Photo courtesy of Heather Durham.
0712 aTeam Ministries Thrower Family Photo
Andy, Jan, Avery and Anderson Thrower have grown stronger as a family through Anderson’s battle with leukemia and through their Homewood-based ministry, aTeam ministries.
January 6, 2009, forever changed life for the Thrower family.
That day, 16-month-old Anderson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He had an enlarged stomach and a limp in his left leg, and later, he became completely lethargic. With his diagnosis, the Throwers found out that the cancer had spread to his spleen and his liver. Still, his parents Andy and Jan, and his older sister, Avery, kept faith.
“We never really asked why,” Andy said. “We just said, ‘Let’s take care of this and get back to normal.’”
During Anderson’s treatments, Andy and his family, Birmingham residents since 1999 and members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, began to see the needs of families who found themselves living in the same difficult circumstances. “There were families around us with no support, so we tried to reach out and do things for them,” Andy said. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we do more?’”
And they definitely did more to help and inspire other families. Andy and Jan bought laptops for the oncology floor at Children’s Hospital of Alabama in order to help families have easy access to paying bills and keeping in touch with their families through a partnership with Legacy Community Credit Union. The computers also make it easier for kids to do schoolwork.
This partnership soon birthed aTeam Ministries, a 501(c)(3) organization located in Homewood that is committed to offering spiritual, financial and emotional support to children and their families within the pediatric cancer community. Through aTeam, the Throwers can relate to other families going through similar experiences and give encouragement when and where it is needed.
“It has been a blessing to help make a difference and to encourage and uplift families who just need love at a time that’s hard,” Andy said.
The ministry originally got its name from a team formed to walk for Anderson in a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event. Andy wanted to use the name because it fit for a team of people working together, living out the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 by serving and comforting others.
aTeam’s goal is not to fight for the cure, although the ministry supports that goal.
“We fight to provide the frontline needs for families,” Andy said. “Until that’s done, families will always need help.”
Most of the patients and their families supported by aTeam are from outside of Birmingham and all over the state of Alabama. Some patients and families are only in Birmingham for a few days at a time, and some are in Birmingham for a week or more. Bone-marrow transplant families are here for 60 to 90 days.
One of aTeam’s many programs, Heart 2 HeART, pairs each child with a professional artist. The artwork they create together is then presented in aTeam’s annual Heart to HeART Gala, aTeam’s primary fundraising event.
Families hear about aTeam by word- of-mouth in the cancer community, through oncology social workers, or from Andy, who visits the hospital at least once per week.
Anderson had his final chemotherapy at home on March 19, 2012, one year and one day after aTeam became Andy’s full- time job. Andy also drives a school bus for Hoover to help with insurance and retirement. He said it has been a blessing to serve and provide all that aTeam offers.
“We’ve received many blessings from the programs and from meeting new friends and having the opportunity to see families smile,” he said. “God has shown us so many great lessons and opened up so many doors that we probably never had even dreamed about.”
With the ministry, the Throwers value family time more than they did before. They have a new perspective on their purpose. And, they are quick to note the centrality of aTeam being a faith-based ministry.
“We want people to see that it’s not just us who are doing it, who are helping,” he said. “It’s God.”
aTeam Ministries is a tax-deductible ministry that is supported by donations or individual sponsorships. You can help by joining the aTeam prayer team, becoming a prayer partner, making a donation or volunteering to help in other ways. To learn more about aTeam and to help support the ministry, visit www.ateamministries.org.