In the horrific aftermath of the 9/11 attack in New York in 2001, Whitney Randles helped families of victims identify the remains of their loved ones and confront required paperwork. “I would stay with a family for seven hours until they completed the process,” she recalled. Whitney was employed at the time as an assistant coordinator of victim witness for the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office. She had been trained in national crisis response, never imagining her skills would be called upon. But in that three-day experience in a triage center in Liberty Park, God was training Whitney for the unexpected challenges that were to come in her own life, what she calls her “Plan B.”
That Plan B included learning a lot about cystic fibrosis, after both of her sons, Colin, now 16, and Sean, now 14, were born with the genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. “The medical world became my life,” she said of their frequent hospitalizations. “Whether it was appointments, medications, or whatever, I was mom, nurse, and insurance person,” she said. When it was time to resume work, Whitney moved into a career in the medical field. “I owe that to them,” she said. Throughout it all, she and her family developed the kind of compassion known to those who suffer. “My sons see other young people with issues and flock to them,” she said. “I watch the good that they do for others. They understand what other people are going through.”
The Randles Boys Foundation holds an annual fundraiser that raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and locally donates toys and other supplies to pediatric hospital units. Sean has distributed clothes and supplies to the Covenant House for homeless teenagers in Atlantic City and shops for food for halfway houses in the area. With his father, he has dropped off backpacks of clothes and toiletries to people who live on the street.
Whitney’s Plan B rests on the foundation of her conversion to Catholicism when she was 26 years old. She had married into a Catholic family, yet came to the decision by free will. Shortly after enrolling in classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Whitney learned she was expecting her first child. “I had to turn sideways when it was time to be baptized and confirmed,” she laughed. She described her RCIA classes with Sister Joelle Thren as “challenging.” She continued: “Some of the things that were presented to you really made you think about the type of person you want to be, but Sister Joelle was just so wonderful.” Whitney is grateful that she could pass on that foundation to her sons, “that sense of belonging to a community that shares your beliefs.”
Whitney taught for several years in the religious education program for children (CCD) and still substitutes today whenever she is called upon. Sometimes her son, Colin, accompanies her. She said she brings a “different vibe” to CCD instruction. “I try to engage the children in hands-on projects,” she said. “We cover the specifics, but I try to find a way to put some sort of spin on things.”
For the time being, Whitney continues with her Plan B. A radiologic technologist at Advanced Shore Imaging in Northfield, she recently completed training in mammography and will sit for her boards in December. With her mother, longtime Ocean City resident Rose West, she helps her sons juggle school, sports, and regular visits to the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Cystic Fibrosis at Rutgers University. They all continue to live with the uncertainties and shorter life expectancies of CF, which Whitney explained is “an individualized disease.”
“I could not have done my Plan B without having faith that this is all happening for a reason,” she reflected. “Sometimes, I think I have no idea what God’s plan is for me, but you have to have that faith that this journey is where you are supposed to be. That is pretty much what I teach my boys.”