Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward Gives Hope to Single Mom of 2 Terminally Ill Children

“There’s so many big things in life that happen to you that really knock you off your feet, and this was one of those.” – Jenifer Merriam, recipient

Bell Employee

Glen Reiley, Loan Officer
Chandler, Ariz.

Jenifer Merriam

The Need

In December 2016, at the age of 18, Anissa was diagnosed with Lafora disease – an inherited, severe form of progressive myoclonus epilepsy. Lafora is extremely rare, terminal and causes complete progressive cognitive and physical decline. Just a couple years after her diagnosis, Anissa already showed symptoms of dementia and had difficulty walking. She will eventually be unable to perform daily activities including dressing herself, talking and eating.

There is no treatment or cure, and Anissa continues to suffer from seizures.

“She’s not in a wheelchair, and she’s still talking, but we just don't know,” Jenifer notes. “Every day she’s always going backwards.”

Then, in 2018, Jenifer found out her 12-year-old son also has the disease. A single mom, Jenifer cannot work, because her children require full-time care.

“When you’re a mom and you first have a baby and all the milestones going forward, the thing I realized with this disease is you’re watching them go backwards, and at the very end you lose them,” Jenifer remarks. “It’s a horrible, horrible disease. It truly is.”

The Impact

“Jenifer has shown strength and courage through these years of dealing with never knowing how many days she has left with her children,” comments Glen Reiley, whose wife, Kristen, has been friends with Jenifer since junior high school. “As a single mom, Jenifer is trying to provide both kids with the best quality of life, which includes experiences that bring them joy.”

Over the last few years, Glen has been giving his Pay It Forward funds to Jenifer to help her provide those joyful experiences for her kids and for whatever else she needs.

When he found out Jenifer needed a new car, he decided to share her story with his co-workers to see if they would be willing to contribute their Pay It Forward funds to her cause. He was able to raise more than $44,000.

Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.