Local Hero: Lori Lee
When it comes to sick children and their families, Lori Lee knows that sharing truly is caring.
In typical small-town fashion, Lori Lee’s neighbors in Princeton, NC, had become like family over the years—so when she asked them for help in starting the Me Fine Foundation, to provide financial and emotional assistance to parents of critically ill children, they rallied right away with unwavering love. Lori, 48, credits her charity’s success to the support of her community. “It’s amazing what good people can do,” she says. “They bring in their friends, and it keeps getting bigger and better.”
A Difficult Loss
Lori was inspired to start Me Fine after her toddler son, Folden IV, was treated for acute myeloid leukemia at North Carolina Children’s Hospital and later at Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center from 2003 to 2004. During that time, she relied on loved ones to keep things afloat. “I stayed around the clock and my husband, Folden III, took many days off from his dental practice to be with us,” Lori says. “My mom and my husband’s family took care of our daughters, then 5 and 6 years old.” Sadly, the little boy that Lori calls her “great light” died in September 2004, before he turned 3.
Looking back, Lori says, “I knew even before I left the hospital that I would start a foundation.” In her year of fighting Folden’s cancer, she learned how devastating medical expenses are for many families. “People had given up jobs in order to travel from around the country and the world to stay at Duke. A lot of them lost their homes because they couldn’t keep up the payments.” She named the new organization Me Fine because that was Folden’s response every time he was asked how he felt. Within weeks, Me Fine received over $20,000 in donations from hundreds of people who had followed Folden’s journey on the site CaringBridge, including members of a local church.
Sharing the Wealth
Along with engaging in fundraising, Me Fine operates the Second Hope Shop and Lending Closet, located just outside of Lori’s hometown. The Lending Closet is stocked with items like dinnerware and bedding that can be borrowed for free during stays in outpatient housing near the hospitals. “Without supplies from our Lending Closet, families would have to buy or rent all the necessities,” Lori says. “If people can’t make the trip to our facility, we deliver.” The attached Second Hope Shop gives 100% of its revenue to Me Fine, and volunteers help out. “Even board members roll up their sleeves and pitch in,” Lori says.
To this day, Me Fine has provided critically important services like mortgage and rent assistance, gas cards, hospital and doctor copays, and prescription medication to more than 1,000 families at the hospitals where Folden was treated. While Lori never stops thinking about her boy, Me Fine lets her honor him every day. “Helping others through their journeys has allowed me to make peace with what happened to us,” she says. “Me Fine is for all the kids like Folden who have touched other people’s hearts.”
To make a donation or get involved, visit mefinefoundation.org.