By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
The Register published an article on Nov. 18 titled “It’s about our Sara, but it’s bigger than Sara — Berea’s Kennedys to be featured on VH1 show.”
On national television, Norma and Eddie Kennedy shared the story of their daughter Sara Elizabeth Kennedy, who passed away in 2005 from a rare form of childhood cancer.
Years later, through the SaraCare Fund, a few fateful encounters, a hit country song and Sara’s enduring message, her noble struggle continues to impact lives today.
Together, the community braced for the airing of the Nov. 21 episode of VH1’s Couples Therapy, a reality show in which the Kennedys told Sara’s story to celebrity couples who were receiving counseling. The show is taped in Los Angeles at the former home of Frank Sinatra.
After the story went to print, Sara’s Berea Community School classmates and teachers, community members and family, shared the Register story 80 times through the newspaper’s Facebook page, and countless other times via friends. Social media news feeds blew up with friend-to-friend reminders to watch the show Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.
“Can’t front, this has me weak … mad love to the Kennedys,” posted Antoine Miller, a BCS alum.
“I’m always inspired by how you’ve been able to take the worst things that can possibly happen to a family and use that energy to make a difference in the lives of people,” posted another alum, Rebecca Wheat.
A link to the story was shared in a blog post by Simon van Kempen, the husband of Alex McCord. The two are famous for their appearance in the Bravo series The Real Housewives of New York City for four seasons and were one of the five celebrity couples on Couples Therapy.
The story was re-posted on Facebook Saturday night by “Dr. Jenn” Berman, the show’s chief counselor and a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles.
“I love this article about Sara Beth and our show. Her story is so heartbreaking and her parents are so amazing. I also love that this piece recognizes the hard work, great talent and incredible heart of my executive producer, Damian Sullivan,” Dr. Jenn said in her post.
Sullivan had responded to a request for an interview in the Nov. 18 article and said, “A lot of people think Hollywood is a magical place to be, but I look at Eddie Kennedy and his life, and he seems to be the happiest and most successful man I’ve ever met.”
The segment featuring the Kennedys fused home videos from Sara’s life and clips of the music video “Skin (Sarabeth),” the country song that brought together the Kennedys, Sullivan and the song’s writer, Doug Johnson.
Johnson was flown out to Los Angeles to sit along side the Kennedys during the show’s taping.
“My wife and I ended up going to Berea, Kentucky to be part of this charity event (SaraCare) six years ago. It has become one of the most important weekends of our lives,” Johnson said during the show. “As a matter of fact, my sweetest and my saddest three and a half minutes each year is when I sing ‘Sarabeth’ for her parents and her friends that still come together and celebrate her life.”
At the end of the clip, the couples and Dr. Jenn wiped tears from their eyes. The group discussed how the Kennedys coped after the loss of their only child. They also spoke about the SaraCare Fund and its benefit to families who are going through similar struggles.
“As a couple who has survived the worse tragedy that anyone could possibility imagine — what is your advice for the couples here who come to work on their relationships?” asked Dr. Jenn.
“I would tap into whatever it was that first brought you together,” Eddie replied. “You got a root somewhere there in your relationship that caused you to say ‘I want to be with her or be with him,” and I think that’s maybe the starting point.”
“If I hadn’t had his support, I could not have made it,” Norma said.
One of the show’s couples, Nik Richie and Shayne Lamas, married in Las Vegas only eight hours after they met. A little more than a year into their marriage, Shayne became pregnant with a little girl, according to the cast bios on vh1.com.
“This story totally hit home for Shayne and I,” Richie said during the show. “We have a daughter, it’s just the three of us. Ed gave so much courage; so much heart. I don’t know how I could do that as a father.”
The first year was difficult, Eddie told them. But, “the idea of the SaraCare Fund started to really grow and it has just held us up.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.
Link to Dr. Jenn’s Facebook comment:
Link to Simon van Kempen’s blog post: