Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays from the HFC Staff!

From left--Cricket, Larissa, Jenny, Cheryl, and Christi

The Heroes for Children staff wish you and your family a wonderful, happy, and healthy holiday season. No matter what you celebrate, we hope it is filled with love and happiness! Have fun, and get a little silly. Because, really isn't it fun to be a little silly sometimes? We certainly think so!

And playing a little Nintendo Wii....

Even our Chairman of the Board got into the bowling fun!

With a look of determination to beat them all

And what's a party without a pretty princess to join us all?

Happy Holidays to everyone from the Heroes for Children staff. This blog will be taking a break until January to enjoy our family time for the holidays (and maybe a little more Wii!). We look forward to having you join us in this incredible journey in 2008!
With gratitude,
Jenny and Larissa

Friday, December 14, 2007

First Heroes Milestones Request Filled!

Heroes Milestones was created as one of our social assistance programs to provide milestone parties for children with cancer whether they are in the hospital and can’t attend or they are at home and just can’t afford to celebrate the milestone. The idea came from one of my experiences with Kira. A few of us threw her a graduation party at the hospital since she missed graduation. I really wanted to make this a reality for other kids, so as soon as I found out I got the job with Heroes, I started mentioning the idea to Jenny. We met with a few social workers and came up with a game plan.

We finalized the plans for Heroes Milestones months ago, but hadn’t received any requests, until late in the afternoon on December 4th. A social worker let Jenny know about Nathaniel’s situation and we decided this would be a great Heroes Milestones request. Nathaniel, a 14 year old from Humble, Texas, has been battling ALL since he was 5… that’s EIGHT years!! Unfortunately he is losing his battle to the disease, but despite his ailing health he had a noble mission to fulfill to leave his legacy. His request was for a shopping spree to buy mementos for all of his family. Beyond that, we wanted to do more for him. I told his mom we could cater a dinner for them, so Nathaniel could pass out his presents. She told us his favorite place to eat was Carrabba’s . We also asked her what one gift she thought Nathaniel would want, and she replied, “Fireworks… He loves fireworks!!”

On Tuesday night I emailed our Houston volunteers to see if they had a connection with Carrabba’s. Oh what a connection they had!!! I could check dinner off of my list. On Wednesday, December 5th , ( December 5th four years ago was when Kira passed away- scroll down to the post - How I found Heroes- to read more about Kira) I started working immediately on the other details of this request. Nathaniel chose Things Remembered for his shopping spree, because they have great items for engraving. I worked with Nathaniel’s mom to figure out what items he wanted from Things Remembered. Then I called Things Remembered to be sure they had enough items of each in stock. Then came the task of figuring out the fireworks!! I had to be sure fireworks were even legal in his neighborhood, so I first called the Fire Marshall. Or a few until I figured out which one was the correct one. He gave me a recommendation for a fireworks company and told me what kind of show was allowed with out permits. I played phone tag with his recommendation for a day or two and decided to google fireworks companies in Houston. I came across the Phoenix Design group . JACKPOT!! They were so nice and willing to help. Whew… I am feeling someone good at this point! Kind of amazed it’s all falling into place. Kira definitely had a hand in all of this and was obviously telling people they had to say “Yes!!” to my every request!

So now I have dinner, the gifts, and the fireworks! I need to find a place in his neighborhood where they can shoot a 1.4G fireworks show and not be close to any buildings. We find the place, but then I have to figure out who owns it. So after many calls to the school by the park, the police department, the parks and recreation and multiple homeowners associations, I finally figure out which homeowner’s association owns the park. They want a written request so they can ask their board if it’s okay to use the park. By this time it is Friday evening and I am trying to pull this all off by Tuesday, December 11th.

Whew! I get the letter to the homeowners association, they approve it, so then I have to call the Phoenix Design group and the Fire Marshall to let them know!

So we are all set! Tuesday rolls around and I meet Nathaniel, his Mom, and two Houston volunteers at Deerbrook Mall for a private shopping experience at Things Remembered. He chose the wording and the font for the items and then we went to the jewelry store to choose the necklaces for his Mom and two grandmothers. He chose necklaces with his birthstone (aquamarine), so they can always wear him around thier necks. So precious!!

Nathaniel rests all afternoon because it is going to be a long night. At 6:00 the family (well most of the family) arrives at the pavilion in their neighborhood park (Carrabba’s decided the pavilion would be a nice place for the dinner). The dinner was supposed to start at 6:00 but a car chase on 59 had some of the attendees sitting in traffic for hours.

At 7:00 we started the evening off with the fireworks show. It was a 5:00 minute show with lots of oohs and ahhs from the family. The best part was that the fireworks actually brought a smile to Nathaniel’s face. He was in so much pain the entire day that there were very few smiles. Jumping through all those hoops was definitely worth it for that one smile!!!

After the fireworks, Carrabba’s served the dinner family style. Thankfully, Nathaniel was feeling well enough to eat, so he was able to thoroughly enjoy the food. Once everyone was finished eating, Nathaniel and his mom passed out the gifts to the family.

His family was so thankful for the presents and so thankful that Heroes for Children was able to provide this great celebration of life for Nathaniel. We’ve now set the bar very high for each Heroes Milestones request to follow, but it was SOOO worth it for just that one smile. See first picture up top.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December Volunteer of the Month

I'm a little late this month on posting our Volunteer of the Month, but not because she didn't get me the information in time. She did. In November. And yet, with so many recent blog entries, I haven't fit in one about my favorite paramedic in Houston.

I don't think it is possible for me to say enough good things about Pat Locke and her sweet, caring nature. She is the Volunteer Chair of our Heroes and Handbags Houston event for the second year now and never misses a meeting--even in the middle of a 24 hour shift or after a full day of no sleep. My favorite thing Pat has done with us this year is helping coordiate all the efforts for Holiday Heroes in Houston. Four families were "adopted" for Holiday Heroes this year. Pat coordinated Handbags volunteers with team captains and volunteers assigned to each individual family. She shopped for a total of four hours, wrapped one family's gifts, and even got her daughter Hanna's friends to help make ornaments! This week, thanks to Pat's leadership, all the families will receive their gifts, trees, and even meals from their team captains. You know--coordinating volunteer efforts in a city where you aren't based isn't easy. But with Pat's help, it sure is a lot easier than it would be!

So--I give you Pat Locke, our December Volunteer of the Month!

