"I am so happy. Everyday I wake up and think I have another day with my family." Christina Sessions feels lucky to be able play outside with her two young sons. Last year, she suffered a brain aneurysm and had emergency surgery to save her life.
"I was alive, but I was concerned we weren't going to have a home," Sessions said. "It was just a very rough time."
The hospital stay and other medical bills hit her and her husband hard. Already on a tight budget, the Wausau family was ready to sacrifice their warmth in the coming winter.
"We're used to being a little bit chilly," Sessions said. "So I kept the house at a nice balmy 62 [degrees]." But a state-wide program made sure they didn't have to be cold ever again.
Session's home was among 80 others who received a free furnace last October from Heat U.P. Wisconsin. The project gives away furnaces across the state and the U.P. to help people in need. The Lennox dealer advisory council in Wis. developed the annual charity to address a growing problem.
"You look around Marathon Co. and you don't think that many people are that challenged," Randy Gilray said. "But the need is tremendous."
Gilray's company, Gilray Heating and Cooling, installed the Sessions' furnace last year. He says the council read 800 nominations but decided on Christina's story because their furnace was 35 years old and was about to cost them their home.
"Our normal heat bill was anywhere from on average $250-280 depending on the coldest month of the year," Sessions said. "Well, this year our highest heat bill was between $130-140."
She says the furnace has provided much more than just physical warmth.
"My daughter I knew was leaving for the Navy so I could put money aside," Sessions said. "It gave us a chance with her graduating this coming Friday, we can actually go to Chicago and see her graduate from basic training. We wouldn't have been able to go if I couldn't set that money aside. And there's no way I could have set that money aside without this furnace."
Now, Gilray and Sessions are encouraging people to send in nominations for individuals or families who could benefit from a new furnace this winter. Submissions will be accepted through Sept. 15 and then the homes chosen will get the furnace installed on Oct. 6. Lennox dealers in Wisconsin, the U.P. and Minnesota are participating this year.
To submit someone's name and story, go to: