Sue Kiesewetter reports
When the first swing of the track hoe struck Tammy and Keith Randall’s home of nearly 18 years, there were no tears.
Those had already been shed.
Instead, family and friends took out video and still cameras and began recording the nine-minute demolition of the family home.
The tear-down this week signaled a fresh start for the family, especially for the couple’s 7-year-old granddaughter, Yosselin Villatoro, who is fighting cancer and lives with the Randalls and her younger brother, Freddy.
“We’re excited. I got all my tears out while we were moving. This is a new beginning,” Tammy Randall said.
“Take it all away – it’s where the cancer began. We’re going to get a safe environment for her with no mold, no cracks for her to fall over.”
Just before Christmas, Yosselin was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that started in the femur of her left leg and spread to her lungs.
Since then, Yosselin has had surgeries to remove 8 inches of her femur, replacing it with an expandable metal rod, and to remove tumors. She still can’t bear weight on her left leg; she uses a walker and wheelchair to get around.
Yosselin has been hospitalized more than 35 times for chemotherapy treatments, infections and transfusions. Last weekend was the most serious, her grandmother said. Yosselin’s blood presure dropped to 73/30 and her heart rate increased to 130 beats per minute.
Yosselin is being treated this week at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for one of five remaining chemotherapy treatments. Each treatment requires a hospital stay of at least three days.
Keith Randall said it is hard to believe how generous the community has been to his family. Even before Yosselin became ill, the family had begun work to repair and remodel the water-damaged house, but those plans were halted as bills began mounting.
Her diagnosis and compromised immune system made it more important to leave the house, where walls had begun separating from the floor and mold was beginning to grow.
“It’s a new beginning. We wanted to knock it down and rebuild but we never had the funds,” Keith Randall said.
Since Yosselin’s diagnosis, the school and community have rallied around the family. There have been fundraisers; classmates made a quilt; school officials visited; and the family has been in the prayers of families and churches.
Watching the demolition Monday were supporters from Vineyard Community Church in Springdale, where a group banded together to help the family. In late winter the group moved Josselin’s bedroom from the upper level to the front of the house and redecorated it.
When it became apparent the home couldn’t be repaired, the group partnered with Mason-based A Chance Foundation to build a new home.
Support kept growing and people from throughout Southwest Ohio and Lakota Schools stepped up to help.
“There have been lots and lots of people come together,” said Angie Roehm, a Vineyard member who is helping on the project. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re a community.”
Lebanon-based High Pointe Custom Homes is managing and building the 2,100-square-foot brick-and-stone ranch with the help of several subcontractors and volunteers. The estimated value of the materials and labor is about $200,000.
The same track hoe that brought the house down Monday was used Wednesday to dig the hole for the foundation, said Tim Ryan, project manager. On Thursday, the footers were poured. Construction is expected to take about 90 days.
Meantime, the family is living nearby in rented space.
Although Yosselin missed much of first grade at Cherokee Elementary School, she kept up, thanks to a tutor provided by the district. That will continue until she is strong enough to go back to school, probably in late October, her grandmother said.
“I’m going to second grade. I want to go with Ella (Dooley, whose mother is helping on the project),” Yosselin said. “It will be nice to go to second grade with someone I know.”
Her tutor is Marilyn O’Keefe, her first-grade teacher.
“It’s going to be a wonderful thing to have a new and safe home for them,’’ O’Keefe said. “We’re so grateful that God put this before us.”