Name, Age, Occupation:

Pat Locke
41 years old
Paramedic Field Supervisor, Montgomery County Hospital District EMS

How did you get involved with HFC?

Randal Locke, my husband’s brother… you know the story (October Volunteer of the Month!)! He’s SOOO passionate about HFC. It’s hard not to get caught up.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?

I have 3 awesome children: Nathan (fantastic musician and guitarist), Seth (3.75 GPA after his first 2 semesters in college – yeah!) and Hanna (incredible athlete, champion of numerous causes for the weak and downtrodden and quite the free spirit). All 3 are such independent thinkers – can talk about almost any issue (politics, religion, economy). I love it! They definitely are not afraid to disagree. They are my life’s work. I am so blessed to be their mom and am amazed every day.

I have 2 dogs – Dixie – Princess Dixie – the greatest dog (a flashy fawn boxer) in the world ever and Cash (as in Johnny), who is a lab PUPPY. Oh my. Love my dogs. They are inside, lap dogs. Cash: What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine and where’s the party?! And then Dixie: “Oh, you’re gonna be in touble!! I’m going to sit over here and watch.”

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..

I’ve climbed two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado.

Favorite place to eat:

Place? As in singular…just 1? Yikes. What day is it? Chuey’s…I guess.

What’s on your book shelf?

I’m an avid reader so I keep lots of books around and read parts of them randomly and over and over…here are a few:

Eat, Love & Pray by someone I can’t think of right now
Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado (he’s from my hometown of Andrews – great guy!)
How to Talk to a Liberal if You Must by Ann Coulter
A vast array of Daniel Goleman books on Emotional Intelligence and leadership
Last, but not least, The Sweet Potato Queens! Always good for a laugh

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?

Oh wow. Music is a huge part of my life. James Taylor, Cross Canadian Ragweed, George Winston, Rodrigo y Gabriella (instrumental guitar), Reckless Kelly, Chris Cornell, Ben Danaher, The Eagles, Bon Jovi…

Who’s your hero?

My mother, who handled life, and death, with such grace, poise, wisdom and dignity. She taught by example and loved her family. I am blessed to be able to say I was truly raised by such an amazing woman.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Heroes Delivers!

Our new program Holiday Heroes has proven to be a huge success! We delivered to our first family last week. I had the pleasure of joining one of our Holiday Heroes groups deliver their gifts to the family. We took bags and bags full of wrapped presents, a Christmas tree, a tub of ornaments and decorations to the family.

Trevon (nine year old with osteosarcoma) and his two siblings were there to help decorate their house for Christmas. There were Christmas carols, kisses, and hugs all around between the children. It was the most precious scene!

The highlight of the visit was when Trevon collapsed, in jest, to the floor after opening up an envelope with signed pictures from his favorite wrestlers. He couldn’t believe his eyes! Just wait until he opens the rest of his gifts. Thanks to our awesome volunteer Megan, who contacted WWE to get memorabilia and signed pictures of his favorite wrestlers, Trevon will have WWE gifts a plenty!

Heroes for Children and the wonderful Holiday Heroes volunteers have ensured that this Christmas will be a beautiful memory for Trevon and his family to cherish for a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Year end Giving

Tis the season for shopping, partying, and hopefully reflecting on the reason and spirit of the season. We all tend to get caught up in the many stresses of the holidays.... i know i do, at least!! Getting just the right picture of the kids made for the Christmas cards (which with 4 kids is no easy task!!) Picking out that perfect gift for everyone, all the parties, etc.. etc...
Many of us make year end gifts this time of year. Heroes for Children relies on gifts such as these in order for us to continue to help those families in need. This time of year we get MANY requests for assistance. Families are trying to make ends meet, AND provide some type of Christmas for their family. It is not easy. I remember when Taylor was in the hospital over Christmas. It definately made me realize that I would give up EVERY material possesion I had just to have my daughter well again. Heroes for Children has adopted families this year to help make their Christmas special. We even fulfilled a special request from a teenage boy that is terminal, all he wanted was to buy gifts for his family and friends so they would have something to remember him by. Thanks to our new Heroes Milestones program, we are able to make his final wish a reality.
Please take time during this busy holiday season to reflect on the blessings in your life, and if you are able, make a gift to Heroes for Children as a gift to someone special in your life.
I will leave you with one final thought. Just this week i asked my six year old daughter, if she could have just one thing for Christmas what would she want? She said another baby sister! I said, well sweetie, that is not going to happen, so what else? She said, to have Taylor back. Oh how I wish I could make that wish come true.
Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Austin's Story

A smile and a laugh--that is what I think about when I hear Austin's name. His laugh is infectious, the kind that makes you want to think of more funny faces and silly stories to keep the belly laughing going longer. The kind that makes you forget that he has cancer.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Heroes for Children on YouTube!

In February of this year, Heroes for Children, with the help of a talented man named Kyle Raybourn, created a DVD for donors, volunteers, and presentations. The video featured the stories of three beautiful and inspiring families. In September, we got the idea that this needs to be on YouTube. But, it wasn't as easy as originally planned. The DVD was too long. So, I went to Kyle and asked in his busy schedule if he could help us find a way to showcase these HFC families and stories. The result? Three vignettes for you all to enjoy! Be on the lookout--we will feature each story separately here on the blog, and then they will be on the Heroes for Children website as well.

On this Thanksgiving day, I give you the story of Julianna. I know her family has much to be thankful for this year and every year! Staci--thank you so much for participating in this with us. We're honored to have you apart of Heroes for Children!

Note--if you ar a subcriber of the blog receiving this as an email, you may have to visit the site itself. Pop on over. Leave us a message!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A spoonful of HFC

Dear Friends,

I've been meaning to write for about a week. But a trip to Houston, wrap party for Hold'Em for Heroes, shopping for our new holiday program, and general work, I got behind. So, instead of several different blog posts, I'm throwing it all together for you in an HFC list of updates!

