What would you do if you had $1 million?
By Jennifer Hafer
That question would change Melinda Mayton’s life forever and impact thousands of families struggling with childhood cancer.
“I took a class on stewardship of your money, and in one of the first classes I had the lady ask, ‘What would you do if you had $1 million?’” Mayton recalled. “At that time in my life all I was thinking about was I wanted to be like my grandmother; get married on April 8, and have six babies. I have no husband and no babies.”
Mayton knew nothing about pediatric cancer when she graduated from college in 1987. In fact, she intended to get a business degree from the University of Georgia, but when her younger sister nearly died, she changed her mind and her major.
“Being a nurse was not a lifelong dream of mine, but on Thanksgiving Day of my senior year at Marietta High School my sister ended up in the hospital, and we didn’t know if she would survive,” she said. “I just watched those nurses and they loved my sister so much and just the way they took care of her made such a difference in her recovery. After that I told my parents, ‘I think I want to be a nurse.’”
After a decade serving children with cancer and their families through a similar nonprofit organization, in March of 2010, Mayton’s career as a pediatric cancer nurse and the answer to the $1 million question combined to create Blue Skies Ministries. Its mission is to bring the hope of Christ to families living through pediatric cancer.
Ten times a year, Blue Skies Ministries takes 12 families dealing with childhood cancer on weeklong retreats to the beach at Port St. Joe, Fla.
“We take these families that are in the hospital, pull them out of that environment, take them to the beach and just take care of them,” Mayton said. “It’s amazing to watch the transformation. These families arrive here tired, weary, sad and afraid. Within hours there’s a sparkle in their eyes; everybody changes.”
Volunteers take care of everything from cooking and cleaning for the families to planning outings, such as snorkeling and horseback riding. There are theme parties and even a date night for the parents. Each trip costs $75,000 and volunteers must raise the money to participate in order to offset any cost to the families, outside transportation, to and from Florida.
“I don’t know whose life is changed more — the families or the volunteers,” Mayton said. “We have more volunteers that are families that we have served in the past, and that says to me, ‘this is helpful to them.’”
Blue Skies serves families from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana. There are 50,000 families in the U.S. dealing with pediatric cancer, including the family of Dawn Hart.
“Life fighting childhood cancer is hard,” the Cobb mom said. “So hard that most days you don’t want to leave home, but Blue Skies changes all that. Blue Skies makes life bearable and wonderful, and we love them. Of all the blessings in our lives, Blue Skies is at the top.”
Another Cobb family served by Blue Skies, the Bousteads, also sings the organization’s praises.
“We spent the most amazing week at Blue Skies, where we relaxed and reconnected as a family and with God,” said Susie Boustead. “We met other families who were facing similar issues. The kids were happy all week long enjoying snorkeling, pool time, the beach, games, horses, meeting new friends, hanging out, ping pong, crabbing, soccer and square dancing! Rich and I had conversations with the most loving and inspiring people that we have ever met.”
Though Blue Skies Ministries wasn’t Mayton’s original plan for her life, she said she believes there was her plan, then there was God’s plan.
“Do I still want a husband and six kids, yeah, but I wouldn’t change this for anything,” she said.
Blue Skies Ministries
1000 Whitlock Ave.
Suite 320, #234, Marietta