Melissa Huk is a grandmother and a businesswoman with a big heart.
She’s a self-described caretaker who enjoys doing things for others, but when she heard how the Small family was suffering she knew in her heart she had to do even more.
"I really felt like God has placed this family in my life,” Huk said. “They needed my help.”
Melissa Huk has a home in Rancho Bernardo less than a mile away from the home where Bryan Small lives with his two children, Kendra, 18, and Cody, 15.
Bryan Small’s wife, Christina, was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008. After a long battle with the disease, she passed away in January of 2016. Their daughter Kendra says the pain of losing her mother never goes away, especially now as she approaches high school graduation.
“Oh, I wish I could tell her and have her be there and tell me she's proud of me or hug me," Kendra said.
Although they were neighbors, until three months ago, Melissa Huk never met the Smalls. She first stumbled across their story on Facebook.
"And something really profound just showed right up at that moment and I clicked on it and I said 'My God, these people are in my own backyard,'" Huk said.
Melissa quickly learned this family, living so close by, was facing another very difficult challenge. Nineteen months after the death of his wife Christina, Bryan Small was diagnosed with stage three brain cancer.
"We thought we were done with it and life was going to be hospital free,” Bryan Small said. “But no, that wasn't meant for us."
Melissa Huk and the Small Family: Inspiring San Diego
Bryan Small said a violent seizure was the first sign something was wrong. Coincidentally, Bryan’s son, Cody suffered from epilepsy as a child and Kendra had grown accustomed to how to assist her younger brother during his seizures. Amazingly, because of that experience she knew just what to do when she realized her father was having a seizure for the first time.
"I was always familiar with seizures which is why I didn't freak out when my dad had one and I knew how to react and how to help," Kendra said.
“And she didn't panic. She just called 911 and got me scooped up," Bryan said.
Since his diagnosis, Bryan Small has had several invasive brain surgeries, radiation and is now in the thick of a 36-week chemo regiment.
Meanwhile, the two kids are juggling school and multiple jobs. Melissa Huk said she is now on a mission to help this family at all costs.
"I have just made it my personal mission to make a difference in this family's life and in turn, they have made a difference in my life as well."
Huk is advocating for the Smalls, sharing their story to generate help, showing up with meals, now she's hoping to find them a car to help ease their transportation burden.
"This is just beyond cancer at this point in time, you know, they lost their mom, they could lose their dad,” Melissa said. “Financially, it's been a struggle. Kendra needs a car."
The Smalls are grateful for Melissa Huk. Bryan Small said people have offered to help but, no one is like Melissa.
“It was more than just help.” He said. “It was someone who wanted to be there, not just for now, but for the long run."
Melissa Huk’s said her life has been enriched through helping the Smalls. She is hopeful others will see the needs in their own neighborhoods and experience the blessing that comes from loving your neighbor as yourself.
"I want Kendra, Cody and Bryan to know that I'm here cheering them on,” Huk said. “I'm their cheerleader and if there's anything I can do to help ease the burden of what this family's going through. I want to do that."
Click here if you would like to join Melissa Huk in her effort to help the Small family.