  • We WON!! Heroes for Children won the Blogger's Choice Awards for Best Charity Blog!! 261 votes placed in support of Heroes for Children. Channeling a little Sally Fields here--You like us!! You really like us!! In all seriousness--thank you to those that placed your vote in support of Heroes for Children and this blog. I love blogging and love the communication it allows us to have with the many Heroes for Children donors, supporters, etc. We would love to have more people reading, so be sure to share this blog with everyone you know!
  • On a side note--if you are a subcriber of the blog and receive this as an e-mail, I invite you to pop over to our blog site and leave a comment. We love to read your comments and feedback on how things are going with Heroes for Children. Let us know if there is a topic you would like to see on the blog, ask a question, or just say hi! We want to hear from you.
  • In the past two weeks, I've shopped at Walmart in San Antonio, Dallas, Plano, and Houston! Why, you ask? Because HFC launched our new program for families, Holiday Heroes. Holiday Heroes adopted fourteen families throughout the state (selected by social workers in the hospital based on the needs and resources of the families). Volunteers in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston stepped up to the plate to shop, shop, shop! From clothes to Christmas trees to electronic game systems, we bought some great gifts for the families. I can't wait to take the items to the families (I promise to post more than). Until then, I think I will opt to stay out of Wal-Mart for a while. Who knew that shopping would be SO much work?
  • It's that time of year! Oh yes, it is the time of year for us to think about the holidays. With the holiday season, it's also time to consider our charitable giving. I sincerely hope you will consider Heroes for Children during this time. Making a gift to charity is a great gift for a loved one.
  • Laptops for Love has seen record numbers this year. With restricted dollars from our Hold'Em for Heroes and Golf Classic events, we will be purchasing new laptops this December and January. This year, more than forty laptops have been donated to teens (compared to half that in 2006!). I love this program and love what it does for the teens. Last week, I received this email--"There is a 16 year old boy whose family is very poor who is inpatient for chemo every other week. His parents can't afford to take time out of work, so he's pretty much in the hospital by himself all day. I have seen him two other times before today when we went in, and he is always completely wrapped up in blankets, hat on his head pulled down almost covering his eyes, won't make eye contact, and basically grunts a response if you try to engage him. Today we went in and [the other social worker] goes "So, I've got something to tell you" and he does his grunt thing, and she goes "There's this organization, Heroes for Children, and they have program with laptops" and he doesn't respond and she goes "I'm hoping to get it in the mail any day now, but we got you a laptop" and he goes "What?" and looked at her, and she goes "You're going to get your very own laptop. To keep. It's yours. You can bring it home" and I swear to God the kid goes "A laptop???" and actually SMILED." Now that's powerful.

So there you go. One big healthy dose of Heroes for Children all together for you. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. I sure have plenty to be thankful for this year, and one is most definitely the love and support shown to Heroes for Children. Thanks for being a part of that.

Very gratefully,


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Pop Star and a Super Hero all rolled into one!

Kayla is our newest member of the Super Heroes Birthday Club! With her sassy, glamour girl party, Kayla took the opportunity to educate her friends and family about what it means to give back. During the party, party goers decorated goodie bags with fun items for cancer kids. They gave coloring books, crayons, necklaces, card games, and much more! In lieu of gifts, Kayla collected more than $500 for Heroes for Children! Way to go, Kayla! Not only were you a glamour pop star (what a diva!), you were a super hero too!

We're honored to have kids like Kayla collect donations on their birtday with the easy to use Super Heroes Birthday Club package. Kayla received a membership card, will have her picture featured on the website for HFC, gets a certificate for "saving the day on her birthday," and will be invited to be on the special Super Heroes team for the 2008 5K. Most importantly, Kayla knows that she did something very special and that she is a hero too!

You rock, Kayla.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

November Volunteer of the Month

Katie and Casey Pascuzzi

I have had the pleasure of working with this volunteer for over a year and half. The moment I met her, I knew that Katie and I would not only work together, we would become friends. Thankfully, I was right!! I love working on the Heroes for Children Golf Classic every fall. The best part? Getting a chance to talk with Katie every day! Her energy, enthusiasm, and love for those around her keeps me motivated and inspired. She gives so completely of her heart. In 2006 and 2007, Katie helped raise more than $120,000 for Heroes for Children through the Golf Classic. Not only did she tirelessly work on the Golf Classic this year--she did it pregnant! Luckily, she had the ability to go and rest at my house with our dog during the tournament to rest for sweet Carmen Grace (coming December 2007!!!).
Katie--Thank you for your work for Heroes for Children. You're the best. I look forward to more "Katie and Jenny" shows working with you in the future.

Name, Age, Occupation:

Katie Pascuzzi, 25, Domestic Engineer (Housewife)

How did you get involved with HFC?

My previous employer, Willow Bend Mortgage, was a presenting sponsor for the Golf Classic in 2006. As the Business Development Manager it was my job to oversee the operations of the tournament for our company. During that time, Jenny Scott and I became fast friends and I fell in love with HFC and their mission. That is why I agreed to Chair the Golf Classic in 2007.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?

I am currently pregnant with my first child; a little girl, Carmen Grace, who should be arriving sometime in December. We also have two four legged children, Kiah 5yrs, and Maverick 1yr. Both are SPCA rescues and of course the best dogs in the world=)

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..

I’m actually 25; I still get mistaken for a teenager-even since I’ve been pregnant. I don’t see it, but I guess I will like that someday=)

Favorite place to eat:

Rick Steins Steakhouse; I don’t make it there very often, but when I do it is definitely worth it!

What’s on your book shelf?

Lots of books about dogs, horses (I used to compete in equestrian competitions), and now, children.

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?

Right now I am hooked on Taylor Swift, but I also have John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Justin.

Who’s your hero?

If a hero is someone who inspires you, I would have to say Beth Moore. Her passion for the Lord inspires me to be a better person and follower of God. One day I hope to be as dedicated a servant as she is.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hold 'Em for Heroes

Our new men's event, Hold ’Em for Heroes was a huge success bringing in a new breed of Heroes for Children supporters… the husbands!!

Hold ’Em for Heroes was held on October 25, 2007 with over 100 men showcasing their exemplary (or should I say novice) poker skills. The men had a blast playing Texas Hold’Em and re-donating for the cause. The highlight of the evening was the live auction for the Laptops for Love Program. At first, the men bought 13 laptops but once we mentioned the fact that the ladies bought 17 laptops at Heroes and Handbags a few months back, the hands started flying. We ended up selling 19 laptops. This means 19 teenagers will be able to connect to the outside world during their treatment!

