Sara Jane Tinstman provided a foundation of love and care for her family.
Her husband, five children and 12 grandchildren carry on this legacy by doing the same for the community.
Even as she battled progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare neurodegenerative brain disease, Tinstman thought of her family — and others.
“She would have done anything for anyone. I always remember her helping others,” recalls her daughter Gretchen Sink.
“(PSP) takes everything from you at a pace that she chooses,” Sink explained, noting that her mother’s diagnosis came after a series of falls. “Within a year, she no longer walked or spoke, but she knew who we were. She had her comings and goings. She couldn’t speak, but you knew she was following you.
Sink, her father Tom and siblings – sister Meagan Billyk and brothers Tim, Ted and Brad Tinstman – have vowed to keep their mother home in an effort to “give her the best quality of life and create memories”.
Helped by the hospice, the family succeeds.
“Keeping her home until the end was not without challenges, but we consider ourselves blessed. She and my dad had good insurance and great doctors and we were always able to figure things out,” said explained Sink, “It was an honor to take care of her.”
After Tinstman lost his seven-year battle with PSP on December 19, 2018, the family searched for a way to honor him.
Knowing that others in similar situations may not have the resources their families had, they created the Sara Jane Foundation to “honor our mother by providing the same care and love she would have given to others to make a difficult time less stressful”.
Established in the summer of 2019 as a fund of the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, the Sara Jane Foundation has awarded 57 grants totaling more than $47,000 to local families facing medical challenges. Among the grant recipients are transplant patients, people with cancer, COVID-19 and heart disease, an amputee and accident victims.
Donations were used for medical bills, equipment, and modifications to patients’ homes and vehicles.
“We won’t be able to solve all of anyone’s problems, but we can provide a small grant. We can give them some peace and let them know someone cares,” said Sink, who sits on the foundation’s board with her siblings Meagan Billyk and Tim Tinstman, friends of the Paul Boyce family, Debbie Lohr and Carleen McGann and palliative care nurse Matt Gruntz. .
“We’re a small foundation, giving small grants, so we may not be able to provide someone with a specific wheelchair, but we can help offset the cost,” Sink explained, noting that, until present, the non-profit organization has never had a request refused, but has had to adjust monetary amounts.
To help raise funds, the foundation is sponsoring its third annual basket bash on May 22 in the front parking lot of the Crane Room Grille on Wilmington Road.
In addition to providing grants to families facing medical challenges, the Sara Jane Foundation also donates blankets to area nursing homes and hospice patients. Coverages are also granted to each patient who receives a subsidy.
“It’s touching to see. A cozy, soft blanket always makes things better, even if it’s just for five minutes,” Sink said, noting that the blankets are also a bond with her mother.
“The blankets were special with my mom. As she became tied to a chair and frail, she was still very cold. She had a cover for every occasion,” Sink recalled, adding, “We appreciate everything we do, but doing it in memory of mom makes it even more special.