Today I was given a gift from a group of exceptionally gifted friends, the junior fundraisers in training as my twisted sister, Kelly Johnson, has now coined them. I spent the past two days with my friend at Holy Rosary Totten Hall pre-school in Evansville,IN kicking off their St. Jude’s Trike-A-Thon. To date the Holy Rosary Family has raised $45,000 for the hospital and pediatric cancer research. Kairon Unfried, Director of the Pre-school, is the parent of one of St. Jude’s success stories. Her son Troy, now 37, was diagnosed with AML his freshman year in college. For two years Kairon and Troy lived in Memphis,TN while Troy underwent two bone marrow transplants. She shared with us today the story of two Troys. One her son and the other an equally bright spirit who was also a patient at St. Jude. Her Troy is now one of the 300,000 adult survivors of pediatric cancer from St. Jude’s Hospital while his friend succumbed to the dreaded disease. But for the Grace of God go anyone of us. Kairon has taken her gift and for the past 11 years she has hosted the St. Jude’s Trike-A-Thon at Holy Rosary Totten Hall. To date, Holy Rosary Totten Hall is the #1 pre-school fundraiser for St. Jude’s Hospital. Way to go Totten Hall!
The title of this blog is Remembery Day. Let me share how the #1 fundraising pre-school is expanding their efforts to include an awareness and remembrance program to the week. Enter the Twisted Sisters. My friend and I have participated in the Totten Hall Trike-A-Thon for 7 years, when our oldest boys attended Totten Hall pre-school. We knew exactly how, why and when they were raising money. At the beginning of September 2011 we both began reading Mary Tyler Mom’s Chicagonow.com blog called Donna’s Cancer Story. Sheila, Donna’s mom, in an effort to raise awareness for pediatric cancer chronicled her beautiful daughters 31 month battle with cancer. In the final post entitled “The End” she shared how her friends and neighbors filled their lawn with pumpkins. On the day Donna passed, October 19, 2009 they came in and removed the pumpkins to allow the family time to grieve. To this day the Mary Tyler Family finds comfort in pumpkins. We read this post and immediately decided we would carve a pumpkin and light it to remember Donna. Kelly then mentioned how cool it would be to allow the Totten Hall family to participate in this day. We shared our story with Kairon and her daughter Trina, a teacher at the pre-school, they both said a resounding yes. 10 pumpkins were carved with a heart in memory of Donna and all the children who are not here to carve pumpkins. The children were introduced to their special “remembery pumpkin” yesterday by Mrs. Johnson and told they represented those children who were sick and could not run, play, and peddle their bikes. Today the pumpkins were lit and the prayer of St. Jude was read. 120 beautiful children were praying for those who are no longer with us or who are in the heart of this battle. The children will have the pumpkins as incentive to peddle hard for St. Jude’s Hospital.
A little over a month and a half ago Donna Hornik came alive through her mothers writing. She danced into our hearts in the month of September and has remained there since. I do not know her family personally. I am a fellow ChicagoNow blogger who was touched by her mom’s generosity to share a story that is immensely personal. I grieved when I read of her passing and felt a call to action. My friends felt the same. The Story is simple and humbling. It reminds us all to count our blessings and stop to smell the roses with our children. They are a treasured gift and we have no guarantees to how long they will be with us. Take today and remember there was a beautiful girl with magical dancing shoes who left the world entirely too soon. Spend an extra minute to cuddle your child or whisper an extra I love you in their sweet ears. Our kids are blessings not to be taken for granted.
Another blessing jumped into my lens as I was snapping photos today. My friend, Kelly Johnson, started the Dear Robin project September 10, 2011 after the passing of her dear friend Robin to cancer. Robin was 33 years old with two beautiful girls aged 3 & 5 when she left this world a month ago. As I was snapping photos I was entranced by the beautiful blond cherub with her Purdue shirt. She had a light around her & beautiful eyes. It took me a few moments to realize who this beautiful angel was it was Robin’s youngest child who less then a month ago lost her mommy. I have been attempting to write a Dear Robin letter to her and her sister and haven’t found the words to do it justice. For a brief second I connected to the 4 year old me who also lost her father when he was just 33. I fought tears as I resisted the urge to hold her and assure her it would all be ok. Today I will finish the letter and I will encourage everyone who is dealing with loss to take a minute today and write their letters to those they have lost. I was Kelly’s first submission when I took 32 years of grief, loss, heartache and shared with my dad how I missed him. The Dear Robin project has created a catalyst to share you grief with others and share your grief with the one you have lost. I found it one of the most healing exercises I have ever participated. To learn more about the Dear Robin project you may go to the website at: http://dearrobinletters.tumblr.com or submit your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org Cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care your age or sex whether you are a daughter, son, mother or father. It effects without care or consideration.
As I was reading this post I hear a song playing in my mind from my days in children’s choir. The chorus is a simple yet lifting chant: Remember me, remember me, when the song has ended. Remember, Remember, Remember me. And if ever you forget my song, speak my name and hear again the echo of my song.