Thanks to everyone who made the event a huge success. We are so excited to spread our mission to a new breed of HFC supporters!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

16 families, $12,000, 1 laptop, 1 week

Yes, you read that right. This past week, Heroes for Children provided 16 families with more than $12,000 for direct financial assistance as well shipped one laptop to a teenager receiving treatment at Cook Children's in Fort Worth. Let me tell you about a few of these families:

  • 11 year old boy with Germ Cell Carcinoma and a 6 year special needs brother. Living more than 45 minutes from Texas Children's Hospital, the family travels for treatment and incurs extra expenses due to the son's cancer. HFC will pay rent and utilities for November.
  • 10 year old girl on a ventilator. Her battle with her cancer has come to an end, and the social worker requested assistance towards the young lady's funeral as the parents made the difficult decision to come off the vent.
  • Grandmother raising five of her grandchildren with little involvement from the mother. Grandfather the sole breadwinner of the family, and one of the children battling cancer.
  • Six month old baby born with cancer that has lived in the hospital since she was born. Devastatingly sad.
  • Utility assistance for a family who has been in the cancer battle for more than FOUR years. The strain has become so difficult on the single mother of three and her lights were disconnected on Wednesday afternoon. Within less than six hours, Heroes for Children got them turned back on!

The stories continue. It is such an honor to continue to help families at this level. With the success of our fundraising events (such as our INCREDIBLE, fun, awesome Hold'Em for Heroes event last week--great job, Christi!!), support from individuals and corporations, and benefit events, Heroes for Children is able to provide the necessary relief that is lacking for so many of these families.

Thank you for being apart of this solution for us!

Monday, October 22, 2007

An Interview with Inspiration

Today I had the pleasure and honor of sitting down with Dr. Barbara Jones, current president of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers (APOSW) and Co-Director of the Institute for Grief, Loss and Family Survival in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Jones teaches graduate classes including Loss and Grief: Individual, Family and Cultural Perspectives and Social Work in Health Care, has published numerous articles regarding chidhood cancer and palliative care, and is a member of several committees and boards including the LiveSTRONG Adolescent/Young Adult Alliance, Alliance for Childhood Cancer and Social Work Hospice/Palliative Care Network. She has devoted her professional life to researching and advocating for children with cancer and pediatric palliative care, grief and loss issues.

All this and she made time to sit down and inspire and motivate an exhausted and cranky graduate student!

In addition to picking her brain about current pediatric oncology social work opportunities and projects currently underway in Austin, I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her a few questions with the Heroes for Children blog in mind. Always willing to help an organization devoted to the cause of childhood cancer, she graciously agreed to share her expert opinion with me.

What do you see as the most pressing concerns or issues facing pediatric oncology social work today?
Dr Jones: I think it's crucial for social workers to be present across the treatment continuum, to be part of the team alongside the healthcare professionals, from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship. Social workers are currently employed to assist families during the crisis situation of treatment, but for patients who survive, and for those families whose child does not, support services are necessary to fully address ongoing psychosocial issues.

How can pediatric oncology social workers best assist families as they face childhood cancer?
Dr. Jones: Be quiet and listen! Sit with a child and be present, be their witness, and then be their advocate. But first, you have to listen to them.

What's new and exciting on the horizon in this field?
Dr. Jones: Well, first, we're doing a tremendous job. Right now the cure rate for childhood cancer is 80%, which means that there are roughly 270,000 childhood cancer survivors today. I think the challenge facing us right now is how do we as social workers help survivors incorporate this monumental experience into their lives as they move forward, an experience that certainly shapes their identity as they mature and grow. For example, one of the things I often hear from survivors is how grateful they are for their experience, which is not necessarily something you would automatically think of! So I think we need to address this aspect of childhood cancer - how do we assist survivors in the longterm as they assimilate their cancer experience into their lives?

If you had advice and/or requests for a nonprofit designed to help families facing childhood cancer, what would they be?
Dr. Jones: First, patients need financial support for the basic expenses of living. If a mother is in the hospital with her child, she's not going to be thinking about paying the electric bill. Often a parent will have to quit her job in order to take care of her child with cancer, and then you have the issue of childcare for other children in the house. So money for basic necessities is the first step.

Then, I think funding for support services after the child leaves the hospital is something that is desperately needed, but often not provided. A child might come back to the clinic once a year for a check-up, and does not have the free access to counseling and other resources that are provided by the hospital social worker during treatment. In particular, parents often encounter a lot of trauma after the fact, once the child is in remission and they finally have time to process that they almost lost their child. If we can get support services in place that are comprehensive and far reaching, that would be fantastic.

Thank you so much Dr. Jones for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to inspire, motivate and remind me why I'm working so hard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Heroes Milestones

Heroes for Children has some exciting new programs in the process. One of them is inspired by my experience with my friend Kira.

If you remember back to my first blog about how I found Heroes for Children, I mentioned how my friends and I held a high-school graduation party for Kira, in her hospital room. She was diagnosed with leukemia about a month before graduation and began treatment right away. She missed graduation due to a hospital stay, but her Dad wore her gown and cap (proudly displaying Kira’s Dad on top of the mortar board). Her Dad accepted her diploma for her, while my mom was holding up her cell phone to the speakers so Kira could hear her name as it was called out. Before the ceremony, I highlighted a few names before Kira’s and reminded my mom (about a million times) to make sure she remembered to call Kira in time so she could here name being called. After graduation we set out to visit her in the hospital and give her a graduation party all her own!

Kira and her parents were so appreciative that we cared so much to bring graduation to her. Being able to make life as normal as possible for Kira was extremely important. If only for that one day we took her the graduation party, we could make her feel like a normal 18 year old girl, it was all worth it.

Remembering how grateful her parents were, I was inspired to create Heroes Milestones to plan parties for the families, who have children with cancer. Heroes Milestones is our new program to provide special parties for children with cancer. Working with the social workers, HFC volunteers, and other people from the various hospitals we will plan events for milestone events like, Quinceneras, First Communions, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, Celebrations of Life, etc.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Lilly

Here are a few new pictures of little Lilly!! I am working late the next two nights, but plan on getting over to the Linton house soon. Maybe I can take the siblings out to give mom and dad some Lilly time!!

Enjoy!! Aren't newborns the best?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Newest Addition to Heroes for Children

This afternoon, I got to hold the precious new addition to Heroes for Children--Lilly Anne Linton. Angel Taylor's fourth sibling was born yesterday afternoon, weighing in at just 6 lbs 1oz and a little over 18 inches long. Precious Lilly entered the world with the love of her parents and grandmother by her side. Not long after, she got her introduction to big sisters Tristyn and Tessa, and big brother Luke! Both mom and baby are doing great and adjusting to each other well. Let's see how Luke adjusts to having another baby in the house!

