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Hearts Helping Others is a program operated by where each month, we select an individual or family that is in need of help and give them a hand up.

February 2011

Colleen Thornbrugh and her sons Tyler and John Paul just try to make it though each day.  That’s not an easy task for the three. Tragedy has beset these people in unbelievable ways.

Colleen’s problems started back in 1997 when she was in a serious vehicle accident where she sustained major injuries including a shattered leg and severe back problems. Colleen went through multiple surgeries trying to correct the damage.  While she is able to walk unassisted, these injuries led to a life of pain and suffering. Colleen has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, likely caused from the accident.  Colleen has been on disability ever since the accident.

While having a person in the family on disability is a strain on expenses, Colleen and her husband Roger were able to make due. Roger worked for the University of Kansas as a sign painter.

Over time, Roger began suffering health related problems due to emphysema and COPD. Roger’s heart also was in trouble.  By April 2009, Roger’s heart was in such bad shape, he had to go on disability also.  In November of 2009, Roger ended up in the hospital due to complications from COPD.  Roger spent two months in KU Med trying to recover.  Roger was finally able to make it home from KU Med, but the ravages of this disease had taken their toll.  Colleen lost her beloved husband of 33 years on July 4, 2010. Roger was only 55 years old.

With both Colleen and Roger on disability, and multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, any savings that had been built up was instantly gone to pay off all the medical bills.  The only life insurance policy Roger had, was through his job and that disappeared went he went on disability.  As if the loss of a husband and father was not enough, Tyler, the oldest boy was laid off in the spring of 2010 while his father was dying.  Colleen and her kids were left with hardly anything.

The tragedy of loss has taken its toll on the family both mentally, physically and financially. The kids have struggled without having Dad around anymore and Colleen simply just tries to make it through the day.

“I just worry how I’m going to make it. I hope that the utility bill isn’t too high.  I worry about not having anything to eat around here. We might go a couple of weeks without any meat.”

Their washing machine is broke down. They hand wash everything because they can’t afford the machines at the laundromat. A smashed up car sits in the driveway because Colleen doesn’t have the money to have it fixed. Colleen’s only mode of transportation is via her son and his older pickup truck.  Just last week Colleen had to cancel a doctor’s appointment for her back problems because she had to choose between using the gas to get to her appointment or pick up the younger son from school.

“My daughter Alena tries to help out when she can.” Alena lives in Seattle, WA. “She’s got her own difficulties to worry about though.  Through it all, she’s done a lot.”

While someone with this type of predicament may dream of material things they would want or need, Colleen’s concerns are for her family. “My kids are so great. They are a treasure. They pick me up when I’m down.”

When we asked her what would be her one wish if it could be granted, it was simply to know that her kids are going to be okay.  “I just want to make sure that my son completes high school and my other boy gets a job.”  She added, “I will probably end up in some low income housing somewhere…but I just want the kids to be successful.”


Colleen and her sons have been given, courtesy an anonymous donor, a $100 gift card to the Black Cat Cafe and they boys will also get haircuts and a nice package of hair care products courtesy Diane Elmer at Heads or Nails Family Salon, both in downtown Eudora.

We would like to thank that anonymous donor and Diane Elmer for their kind generosity.  These people are truly hearts in our community. We would also like to thank the Hearts Helping Others Committee that has the task of choosing an individual or family each month and taking time out of their busy schedules to work on this project.

Hearts Helping Others is a way for our community to help give back to others from our community. Each month, Hearts Helping Others will identify a recipient who needs a helping hand.  The story above is just one example of someone in need.  Many other examples exist in our own backyard here in Eudora. We need you to tell us about other great stories. We are accepting nominations for March. You can nominate a person or family by going to   We have a form on our website to nominate people or you can email us with their story.

Also, if you can help out the Thornbrugh family or want to help out others with goods or services, you can call us (785-542-9466) or email us with that information at

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