Sherry Shepherd and her Father Terry
The Why Me organization was conceived and created by 13-year-old Sherry Shepherd during her four year battle with cancer. Sherry, always smiled, wrote poetry and was compassionate far beyond her years. Even while fighting her own four year battle with cancer, she always thought about helping other sick children. Sherry was the very first Pediatric Oncology patient at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. She found many wonderful ways to lift the spirits of her fellow cancer patients as a means to ease their suffering. During her fight with cancer, she became an inspiration to all who knew her, especially the other children being treated for cancer that she met. Sherry could see how difficult it was for the families and that someone needed to help them. In the last months of her life, Sherry became determined to do something that would have lasting value in the community to help children with cancer. With the help of her dad, Terry, she founded the non-profit organization WHY ME, which stands for Worcester Help for Youth, Memories Everlasting.
Since that time Terry has devoted himself to raising awareness about Why Me and funding for the needs of families with childhood cancer. Through countless years of hard work, long days, and personal sacrifices the journey to make Sherry’s vision of support an enduring reality has been realized. Fast forward 30 years and Terry’s service continues as Chairman of the Board of Directors and leader of the Christmas party kazoo parade.
Margaret White and her son, Jason
Margaret White was the Director of Family Services at Why Me for 27 years, before her passing in 2012. She began her life’s work at Why Me back in 1987 after the loss of her son, Jason White, to a rare form of leukemia. Margaret and Terry, like so many Why Me families to come after them, met in the hospital and became friends. Margaret’s special gifts were her compassion and desire to help others. She dedicated herself to a life of service and became the face of Why Me for families. She touched all of the lives of the Why Me families, but most importantly, Margaret would tell you that every family touched her life. After her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in January of 2010, she said the grace, courage and strength exemplified by the children of Why Me inspired her to fight for her life with the same courageous, resilient dignity. She is, for many of us, a lifelong example of the healing power of service to others, prayer and laughter. She had a joyful heart that will be forever missed by all those fortunate enough to have known her. Jason’s Healing Garden and Margaret’s Memory Garden are just two examples of how their legacy is carried on at Sherry’s House.
David Hagan and his son, Ben
David began his relationship with Why Me in 1994 after his son, Ben, was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 months. They met Margaret at clinic and discovered that a family of friends they had yet to meet were waiting for them. They attended the support groups, came to family fun events and marched in Terry’s Kazoo parade at the Christmas party. When Ben succumbed to his illness in 1996 following a bone marrow transplant, David began coming to the Circle of Healing bereavement group and never lost touch with his extended Why Me family. In 2006, he became a full time volunteer to oversee the construction of an addition to Sherry’s House, to be named, Ben’s Corner. David joined the Board of Directors and eventually became the facilitator for the bereavement group, which he still runs.
David remembers wondering in those first years why Margaret and other parents choose to stay involved and not put this whole experience behind them. Perhaps it’s because after years of living through this experience, people have something to share. People want to support those newly diagnosed and newly bereaved families the way so many others did before; and most certainly because there is nothing more healing than being in the service to others. David currently serves as the Executive Director.