Henry Vernon (left) and his sister Linda, pose inside the lobby of the Ronald McDonald House in Winston-Salem. Ever since their mother Tina passed a few years ago after a lengthy battle with auto immune encephalitis/brain tumor, the two have collecting drink and soup tabs in an effort to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. 

Life is not what it’s supposed to be, It is what it is! It’s how you handle the way it is, that either makes or breaks you! If this is true, then I have a story for you.  

Henry Vernon is a quiet young man who enjoys being on his John Deere tractor in the back field on the family farm. The only thing he loves more is running calls with the Semora Fire Department, where he, his grandpa Hester Vernon, His Uncle Steve Vernon (who passed earlier this year) and his Dad, William Vernon have volunteered for many years as active fire fighters.

A year and a half ago, at the age of 12, Henry lost his mother – Tina Vernon after a two year battle with Auto Immune Encephalitis/brain tumor. She was a young, beautiful, intelligent wife, mother, daughter, daughter in-law, grandmother, friend and asset to her community and her church. She worked for Southern States for 16 years. She volunteered with her church nursery and she was a board member for Caswell County Farm Bureau, as well as serving on the Women’s State Committee. This is where Tina got involved with Ronald McDonald House and their tab fund raiser. RMH recycles the tabs and that money helps to pay for up-to 26 families a night, to be able to stay in a “Home away from Home” environment, while their love ones are in the hospital. While Henry really didn’t know all the details of this charity, he and his family did help Tina collect the tabs. It wasn’t until almost a year ago, I contacted Henrys dad –William and told him about the buckets of tabs still here at the Farm Bureau office in Yanceyville. I asked him if it would be okay if I donated these to a charity a friend of mine was involved in. He said it would be fine.

A month later, I received a beautiful Thank You card from a complete stranger. Because we are all so busy, trying to do everything we “think” is important, the tabs had changed hands three different times before finally being donated to a young man, who suffers from an illness that requires him to go into the hospital for a few days every month. During which time his mother stays at The Ronald McDonald House. Of course, I wanted to share the card with the Vernon family, so I called William (Henry’s dad) and read the card to him. I nearly fell to my knees when he explained they knew this young man and he and his mother attend their church. This is when it really got Henrys attention and in that moment, he made his mother’s project, his own and the tab program became Tina’s Tabs. 

So for the past few months, Henry has gotten the help of friends, family and stranger alike to help him collect thousands of aluminum can tabs so that he could make this donation for his mother and continue her legacy of doing and caring for others.  

On Sunday October 13th, I rode with Henry, his sister Linda and their dad-William to Winston Salems Ronald McDonald House. The following Monday October 14th was Tina’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than to make his first donation in her honor? This was a bitter sweet thing for the Vernon family. Feeling both pride and sadness, they grew quiet as the trees gave way to sky scrapers. Taking a deep breath, they walked in, not really knowing what they expected but being relieved as they were greeted by the volunteers at RMH. We were lead throughout the houses and told all about the different programs they have to try and ease the struggles their residents face as they stay by their love ones side. It was very humbling for all of us. Henry, who normally stands back and absorbs everything going on around him became the one asking the most questions and taking a genuine interest in every word he was hearing. I think he felt a little pride in himself, at least I hope he did, he should.

Henry is not alone in his quest to continue his mother’s legacy. This past spring Tina’s daughter, Linda came to my office and designed a label to go inside of some books that her mother had purchased through Caswell County Federation and The Women’s Committee as part of Ag In The Classroom. Linda told the teachers and her peers that her mother loved to read and these books were an avenue she used to share her love of reading and encourage kids to learn about the importance of farmers! 

These books were laying around the office as a reminder of Tina’s unfinished work. So to have her 11 year old daughter complete her mother’s work was a logical decision. As a mother myself, I know without any doubt Tina’s laughter rang throughout heaven when she heard her blonde hair blue eyed baby girl, stand in front of her peers and say with complete southern sass and I quote “Y’all need to know where your food comes from and it’s not Walmart!” 

These books were purchased and donated to all four of Caswell County’s elementary schools and I am so proud to say that this program is something that Caswell County Farm Bureau Federation together with The Women’s Committee feels is important to the community and plans to continue to purchase and donate these books. 

These two children were going along living their lives, fussing and arguing with each other about everything as children their age do and in a blink of an eye,  their mother became gravely ill and life changed forever. After months of uncertainty, several hospital stays, endless medicines, high emotions all around them and deep within themselves. They lost their innocence and the rest of their childhood when they lost their mother BUT...... They replaced that void with determination to remember the loving and giving spirit of their mother. In two very separate ways, they are continuing her work. Honoring their mother while refusing to use her death as an excuse, instead making their loss a stepping stone in their lives. They like their Dad and everyone who loves Tina was powerless to save her. Her time here was done but her work was not and through her kids and with the support of their family and Caswell County Farm Bureau, it will continue......And with these kids..... most likely grow.... after all, these are farm kids and growing is what they do!

Caswell County Farm Bureau is proud to help Henry and Linda continue their mother’s projects. You are welcome to stop by for a cup of coffee and drop off your collection of Tina’s Tabs! Every lil’ tab, like every loving heart, makes a big difference. We are so proud of you, Henry and Linda, Keep up the good work!