After Meachelle Lum's mother Megan died suddenly two years ago in the midst of the San Ramon teen's junior year at Dougherty Valley High School, her devastation was soon joined by a feeling of wanting to honor her mother's memory and turn tragedy into purpose.
With the support of her father Samuel Lum and brother Sam Jr., Meachelle started the Lum AVM Organization to continue in her mother's philanthropic spirit, by raising awareness of the condition that Megan died from, as well as money for charitable causes.
Since the organization's founding in November 2016, over $115,000 has been raised to support causes ranging from brain aneurysm research to scholarships for women and children's charities.
"The ultimate goal is to help others the way my mom would've, if she were still here," Meachelle said. "The organizations and people we reach out to reflect my mom's passions and her unconditional love for others. I believe she had a unique gift of expressing love and she was an honest listener that looked for reasons to help others."
Megan fell ill on Nov. 5, 2016 while attending her daughter's high school volleyball game. She felt a headache and a sudden "pop" in her head while cheering for Meachelle's team, soon losing consciences and lapsing into a coma. A week and a half later, Megan Lum died in the hospital after doctors discovered she suffered from an aneurysm believed to be caused by arteriovenous malformation (known as AVM).
AVM is a largely unknown and very rare condition -- it is estimated that no more than 1% of the general population suffers from the disease, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (a beneficiary of Lum AVM donations), the walls of blood vessels affected by AVM are much weaker than normal ones, increasing a patient's vulnerability to ruptures. Similar to heart attacks, ruptures are nearly impossible to detect before they happen, but early detection of aneurysms is possible for individuals with heightened risk of developing them.
Wanting to honor her mother's giving spirit, Meachelle started the Lum AVM Organization days after Megan's passing.
"She is making mom and dad very, very proud," her father Samuel said on his daughter's behalf at the Tri-Valley Heroes ceremony last month. (Meachelle was unable to attend the ceremony herself, while away at college.)
"We are here to give back to society. Time is our enemy, life is short, enjoy and take advantage of it, because there are a lot of obstacles, a lot of challenges that we cannot predict. But we can do our best to keep positive. That is all we can do because that is within our control," Samuel added.
A number of charities and organizations have received support from Lum AVM, including the aforementioned Brain Aneurysm Foundation, which promotes public awareness of brain aneurysms as well as support and resources for victims and their families.
Megan was a deeply religious woman, and in an effort to continue her religious devotion, Meachelle has selected San Ramon's Eastown Church among the organization's beneficiaries. A church startup launched this year and one the Lums now attend, Eastown Church is dedicated to pursuing faith and community service itself.
"Their philosophy pretty much aligned to what we feel churches should be there for which is to provide love, support and help," Samuel said in a follow-up interview. "It goes directly back to the individual in need. That's why we love that church."
Other charities supported by Lum AVM include: the Valley Pregnancy Center, American Cancer Society, Dougherty Valley High School, Child Haven, Inc. and most recently Sarah Banholzer -- 2018's Tri-Valley Heroes Courage recipient -- to name a few.
"Honestly every day more and more, I see a lot of her in me, the biggest characteristic I love about her is her selflessness," Meachelle said of her mother. "She was the anchor of the family... her selfless love is something that our organization tries to resemble."
Raising more than $115,000 for charity in less than two years is quite an accomplishment, but Meachelle says her organization is not going to stop there. She plans to expand the organization and hopes to host future fundraisers in Southern California -- where she now attends college.
"The Lum AVM Organization in memory of her can only aim to be as inspiring and strong as she was," Meachelle said. "If there's anything else that I would want the public to know, it's that I definitely plan on growing this organization in college and beyond."
* Meachelle attends UCLA, where she is pre-med, currently studying neuroscience and playing intramural volleyball.
* Back in May, Meachelle was presented with an engraved bronze medallion to recognize her selection as a Distinguished Finalist for California at the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
* Over $30,000 of the $115,000 raised by Lum AVM was donated online through the organization's GoFundMe campaign: gofundme.com/lumavmorganization.
* Sam Jr. is Meachelle's twin brother -- two minutes older than his sister. He is also a graduate of Dougherty Valley High and is currently attending the University of Nevada, Reno.
* Tuesday will mark the two-year anniversary of Megan Lum's death.
* For more information about the Lum AVM Organization and the Lum family, visit lumavmorganization.weebly.com.