Remembering Rhett: Support from a Stranger Helps Grieving Couple
Hanging onto hope, the Paveks were elated to learn they were finally pregnant after a year of trying. But as life would have it, their dream turned to nightmare. Their community banded together to help them pick up the pieces.
Alli Wibe, teller supervisor
Kathy Radermacher, VP/branch manager
McKenzie and Jake Pavek
Trying for a baby for the better part of a year, McKenzie Pavek and her husband, Jake, were thrilled when they found out they were pregnant in January 2019.
“We were getting the nursery ready, buying all different clothes, and at 20 weeks I had my ultrasound, and we found out that we were having a boy,” McKenzie recalls.
Their 20-week ultrasound checked out, save for the baby’s kidneys, which appeared to be dilated. To be safe, the doctors decided to re-perform the ultrasound at 25 weeks to check on the baby’s kidneys and hopefully prevent a small surgery after he was born.
During the appointment, the soon-to-be parents were relieved to hear the heart beat once again and news that the boy’s kidneys were looking much better.
“Then that weekend, I just wasn’t feeling right. I had a headache, and my stomach hurt,” McKenzie says. “I just thought it was being pregnant in the middle of summer … so I just basically tried to sleep it off.”
McKenzie woke the next morning, went to work, drank coffee and patiently waited for the little one to start kicking.
“Normally after I have coffee, he’s moving around like crazy, and … nothing was happening,” McKenzie explains.
Becoming concerned, she called her doctor and set up a visit to check on the baby.
“(The doctor) told me where the heart would be beating, and there was nothing there,” McKenzie says, recalling the heartbreaking moment. “I had him the next day. We got to hold him, and they asked us what we wanted to name him – and Jake had said, ‘Rhett.’”
Living in Hawley, Minn., teller supervisor Alli Wibe and her husband had become good friends with the Paveks through the community.
“When I heard of their little boy, I just knew that I had to do something,” Alli says.
But it wasn’t just Alli who felt pulled to support the grieving couple. When VP/branch manager Kathy Radermacher learned of Alli’s Pay It Forward plan, she couldn’t help but get involved.
“My brother and sister-in-law experienced the same thing, so it’s pretty near and dear to my heart,” Kathy explains. “So I asked Alli if I would be able to join her in that Pay It Forward.”
Telling the Paveks she wanted to visit, Alli showed up to their home with a bigger agenda in mind.
“She handed me a card, and she said that Bell Bank offered this, and now they’re able to pay it forward to people like us,” McKenzie recalls. “Then she told us Kathy was nice enough to (give) half of (her funds) – which blew my mind. I didn’t even know Kathy, and (she) was willing to do this for us and try and make our lives a little bit easier.”
Family or stranger, friend or foe – there are no boundaries when it comes to paying it forward to support someone in need.
“There’s just been an outpouring of people that are there for you – and you don’t realize it until something like this happens,” McKenzie says. “It meant so much to us – it still means so much to us.”
For Bell employees, there’s no greater feeling than having the opportunity to help someone you know – or maybe even someone you don’t.
“It felt so great just being able to help them out a little bit,” Alli says. “I know it takes none of the pain away, but for them to share their story with me and talk about it – it felt good to be there for them.”
Calling Alli an “angel on earth,” McKenzie is eternally grateful for her gesture.
“Just them calling and checking in, talking about Rhett makes me feel like it still happened, and it’s still real. I don’t want to forget,” McKenzie says.
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.