Ten toes, ten fingers, a beautiful face, a tiny body, and a perfect little nose. She is simply gorgeous. Not that I expected any less given how good looking her parents and siblings are! I couldn't be happier for my sweet friend.

Please join me in welcoming the newest Linton to the world!

Check the blog again soon--I hope to have pictures soon! And no--just because I held a sweet newborn does NOT mean I am ready to have another myself! I am perfectly content to cuddle this sweet one and give her back to her parents!

Congratulations Larissa, Kenny, Tristyn, Tessa, and Luke. How lucky Lilly is to have such a wonderful family to join.

Monday, October 1, 2007

October Volunteer of the Month

It's the beginning of the month, so it's time for our volunteer feature. The October Volunteer of the Month has been involved since the beginning of Heroes for Children, and since the beginning of Taylor's Angels. Serving as the Chairman of the Board for two years and currently as a Board Member, Randal Locke has been a dedicated member of our team. Currently, Randal is fundraising for the Golf-a-Thon day, putting his golf skills to work to play 50 holes in one day. To support his fundraising, please visit Randal's page HERE.

Randal--thank you so much for your love and dedication. I'm honored to know you and call you my friend.

Name, Age, Occupation:
Randal Locke, 42, Computer Consultant in the Help Desk Industry

How did you get involved with HFC?
I knew Taylor Anne Brewton who was my honored hero with Team in Training for my first marathon. She actually got sick again and passed during my tenure with TNT for my first marathon. It was my first real experience with children with cancer and its effect on the finances of the family. I got to know Larissa very well and joined the Board of Taylor’s Angels several years back and then we became Heroes for Children.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?
I have 1 Son Steven who is 34 and 4 dogs (Chester, Yvette, Sydney and Sheldon.)

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..
I can sing pretty well. Mostly country songs or wedding songs.

Favorite place to eat:
Hooters – Love the Wings and Fried Pickles…..

What’s on your book shelf?
Pictures, I read and watch movies.

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?
George Strait….and other country tunes

Who’s your hero?
As a kid my hero was my Terry Bradshaw, former quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I saw him always making the plays that made a difference in a game when it counted. Then after joining Heroes for Children, my hero changed. I now see that these kids that are dealing with cancer and all of the ups and downs associated with these dreadful diseases are truly Heroes. They fight day in and day out for that extra day, week, month, year of life. They keep a smile on their face, loving life and living in the moment, truly taking everything that they can from life itself. These kids are my new Heroes. Maybe someday, they can all just be kids, but, while there is cancer, there are Heroes. And while there are Heroes, there will be Heroes for Children there to lend a helping hand.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Golfers Wanted

The 3rd Annual Heroes for Children Golf Classic is fast approaching! Golfers tee off on Friday, October 19th at Twin Creeks Golf Club in Allen. Players will enjoy an interactive tournament that will raise funds for an important mission. Sign up today to play!

Not enough Golf? Not a problem!
We are excited to invite you to participate in a special golf event on November 15, 2007 at West Ridge Golf Club in McKinney. All proceeds for this event benefit Heroes for Children. Please note--this is an additional day of golf than the schedule Golf Classic on Friday, October 19th.

Can you play 50 holes to help families with children with cancer? The funds you can raise can help a family keep their electricity, cover the expense of travel to the hospital, or even assist with funeral costs for a child who has lost his/her battle to cancer. Funds raised for Heroes for Children help keep the vital financial and social assistance programs (such as Laptops for Love and Holiday Heroes) thriving for families struggling with a childhood cancer diagnosis.

Event Details:

  • Register as a participant (NO COST TO YOU) and solicit friends, family, and co-workers to sponsor your golf efforts on November 15th.
  • Utilize the tools at the Integrity Golf Solutions website, www.integritygolfsolutions.com, to build your fundraising page, invite other participants to join you in the cause, and gain tips for success
  • Earn great prizes of custom-fit Taylor Made products based on the amount you fundraise. The more you raise, the more you get!
  • Join the other participants on Thursday, November 15th for a great day of golf and fundraising! And yes, players will play 50 holes of golf in one day!

We thank you so much for you desire and willingness to make a difference for Heroes for Children. Without you, an event like this could not be possible. We are looking forward to a very successful event! Register NOW to participate in this exciting new part of the Heroes for Children Golf Classic!

I look forward to seeing you at the Heroes for Children Golf Classic on Friday, October 19th AND our Marathon Day of Golf on Thursday, November 15th. Thank you for your commitment to Heroes for Children!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The HFC Family 5k: The Robinsons Hit Plano

As I left Austin on Friday evening to head to Plano for Saturday morning's Heroes for Children Family 5k walk, I received a call on my cell phone from Jenny, checking to see if I was actually on the road yet. When I replied that we were just getting on to I-35, she cheered "You're coming!" No less than 20 minutes later, my friend Amy called with the same intent. Confused, I asked her "Did you guys actually think I wouldn't come? I told you I was coming!"

She confessed that my group of friends, while hopeful, weren't sure that my family of five would actually make it up for the 8am walk, given my crazy schedule as a full time graduate student in the University of Texas School of Social Work, a schedule that includes 16 hours a week of clinical internship at the cancer clinic at Scott and White hospital.

Truth be told, there was some grumbling on my part as I rushed around like a madwoman on Friday evening, trying to pack up the kids and drop the dog off at the kennel and head out the door for a 3 hour trek north, trying not to think about the research paper and chapters of reading I have due this week. But my friends had nothing to worry about - I would not have missed the Heroes for Children 5k walk for all the graduate class syllabi in the world. Miss the chance to support my favorite nonprofit organization, my inspiration for going into pediatric oncology social work? Not a chance.

We could not have asked for more beautiful weather - when we left the hotel at 7:15am for the walk festivities, it was sunny and cool. After meeting up with my friends, the Weintraub, Franklin, Reininger, Miller and Crowe families, we spent some time bringing the kids around to all the great activities HFC had on hand to be sure little ones were kept entertained and engaged. The bouncy house was the biggest hit with my three kids, but the Franklin trio greatly enjoyed the corporate mascots on hand (including the Chik-Fil-A cow and a giant tooth), Samantha Weintraub was thrilled to meet some Plano cheerleaders, and Deb's daughter sported a gorgeous pink flower on her cheek from the face painting area.

