ragan’s HOPE.
“I’m happy to say that’s why we have Ragan’s HOPE today, is to bring him glory and to know that that’s what we need to be doing to support and help other families endure what they’re going through,” she said in the documentary.
Delena founded Ragan’s HOPE in October 2010. After going through the experience of raising a child with serious medical problems, she said she saw a need for long-term support for families with children who have severe medical issues.
Ragan’s HOPE stands for Helping Other Parents Endure & embrace the future. It is a nonprofit organization that serves families with sick children.
The organization has partnered with Baylor to help those families.
“Ragan’s HOPE is committed to helping parents of children with catastrophic illnesses or injuries endure the initial impact and embrace the future by providing financial, emotional and spiritual support, in the name of Christ,” according to the organization’s website.
Ragan’s HOPE is forming partnerships with more organizations as it expands across the nation, Jason Penland, fundraising coordinator of Ragan’s HOPE, said.
Part of the reason the nonprofit contacted Baylor is because both institutions share a similar faith background, he said.
“We’re a Christian-based foundation as well,” Penland said. “So it’s great when we have that in common. We’re serving others in the name of Christ.”
This is the first time Ragan’s HOPE has partnered with a university, said Erin Payseur, associate director for community-based learning in the Office of Community Engagement and Service.
“We’re not really sure what opportunities will be there, but we are obviously very supportive of their mission and the ministry that they do,” she said.
Randall Fowler, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America member for community development, said he thinks the large pre-medical student population at Baylor would especially benefit from volunteering with Ragan’s HOPE. AmeriCorps VISTAs are people employed by the government to fight poverty.
“This is really a great opportunity for them to really get a better view of the human side of practicing medicine and understanding what these families are going through,” he said. “I think that could really be a beneficial aspect for them in particular.”
Penland said Ragan’s HOPE works to support families even when other communities have forgotten about them.
“After a surgery or two people have their lives,” Penland said. “They have to get on with things. They’re not going to call every day. They’re not going to bring you a meal every day, and that’s where Ragan’s HOPE kind of fills in those gaps.”
Penland said a lot of the volunteers are families who have a child with a serious medical condition but who aren’t in a time of need.
“It’s really inspiring to see families who go through so much to come out on the other side and become volunteers themselves,” he said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s wonderful.”
Penland has a child who has undergone 16 surgeries. He said Ragan’s HOPE has done a lot for his family and now he and his wife volunteer for the organization.
Penland said Ragan’s HOPE walks with the families on their journey with their child’s illness.
“We’re unique in that we don’t just provide meals or a prayer chain,” he said. “We do all those things, but there’s more. It’s really catered to what each family needs.”
Students can learn more about the nonprofit and what they can do as volunteers at an interest session at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Martin House. Students who plan on attending should RSVP to Randall_Fowler@baylor.edu.