This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.
Jeff Yule’s first experience in the world of helping families care for sick kids was as a parent of a sick kid. “Our son Patrick was born with an Apgar of 1 at Saratoga Hospital,” Yule says. “I almost lost both my wife and son during the delivery.” The couple stayed at Albany’s Ronald McDonald House while Patrick was in the NICU, and found themselves back there two years later when their daughter was born two months prematurely. After that, Yule joined the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of the Capital Region’s board, and eventually became the organization’s executive director.
It was at RMHC that Yule met Jerry and Diane Abdelnour, who were very active volunteers with the organization. The Abdelnours eventually formed their own charity called Building on Love, which provides direct financial support to families dealing with a long-term illness, whether it’s a child or parent who’s sick, by way of rent, mortgage or car payments, or gas cards. “At first we didn’t want to hand out gift cards,” says Yule, who’s served as Building on Love’s executive director for three years. “And now [given this past year’s inflated gas prices], families are putting gas on their credit cards, so the gas is going to cost exponentially more because they don’t have the wherewithal to pay off their credit cards. It’s a devastating thing.” And this isn’t just a few gas tank fill-ups we’re talking. A child’s cancer treatment isn’t always local, usually takes years, and often requires a parent has to stop working—and therefore stop earning an income—to get through it.
Currently, Building on Love, which is still a fairly new charity with limited resources, can provide up to $5,000 per family through its family grant program. “I dream that someday we can do $10,000,” Yule says. “Or someday, if you’re in the hospital for six months, we’ve got your mortgage covered.”