Family helps hospital provide guesthouse after loss of son
Ben Stephens had ice water in his veins.
Take the time he was in high school. In the final moments of a football game against Monroe Area High School, his coach sent him onto the field to attempt a game-winning field goal.
The game rolling over the teenager’s foot, the ball sailed smoothly through the uprights. Oconee County High School won.
Or take those days in the Cascade Range in Oregon when the young man challenged the dizzying heights of the mountains. Clinging to the sheared walls of the cliffs, it would rise ever higher. Below him lay indescribable dangers.
Stephens may have been a young man who approached challenges with a calm demeanor, but he extinguished his creative side through art and photography.
The adventurer, who grew up in Watkinsville and graduated from Oconee County High School in 2006, saw his life come to a tragic end at 31. He died just weeks after being seriously injured in a car accident in Atlanta on December 30, 2019.
Unexpected tragedy befell her family, including her parents, Terry and Sue Stephens, her sister Genevieve Stephens, and her brothers TJ Stephens and Jamie Stephens.
Ben was an organ donor and helped others come to terms with his death.
Following his passing, Stephens’ family was determined to continue this spirit of giving. They created the Benjamin John Stephens Foundation to raise money to help others. On the afternoon of March 30, a major effort for the foundation was made when St. Mary’s Mercy Guest Cottage was opened at St. Mary’s facilities off Jennings Mill Road.
The chalet has been completely renovated thanks to donations from the foundation. Formerly, the house served as a convent for the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. After the sisters retired, the house remained unused.
At the grand opening, St. Mary’s President and CEO Montez Carter expressed his gratitude to the Stephens family for undertaking a project that will help families who have patients at the hospital and its center. palliative care.
“If loved ones live hours or days away, the stress is magnified many times over. This beautiful cottage will take a lot of that worry and hassle away,” Carter said.
The cottage, Carter said, “is an expression of who we are and our purpose.”
Tanya Adcock, vice president of post-acute care services at St. Mary’s, who also lost a child, read a letter directly to Sue Stephens about how losing a child is “the absolute nightmare of a mother “.
“I know your heart is forever broken. I know you miss him. I know you just wish you could see his face one more time – squeeze his neck and freeze this moment to last forever,” Adcock said.
TJ Stephens spoke at the rally and recalled those weeks the family stayed in Atlanta while his brother was hospitalized. “A bit of twinkling light we had was the house we could stay in,” he said.
The family remained in Atlanta, swapping family members to be by Ben’s side 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He died on January 20, 2020.
Establishing a cabin in St. Mary’s, said TJ Stephens, is “a blessing to be able to pay it forward with other families.”
All four Stephens children were born in St. Mary’s and the legacy continues.
“My daughter was born there just two months ago. Speak from the heart, it doesn’t come close,” the eldest son said.
Ben loved football and became close friends with the Oconee High team members.
One of his best friends, Robbie Galvin, described the bond the teammates formed during those days.
“We loved this guy,” Galvin said.
Ben Stephens earned an art degree at the University of Georgia, and soon after moved to Bend, Oregon, where he immersed himself in the outdoors, from mountaineering to rafting in whitewater and hiking. But he answered a call to return home to Georgia. And that’s when the shipwreck happened in Atlanta.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony was over, Terry Stephens recalled the night his young son celebrated the winning kick. The father, known as ‘Big Dog’ for his love of football, was on the sidelines to take pictures.
“He looked like he had ice water running through his veins,” his father recalled, describing the nonchalant way his son walked onto the court for the field goal attempt.
After the game, father and son spoke and Stephens said he told his son, “If you’re just playing for me, you don’t have to.”
The next day he quit football, the father recalls with a laugh.
Ben turned his full attention to football, described by his father as “his passion”. Ben was later named an All-State Defensive Player by the Georgia High School Coaching Association.
Ben devoted himself to his passions, whether it was football, the outdoors or his art, his father said.
In his absence, the family created the foundation which continues to provide scholarships to young people in Ben’s passions for art, soccer and the outdoors.
“It’s part of the healing process for us,” said Terry Stephens.
To learn more about the foundation, visit http://www.thebenjaminjohnstephensfoundation.org/