A girl who died of leukemia at age 4 nearly 40 years ago is being remembered by her family in a gift to the Lt. Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund that her mother said helps fulfill a promise she made to “live in happiness for her.”
Diane and Thomas Walsh of Garden City and Shelter Island, where they own The Island Boatyard, presented a check for $20,000 to the fund in support of its mission to develop therapeutic retreats at the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch in New Mexico for active and veteran military members, their families, and Gold Star families.
Lt. Theinert’s brother, Jimbo Theinert, told the Reporter last week that the Theinert Fund needs about $300,000 to build an ADA-compliant modular bunkhouse that can house up to 20 retreat participants at a time on the 1,000 acre ranch near Magdalena, New Mexico. Participants expenses — about $500 per person per retreat — are also covered by donors.
The ranch currently has space for only a half-dozen or so guests, who stay in the family’s home. The money raised in honor of Colleen Walsh — at a special event held by the Walshes in December in New Hyde Park — brings the total raised in the capital campaign to $143,000, Mr. Theinert said.
Work is underway preparing for the new bunkhouse, with participants of recent retreats assisting in clearing land, digging a well and readying a path for electric power lines.
Colleen Walsh was diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months and, despite chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, succumbed to the disease about three years later in November 1982. In the time since, the Walshes have periodically gathered friends and neighbors together in her honor to raise funds for various charities.
Colleen would’ve been 40 this April, and Mrs. Walsh said she’d been planning a party to honor her daughter’s memory, but changed her mind after attending a lacrosse “Shootout for Soliders” event in Massapequa last summer. Her son, Kyle, played alongside Jimbo on the Theinert Team. At the event, Diane met Chrystyna Kestler, who began the ranch with her husband, Frank, in honor of their son.
“I told her I could not imagine the moment when she received the tragic news of her son’s death,” Ms. Walsh said. “But she assured me that I could imagine it as I, too, had lost a child.”
Hearing Jimbo Theinert call to his team at the lacrosse game to “Do this for Joey,” she said, inspired her to support the Strongpoint Theinert mission of helping veterans and their families heal.
“There was something about watching those healthy young men playing on the lacrosse field, not fighting on a battlefield, and it struck me that this was the way I wanted to honor my daughter,” she said.
“Colleen and Joey have shown us what it truly means to be brave — to have mental and moral strength in the face of danger and fear,” she said. “I feel very grateful for all the support we have received in honoring Colleen and Joey.”
For more information about the fundraising campaign or to make an online donation, visit strongpointtheinert.org.