The official ceremony kicked off around 8:45am, with a balloon release and the introduction of the Grand Marshalls, 2 very brave young men fighting cancer.

Larissa and Jenny, getting ready for the balloon release

The balloon release - yellow balloons with 2 red heart balloons for Allie and Taylor

Jenny and daughter Maggie watch Grand Marshall Matthew Marioni on stage

Right on time, we were ready to line up and do the "cancer walk" as my 3 year old Lucy called it. We agreed as a group that we would do the 1k option available (for those of us laden with young children and strollers) and leave the longer 5k walk for a future walk.

Unfortunately, Chuck Weintraub and my husband missed the memo. With the large crowd on hand to support HFC, our group got separated, and the husbands (along with little Ben and my 2 boys) missed the left turn to do the 1k route. So Jen and myself and our two girls waited. And waited. And waited some more.

And that is how Chuck and Ben and Rich and my 2 boys earned the dubious distinction of last place at the HFC 5k walk.

Bringing up the rear (notice how there are no other walkers in sight?)

Last place finishing time

Finally crossing the finish line (Lucy jumped in to finish again with her brothers)

It just goes to show how great of an event this walk is that, even with coming in dead last, my 5 and 7 year olds exclaimed, "We love the cancer walk!"

A few other images from the day:

Jenny Scott, woman at work

As busy as she was, Jenny made time for a photo with me

The Franklin twins enjoy the Eddie Coker concert

We hope to see you next year - last place honors is up for grabs!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In loving memory of Taylor and Allie

Taylor during the summer of 2001 after her first cancer treatment

On September 13, 2001, just two days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Larissa Linton heard the devastating news that her four year old daughter Taylor had relapsed. After six months of remission, time spent at home with her adorable little sisters, and even a fourth birthday, Taylor's cancer had returned, forcing her and her family to go back into the hospital for further treatment. Taylor passed away two months later at the age of four and a half years.

I didn't know Larissa or Taylor, nor had I heard this sad story of her life. I was happily unaware of childhood cancer, working as a middle school teacher in Plano ISD. I had finished my first year of teaching (when I won Beginning Teacher of the Year for all of Plano ISD!) and happy in life with my husband and our dog. Little did I know that I would be intimately connected with Larissa and her story and pain just three years later.

Allie and Mama after her first round of chemotherapy June 2004

On September 13, 2004, the very same day Taylor had relapsed three years prior, I held my daughter in my arms for the last time. At eight months twenty seven days, Allie's life ended. Her little body was just too weak to beat the cancer ravaging her body and she needed to be out of pain.

Every year on September 13th, I spend time with my husband and now 22 month old daughter for "Allie Day." With an event happening in two days, I am here at work for the morning to get some things done, and then we're off for Allie Day. For me, it is a sad day, yes, but a day to honor and remember her memory. I try to focus on the good days, and there were many, then the bad. I concentrate on her smile, her shining eyes, and her beautiful spirit.

I can't help but to think of Taylor today too. There was a reason that we were brought together. So many coincidences are out there between Taylor and Allie and their short lives. I was meant to meet Larissa, meant to work here with Heroes for Children, and meant for us both to carry out our daughters' legacies. So, today I remember why I sit here at this desk at the Heroes for Children office. It isn't to worry about the position a logo goes on a page or whether or not the helium tanks are ordered and paid for (though those are important for us today!), it is really about carrying on in loving memory of Taylor and Allie.

A few thanks...
To our beautiful angels--we miss you each and every day and wish you were here to celebrate being cancer free with us. However, we will carry on your legacy as long as we possibly can.
To the loves of my life Andrew and Maggie--thank you for being the best husband and daughter I could ask for. You fill my heart and make me whole again. Maggie, I wish you knew your sister, but I know she is watching over you always.

To our friends, family, and amazing HFC supporters--thank you for keeping the memories of Taylor and Allie alive each day and for supporting our families with love and compassion. We are so very blessed to know you!
To the HFC Staff--Cheryl, Christi, and Cricket--your dedication to the mission of Heroes for Children is unfailing. This organization would not continue without your hearts and passion. Thank you for giving your energy every day to the mission and for believing so firmly that what we do makes a difference. Heroes for Children and Larissa and I are blessed to know you!
To Larissa--I love you my friend. I never knew sweet Taylor, but I love just as much as I love your other three (soon to be four!!) gorgeous children. Thank you for being my friend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to School!!

Oh the mixed emotions of kids going back to school!! We had such a fun and relaxing summer. It was nice to sleep in and not have to rush the kids out to school in the a.m. Lots of time spent swimming at the pool and playing with friends! Last week, it was back to reality for ALL of us!! I had to get up before 7:00 a.m. (they had to get up before 9:30 a.m. -their summer wake up time!) New teachers, new friends, of course the new back packs and school clothes helped make things a little better!!
Tristyn started 3rd grade and Tessa 1st. Even little Luke moved up to the two year old class!! Everyone is growing up. I have just 5 weeks left til Miss Lilly joins our family!! Less than that if she follows in the pattern of her big sisters. So, Kenny and I spent the Labor Day weekend preparing the nursery for her arrival. I must say, it looks REALLY cute! Pink and green. I have included a picture of Luke and Maggie playing in her crib. Maggie came over to play on Saturday, and boy, did the two of them have a BALL!! They giggled and played, went up and down the slide, ate popsicles, and just had a good old time! They decided to break in Lilly's crib, and i think Maggie would have been content to just sleep there had Jenny let her!!

Last night all 3 kids had on their Heroes for Children 5K t-shirts to sleep in, so i had to take a picture and plug the 5K!!

It is definately going to be the best one yet this year! The kids are so excited. And why wouldnt they be?? Bounce houses, a train, Eddie Coker concert, Sweet and Sassy will be there doing "up do's" for the girls, face painting....... not to mention the actual race!
Be sure and sign up ASAP as the price increases on Thursday!! Hope you all have a great week, and enjoy your kiddos!!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The family that volunteers together....

It's September--which means its time for our Volunteer of the Month for September 2007! This month's volunteer choice is a couple that takes their volunteering very seriously. Jennifer and Allan Rayson have been involved since the inception of Heroes for Children and make volunteering a family priority. While he leads the Board of Directors as the Chairman, she works with a group of volunteers to put on the most successful 5K Run/Walk we've ever had! Jennifer has served as the race chair for the past year, and all her hard work will pay off in two weeks!
We're lucky to have Jennifer and Allan as committed volunteer of Heroes for Children. And my husband and I couldn't ask for better neighbors!! Jennifer and Allan--you're the best!!!
Name, Age, Occupation:

Allan: I am 31 years old, and I am in Commercial Banking at Bank of Texas. I have been in the banking industry for my entire career after graduating from Business School at Texas Tech University in 2000. I am also lucky enough to be the Chairman of Heroes for Children.

