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Chesterfield family gifted trip to make memories as father battles colon cancer

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Posted at 12:11 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 18:45:32-05

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Kodak moments chronicle the lives of the Early family.

“We love being together. We love creating memories,” said Gina Early. She and her husband Mitch look for every opportunity to bond with their family.

“We make it an event. We made it an adventure. That is what we tell our boys, ‘We’re going on an adventure,’” said Gina.

The couple and their two boys, Mason and Brody, like to escape to the mountains or beach.

“We try to catch the sunset and that beautiful scenery being together,” described Gina.

Material things are definitely not a priority. “Just make memories. They’re really invaluable,” said Gina.

The Earlys find wealth in experiencing life.

“We make the most of what we have,” said Gina. “We’re not the richest. But we’re rich because we have each other.”

Six months ago life took a turn for the worse for the family from Chesterfield. Mitch, a 46-year-old who stands at six-foot-five, was a picture of health.

“He was going to the gym every single day,” said Gina.

Last summer, the beloved middle school teacher in Bon Air started feeling ill. A colonoscopy lead to a grim diagnosis.

“The doctor came in and didn’t mince words and said without a doubt ‘I know this is cancer,’” remembered Gina.

Mitch is living with stage four colon cancer.

“It’s been extremely difficult. My husband explained that he has cancer. My younger son says ‘what is cancer?’ So we had to further explain what was going on,” said Gina.

With radiation and surgery not an option, Mitch is undergoing chemo.

“This is Mitch during the first time he was admitted to the hospital,” said Gina. “He is a fighter.”

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For Gina, who works as a nurse, each day a godsend.

“The little things don’t matter as much,” she said. “Tell your loved one how much they mean. Hug them. Because you may not have as long as you think.”

Friends and complete strangers are rallying around the Early family.

“Santa showed up at our doorstep. My little one opened the door and just shocked,” said Gina.

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Last month, Christmas arrived a few days early.

“The pure joy on not only my boy’s face, but my Mitch’s face was just invaluable,” Gina said.

The Earlys would spend a three night getaway at Great Wolf Lodge and explore Busch Gardens.

“My older son said these rides are so much fun but dad is what makes it the best,” said Gina.

The all expenses paid trip was compliments of Serenity Saints, the nonprofit arm of Serenity First Hospice.

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Debbie Johnston, Serenity’s founder, said there is truth in the adage “It’s better to give than receive.”

“And we’re hoping to grant bucket wish list for people,” said Johnston. “You know what, it is one of the better things I’ve done with my life. I hope it gave them a fantastic memory to hold onto about him.”

Gina said the excursion to Williamsburg was the best medicine.

“It was exactly what we needed,” she said.

For a few days, at least, it allowed a family to exhale.

“It’s been trying, but we’re so blessed just to have time to be together,” said Gina.

Another Early family adventure. One to treasure for a lifetime.

“We will all remember forever being together and enjoying each other’s company. And cherishing every single moment,” said Gina. “So it was the best gift we could have ever gotten.”

If you would like information on Serenity Saints and how to donate or submit a wish click here.

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Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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