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Community unites to help local girl

Isabelle "Bean" White was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy when she was an infant. Because she's unable to walk or bear weight on her legs, her parents have carried her up and down the stairs to her bedroom for eight years. Now, community members are coming together to help the White family fundraise and build a bedroom on the main level of their home.

When Isabelle "Bean" White was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at 7 months old, her parents were devastated. Eight years later, they've adjusted to most of the struggles Bean faces every day, but another has surfaced.

The Whites live in a small duplex in Richmond Township. It's not the space they're concerned about - it's the bedrooms on the upper level of their home.

The only way to get Bean to her bedroom is to carry her up the stairs, said Tammy White, Bean's mom.

That means most of Bean's day is spent on the main level of the White's home.

That's when a few of Tammy's friends stepped in.

Kerri Nelson and Cathy Phillips took it upon themselves to set up an account at WESTconsin Credit Union in New Richmond to benefit the family and Bean's new bedroom. They sent notes to family and friends, inviting them to contribute to Bean's cause, and before they knew it, almost half of the $20,000 had been raised.

"It was hard to see them struggle so much," Nelson said of her desire to help the family.

The group had organized a benefit for Bean about four years ago to help the Whites buy a wheelchair-accessible van.

When donations slowed down, the group got a little discouraged, Nelson said. That's when Phillips suggested the group compile a cookbook and use the proceeds from sales for Bean's bedroom.

"Cathy's been talking about doing this for a long time," Nelson said. That's when Wendi Halleen, another friend, stepped in to help with the cookbook.

The group's goal was to collect 500 recipes for the book.

"We wanted recipes people had made before," Tammy said. "People's favorites."

They got more than they bargained for.

More than 700 recipes later, the group had to stop adding to the book. Bean's picture, along with a few "Beanisms" - quotes or answers to conversations with her, are included in every section of the book, Nelson said. The story of Bean's struggle with Muscular Dystrophy is printed in the beginning of the cookbook.

The cookbooks, titled "Bountiful Blessings for Bean," are being sold for $15 each. Of the 700 that are being printed, about 400 have already been pre-sold, Nelson said.

"Word of mouth has been amazing," Tammy said.

Pre-sales have been so great that work on Bean's new room has already begun.

"We're going to push through and start even without all the money," Tammy said. "We just have to believe that God is going to come through and help us."

The group's building permit was cleared earlier this week and the structure's foundation was scheduled to be poured on Friday.

Most of the work is being completed by volunteers.

Steve Halleen, Wendi's husband, has taken the reins as the project manager.

"Steve's been great," Tammy said. "He's been so giving of his time.

Everyone has. All the volunteers -- they all have families and work and commitments. They just give it up for us. It's crazy."

When all is said and done, Bean will have a large new bedroom and new bathroom with handicap-accessible facilities, including a full ceiling lift, Tammy said.

"Right now we have to lift her in and out of the tub," she said. "We have people over to help with her and they're not supposed to lift more than 50 pounds, so this lift and a drive in tub will be so nice."

As for Isabelle's stance on the renovations?

"It's ah-maze-ing," she said. "Just write that 10 times."

Isabelle said she's most looking forward to having her friends over and being able to play in her room.

"What little girl doesn't need her own space?" Nelson said. "It will be a huge blessing to see her be able to go into her bedroom on her own."

Those interested in making a financial contribution can do so at WESTconsin Credit Union by contributing to the Isabelle White Fund, or through Paypal at For more information, contact Nelson at 715-246-3836 or Phillips at 715-222-7807. Cookbook sales and additional information can be found at http://www.fac 109954615765353.