Community welcomes cancer survivor Taleah, 5, home with new playroom; STGnews Videocast

Taleah and family surrounded by community. Center L-R: Scott Stevenson (father), holding Taleah's brother Slade; Tosha Stevenson (mother) holding Taleah's brother Sloan, Trisha Orr (grandmother) holding Taleah's sister Tait, and Tiera Orr (aunt) holding Taleah. Homecoming, St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —  Welcome home banners, pink ribbons, balloons and 200 people lined 5-year-old Taleah Stevenson’s neighborhood street Thursday, welcoming her home after a six-month stay in Salt Lake City where she received cancer treatment including a bone marrow transplant at Primary Children’s Hospital.

5-year-old Taleah Stevenson walks the halls of Primary Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 25, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Tosha Stevenson
5-year-old Taleah Stevenson walks the halls of Primary Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 25, 2014 | Photo courtesy of  Taleah’s mother, Tosha Stevenson, St. George News

In 2011, at the age of 2, Taleah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After going into remission a year later, she relapsed in March this year and was admitted to Primary Children’s Hospital, her uncle Taylor Orr said.


Read more: Together for Taleah; princess run supports 5-year-old fighting cancer

In June Taleah received a bone marrow transplant from her then 6-month-old sister Tait. The Stevenson family received  the good news on Tuesday that Taleah’s body accepted the transplant 100 percent and they could return home to St. George.

“She should not have to go back to the hospital,” Taylor Orr said, “(she) just will go to the doctor  for checkups and then will  be going back less and less as she gets better.”

Through word of mouth and social networking the family invited people to celebrate Taleah’s homecoming; what they didn’t expect was to come home to a previously unfinished basement, now completed with a new playroom for the four Stevenson children,  Taleah, Slade, 3, and Sloan and Tait, 10-month-old brother and sister twins.

(story continues below)

Videocast by Samantha Tommer, St. George News

The home improvement project was undertaken by Taleah’s grandparents the Orrs, her uncle Taylor Orr, the At The Crossroads program for troubled young adults, Dixie Direct and 1 Law on Tuesday night.

At The Crossroads owner and Taylor Orr’s employer, Brian Virgin, had challenged the Crossroads young people to do service. So when Taylor Orr mentioned the project, and text messages were sent out, about 20 people gathered to clean, move furniture and set up the playroom.

At The Crossroads young adults clean the basement for Taleah Stevenson's homecoming, St. George, Utah, Sept. 16, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News
At The Crossroads young adults clean the basement for Taleah Stevenson’s homecoming, St. George, Utah, Sept. 16, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

“This is awesome,” Virgin said Tuesday night. “What else would we be doing right now? Sitting on the couch watching TV and wasting time. Here, I’m with good friends, colleagues from At The Cross Roads, ya know, quote, unquote ‘troubled kids’ and they’re out here on a week night helping their buddy and a family they don’t even know. It’s pretty great.”

Dixie Direct and 1 Law used recreational vehicles to bring the Crossroads youth to the Stevenson home to help with the project.

“We have teamed up with Brian and the kids from ATC before,” Dixie Direct owner, Tony Chambers, said. “We thought this was a great chance to help them and help this family.”

The work done was something Tosha Stevenson, Taleah’s mother, had been wanting to do but had no time or energy to do, Taylor Orr said.

Taleah has dealt with cancer her entire life and will not be able to attend school or play with kids for four or more months, Trisha Orr, Taleah’s grandmother, said.

“She has not been a normal kid, but for her to have somewhere to play, while every other kid gets to go to the park, is so cool,” she said. “She gets to come home to something special.”

Taleah’s attitude throughout the process has been positive, Trisha Orr said.

“We went out to dinner with her last week,” Trisha Orr said, “and she’s there with all these adults and says, ‘Cancer is really hard work – I think cancer is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.’ It’s the hardest thing any of us would have ever done.”

After the relapse, Taleah was mad and wouldn’t talk to her family until two weeks later when she said she knew if she beat it once she could beat it again, Trisha Orr said.

“She’s already had such a bonding process with her sister,” Trisha Orr said of Taleah and Tait. “Heavenly Father sent this baby to help her and they’re already bonding.”

The community stood to greet the cancer survivor in the Stevensons’ front yard, now filled with pink hearts on sticks popping out of the lawn like dandelions, pink balloons, special notes of hope, and welcome home banners spanning the garage doors.

Taleah gives onlookers a thumbs up, held by her aunt Tiera Orr at Taleah's homecoming after undergoing a bone marrow transplant and cancer treatment in Salt Lake City.  St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
Taleah gives onlookers a thumbs up, held by her aunt Tiera Orr at Taleah’s homecoming after undergoing a bone marrow transplant and cancer treatment in Salt Lake City. St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” Trisha Orr said. “Seeing them drive up was so fulfilling. It was awesome.”

As the Stevensons rounded the corner to their home they were greeted by neighbors, family, friends, the Desert Hills High School cheerleaders, football and volleyball teams.

“Taleah’s dad was our football coach for two years and he left to spend more time with the family,” Desert Hills football player and neighbor Cole Benson said.

The Stevenson family is looking forward to putting this time behind them and to be together as a family again.

“It will be great to have the playroom for her,” Tosha Stevenson said. “She will be pretty confined for another six months to a year, and it’s nice to have that place for her. For her to have someplace to play and be like a normal kid will be amazing.”

Samantha Tommer and Rhonda Tommer contributed to this report.

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3 Comments

  • DAVE RABBITT September 19, 2014 at 9:23 am

    What an awesome story! It was really nice to read about something so positive for a change, rather than being sucked into commenting on yet another tragic story about a drug bust, domestic altercation, or traffic accident. It is stories like these that make me truly thankful for living in this area, where good people make it a point to take time out of their busy schedule, to help make someones life a little brighter.

    My heart goes out to this little girl and her parents. – I am hoping that she makes a full recovery. It also reaches out to all the people who showed their support, either by their labor, or by the big Welcome Home they gave this little girl and her family.

    Lastly- I don’t care what any of the trolls have to say about other articles produced by the St. George News team. You guys do an excellent job at reporting what goes on in our area. Between Facebook and the website, I recently have made this my number one source of “entertainment”. A helluva lot more entertaining and informative, than most cable TV channels, these days!

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic September 19, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Thank you, DR – that story was a collaborative effort of four members of our team over time. We thought it worthwhile, and it’s nice to hear you did too.
      Truly,
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

  • My Evil Twin September 19, 2014 at 9:45 am

    It is wonderful to see how the community came together for this family. And it is nice to see a story that isn’t “doom and gloom and stupidity run rampant.” Thank you SGN for this story and pix.

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