Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Weekend of Hope

This weekend has been busy and fun but it's last weekend that I just can't get out of my head. It was the last weekend in September and September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month which went by way too fast. An official month? That's all it gets? I think it should just be changed to Childhood Cancer Awareness Century and then we'll reassess the state of things in the year 2100. Hopefully by then the world will be celebrating the 88th anniversary of the year they found a cure for cancer.

My hopeful weekend started on Saturday the 24th when I was the emcee and auctioneer for the Childhood Cancer Care Line's annual auction. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many people that cared enough to join in the celebration by parting with their money to support kids and families struggling with a cancer diagnosis. The highlight of the evening for me was just prior to the paddle raise when Misti Bell and her 14 year old daughter Caity got up and addressed all the guests with remarks straight from the heart. Misti came up first and shared what Caity's cancer journey, and her entire family's cancer journey, has been like for them. The fear, the anxiousness, the trepidation, the triumphs, the setbacks and the constant shadow of the unknown has been relentless for them. But still, Misti was able to express herself wonderfully as she thanked an organization whose only reason for existence is to help families like hers. Misti struggled at times to get through her speech but she persevered and the result was a standing ovation from the crowd.

If that wasn't amazing enough, then up walks Caity (aka: Supergirl). I hadn't seen Caity since she shaved her head to raise money for cancer research last spring. Her hair is growing back in beautifully and at 14 years of age, this young lady has been through a lot. The last part of that sentence bears repeating...she has been through a lot. Oh my God, a cancer diagnosis at age 7, treatments, relapse, treatments, billions of doctor's appointments, more treatments, uncertainty, fear, remission, relapse, treatments. Seriously? How could you ever be happy again if you lived your life as a kid with a 16 ton weight on you that you just couldn't get rid of. It's an enormous struggle for anyone but somehow Caity manages that famous smile. She waltzed right up to the podium that night and read three poems that she had written about her life over the last few years. Her poise in that moment is what struck me most. Most 14 year old's would have been quaking in their boots. Not Caity. I think she just realized how important it was to get her message across and I guarantee you that she was heard loud and clear.

The event was a huge success and I had a great time extracting as much money as I could from the guests as the evening's auctioneer. I left that night feeling hopeful and comforted knowing that a substantial amount of money was raised to directly help families in need.

At 8:30am the next morning I was already at Seward Park in Seattle to MC for the 3rd time the 3rd annual Run of Hope to benefit pediatric brain tumor research at Children's Hospital. The event has grown every year. This year there were 30 more teams than there were in 2010. One of those was Team NINJA!! which I formed with some friends only 5 days prior. I was lame and didn't start the team sooner but we did assemble ourselves and in those 5 days raised almost $1500. Not bad for a fledgling team on short notice. Next year my goal is to have the Ninjas out in force. You are ALL invited to join Team NINJA!! for next year's Run of Hope (a 5K run or a 3K walk). The event was started by the president of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Guild at Children's Hospital, Erin Cordry. Erin's started the guild in honor of her son Max's struggle with a brain tumor. Max, thankfully and joyfully for the world, is a survivor. He is doing great and just lights up a room when he walks in. Or in this case, lit up a park filled with almost 2,000 people. Erin's dedication blows my mind and you can see her sincerity in her eyes so obviously and completely. When she speaks, she means every single word. She knows this journey so well and she carries the hopes of many with her as she continues to strive to make a difference in the world and help fund research that will one day find a cure for cancer. 

Over 60 teams joined Erin on a blustery Sunday morning. Many teams were walking or running in honor of a loved one who has since passed away. This year I hugged three mom's who have all lost a child within the last couple of years. These women are incredible human beings. They have all been through and are still going through hell but here they were, fighting back. I am in awe of their strength. One was standing at the finish line, high fiving the runners completing the race. All together that morning, over $240,000 was raised. Incredible! Even though Erin is already a member of Team Max, to me, she is a NINJA. In it's purest modern form (in my world anyway!) a NINJA is drawn to action and fights for what he or she believes in with every socially acceptable weapon at their disposal (plus they are a little goofy). My goal is to grow more ninja-esque every year of my life. Erin is a passionate, driven, give it your all, lay your heart on the line and give 200% Ninja. I don't just want her on my team. I want her to be on everyone's team and really, she is.

As I drove away that day I just kept thinking about all the faces. These faces belonged to people that were dedicated to making a difference in the tragic world that is childhood cancer. To me, these were the Faces of Hope. Here are some of them;

Erin addressing the media

Erin talking to 2,000 people

Dr. Jim Olson, genius. The Run of Hope supports his team's research.

Erin and her nutbar son Max!

Ann Marie and Laura, Team NINJA!! members

Michael Hirschler, co-event chair representing Four Seasons Hotels. He did an amazing job also.

Erin's husband Eric jumping for joy when hearing the fundraising total.
Team NINJA!! on the course.
Erin Cordry, honorary Ninja.

What a great weekend!

No comments:

Post a Comment