Jennifer: I am 30 years old. I am CEO of the Rayson Household. It’s a very busy job – I put in a lot of overtime.

How did you get involved with HFC?

Despite the fact that Heroes had not yet been formed, we became indirectly involved on May 7, 2004. This was the day that we received a sobering voicemail message from Jenny Scott indicating that her daughter, Allie, who was then only 4 months, had been diagnosed with Leukemia. As anyone would if they had received this voicemail, we and several other neighbors set out to raise money to assist the Scott family with their day-to-day expenses by raising money in our neighborhood in Allen. Due to the generosity of the residents of Lost Creek Ranch, we were able to raise several thousand dollars in only a couple of days to assist the Scott family.

We became directly involved with Heroes as it was being formed in late 2004. Allan was initially involved as the Treasurer for the organization in 2004 and 2005 and became the Chairman in 2007. Jennifer is also very involved with Heroes in her capacity as the Chairwoman for the 2007 Heroes for Children 5K Run/Walk.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?

We don’t have any pets, but we have three, energetic boys named Will (age 4), Alex (age 3) and Sam (age 5 mo.). They’re all so different, each with their own distinct little personality. We are enjoying every loud and rowdy minute of life with the Rayson boys! Will has also shown generosity to Heroes by volunteering to have his friends (actually the parents of his friends) donate financially instead of giving him a gift for his fourth birthday in March of this year.

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..

Allan: I enjoy running marathons for enjoyment (and the challenge, of course!). I have run the Dallas White Rock Marathon for the last three years and hope to complete my fourth consecutive race in December of this year. I started running marathons in honor of my little friend, Allie Scott, in 2004, and I have looked to her for inspiration in each of my races since. Not too many people know that I kept a copy of Allie’s memorial card from her funeral in my pocket for my first marathon in 2004 and still have that card today.

Jennifer: Well, running marathons happens to be a hobby we enjoy together, but I’ll try to come up with something else – wouldn’t want to bore you folks. So, one might not guess that I also enjoy photography. Although I use the term “photography” loosely. I love my kids, I love to take pictures of them, and I love my camera that my dear husband bought me that takes great pictures of our little darlings. I’m an amateur no doubt, but I do love it!

Favorite place to eat:

Allan: my favorite place to eat is Luna De Noche when Jennifer and I go out to eat together.

Jennifer: Yep, without a doubt, love the Luna!

What’s on your book shelf?

Allan: the books that I am currently reading are The Smartest Guys in the Room (a book about the Enron meltdown) and Built to Last (a book by Jim Collins about business). However, I usually find myself reading books about Curious George and other children’s topics to the boys more often than I read my own books!

Jennifer: A few of my most recent reads are Boundaries for Kids and The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. Next up is Pathway to Purpose for Women. As you can tell, I don’t do fiction. Most of my books are on the topics of marriage, relationships, & parenting - I need all the help I can get!

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?

Allan: I can’t live without my iPod! I use it almost daily when running or mowing my lawn. It is the greatest invention ever! I hate to say it, but my iPod is loaded with everything from Jay-Z to Johnny Cash to Kid Rock to Alan Jackson…I am across the board when it comes to music!

Jennifer: My what??? I don’t have an iPod and I can’t stand Allan’s. He won’t talk to me when we run together because he’s too busy trying to keep up-- I mean too busy listening to that darn iPod! And I can’t even remember the last time I bought a CD. I’m not really a big music person, I just listen to the radio and I like a little of everything with the exception of rap and heavy metal.

Who’s your hero?

Allan: I have several sports and music heroes, but I have to say that my one true hero is my wife, Jennifer. She is truly the cornerstone of our family (in addition to being the CEO of the Rayson Household) and I admire the work that she does as a Wife, Mother, and Volunteer. Jennifer is Superwoman and we wouldn’t be the same without her! Don’t tell anyone, but she also runs marathons faster than I do, which is quite difficult to handle!

Jennifer: Well, I think you would agree there’s really only one way I can follow that answer…that is if I want to keep the peace around here! So, let me tell you about my hero – my husband, Allan. He works so incredibly hard for our family so that I can stay home with our kids, which I appreciate more than he’ll ever know. I’m sure I don’t tell him thank you often enough. He is kind, loving, and generous – and his sense of humor is what keeps me going after a long day with the kids! We are truly blessed to have him as husband and father – simply could not ask for more. I love him dearly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Press Release--A True Hero

August 16, 2007

Heroes for Children 5K Run/Walk
Matthew Marioni selected as Grand Marshall

Collin County –Matthew Marioni has been selected as one of the Grand Marshall for the Heroes for Children 5K Race/Walk, presented by WFAA, that will take place on Saturday, September 15th at The Shops of Legacy in Plano.

In February 2007, at age 13, Matthew was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell tumor, located in his chest near his heart and lungs, after going to the doctor complaining of a pain in his right shoulder.

After an x-ray showed that he had an enlarged heart, he went to the cardiologist and had a sonogram. The sonogram showed that his heart was fine. A CT scan revealed his family’s worst nightmare, that he had a large tumor located near his lungs and heart.
Because of the location of the tumor, Matthew went through four rounds of chemotherapy to try to shrink it before surgery was performed. Doctors decided it had to be removed. On May 21, 2007 the almost two pound tumor was taken out.

Matthews’s mother, Melissa had to quit her job to care for Matthew. His mom states, “When you have a child with a life threatening disease the last thing you want on your mind is how am I going to pay my bills but the thought does enter your mind and you can’t help it”. Heroes for Children provided financial assistance to Matthew’s family.

Individuals and teams can help support Heroes for Children so they can continue to provide financial assistance to families who have children battling cancer by registering for the 5K Run/Walk or the 1K Family Fun run event at http://www.heroesforchildren.org/5k.html.
September 15th, the date of the Heroes for Children 5k race/walk, will not only hold a special memory for Matthew because he is the Grand Marshall, but it is also his birthday. He will be turning 14. A day definitely worth celebrating!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Celebration for Heroes for Children!

The Board of Directors broke open a bottle of champagne in celebration last night. We toasted the memories of Allie and Taylor and the many families we have served since our creation in November of 2004. Our celebration? The fact that we crossed over the HALF A MILLION DOLLAR mark in relation to our program services for cancer families!! As we were still operating as Taylor's Angels until the end of 2004, we count this total from January 2005 to today.

That's right, half a million dollars spent on families in less than three years! So, what does that mean exactly? Well, it's....

  • 6 hospitals in Texas
  • 695 requests for assistance
  • 52 laptops donated directly to older children battling cancer
  • 48 funerals
  • 20 sperm banking requests
  • 10 wigs for teenage girls
  • Thousands of beads through the Beads of Courage program at Medical City Children's Hospital and coming soon to Christus Santa Rosa and MD Anderson
  • 2 wheelchair ramps
  • 1 prosthetic eye (covered the expense for a patient with eye cancer)
  • Much, much more!

I cannot tell you how happy we are to celebrate this milestone. Thank you for being apart of our celebration! Raise a glass--here's to many more requests and the next half a million to families!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Volunteer of the Month

Heroes for Children recognizes that we would not be where we are today if it wasn't for the commitment and love of our volunteers. Volunteers donate their time and energy to our mission, ensuring that more families are benefited each and every year.

It's time for our first Volunteer of the Month! Each month, we will feature a different volunteer of the month. It will remain on our website for the month, as well as be featured here on the Everyday Wishes blog.

The 2007 August Volunteer of the Month is Megan Williamson. Megan has been volunteering her time and energy helping launch our new fundraising program, the Superheroes Birthday Club! Be sure to visit the page (and yes, that is Megan's adorable son Hopper on the top of the page!) and click on the invitations to view. Each one was specially created for Heroes for Children by Megan!

And now, here is our fun questionnaire featuring Megan Williamson:

Name, Age, Occupation: Megan Williamson, 26, real estate investor & mom.

How did you get involved with HFC? After learning about HFC, we raised money for the organization in lieu of gifts for my sons first birthday party. Jenny saw the party invitation I had designed for it and asked me to help launch the "Super Heroes Birthday Club" by designing custom birthday invitations for the program...and they haven't been able to get rid of me since. ; )

Do you have any kids and/or pets? We have a son who is 15 months now, and three to many diva dogs.

From looking at you, no one would guess that... When someone knocks on my door and I answer they usually ask if my parents are home, when I get a manicure I will likely get asked if I'm getting my nails done for prom/homecoming, and when I went to the airport to show identification for my ticket she was surprised that I already had a drivers license. So from experience, I would say most people wouldn't guess that I'm older then what I am.

Favorite place to eat: Simon's Sushi in Plano

What's on your book shelf? On my bookshelf...to many to list. Presently residing in my nightstand for night time reading; Boundaries with Kids & Domicilium Decoratus.

What's in your iPod/CD changer? I don't know which is worse, that I don't have nor know how an iPod works, or that our CD changer only has Groove to the Music by the Backyardigans for my son to bop to.

Who's your hero? Someone that has been inspirational to me was my stepfather Walter Gregg, that I lost to cancer while I was pregnant with my son. He was very loved and respected and I admired him for his compassion to children in need throughout his life. After experiencing his fight with cancer and the effects it had on him and my family both emotionally and financially is what originally gave me the drive to become involved with Heroes For Children

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Camp Discovery= Amazing Learning Experience

I just had the privilege of volunteering at American Cancer Society’s Camp Discovery I spent a week with 100 volunteers (some who have had cancer and the rest who’ve been touched by cancer in some way) and 150 kids (ALL who have been touched by cancer).

Going into camp as a first time counselor I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I was a green girl counselor and I would be in charge of watching over 10 and 11 year old girls for the week. I was honestly expecting most of them to be in varied states of health (e.g. extreme pain, hair loss, headaches, nausea, etc.—all the side effects of chemotherapy). But that is not at all what I was welcomed with. The great thing about Camp Discovery is that once you become a camper, you are a camper for life. So the Green Girls show up and they are all HEALTHY VIBRANT young ladies! Most of my girls had been off treatment for a while and were doing very well. It was very exciting to see that camp was there to give them an outlet to spend time with people who have experienced somewhat the same ordeal as they have. Don’t get me wrong, some of the other campers were in varied states of health, like just being released from a bone marrow transplant recovery, or a neutropenic state where they have low immune systems so they are extremely susceptible to infections. But those campers still go to camp and they have the time of their lives. They go fishing (and when the catch one they have to kiss it), they go dancing, they go horse back riding, shoot archery, they raid the boys cabins, and all the other normal camp things. It’s amazing how much energy the kids can generate from each other. Everyone, including volunteers and campers are so supportive throughout the whole camp!

One of the most touching features of camp is the remembrance ceremony they hold every year. The ceremony is a way for Camp Discovery participants to remember those who have lost their fight against cancer. Each camper who has passed away since last camp has a special candle dedicated to them with their picture and a special poem. Not only is it a time to remember past campers, it is also a time to remember anyone you have lost. I went to the ceremony, not to mourn the campers that had passed, but to mourn for Kira (that sounds selfish, but keep reading) and through my tears I could see all of the pain in the campers faces. It really hit me then, that not only do they have to deal with their own diagnosis and treatment, they have to deal with everyone else’s they meet in the hospital. I luckily (or not so luckily) have only been touched closely once by a cancer death, but I now know 150 other kids who have been touched a lot more by many more cancer deaths! Now EVERYDAY I will be working for those kids. When I mourn it won’t be just for Kira’s face I see, it will also be those camper’s faces!

Camp Discovery was a truly amazing experience. Jenny said Camp would be one of the best training tools for my job and she was right. Now everyday when I go to work I have the memory of all of those campers to think about—to keep me motivated to raise funds so we can help more and more families.

Upcoming Heroes Events

It’s that time of year!!! Save the date for all of Heroes for Children’s exciting events!

Join HFC in September at their annual 5K Run/ Walk at the Shops at Legacy. The 1K starts at 7:30 and the 5K starts at 8:00. Bring the whole family out to Plano for bounce houses, a trackless train, face painting, and a special show by children’s performer, Eddie Coker.

On October 19th we have our annual Golf Classic . There are two shot gun starts for the Golf Classic, one at 7:30 AM and the other at 1:30 PM. Come out to Twin Creeks Country Club and enjoy a fun filled day of golf, raffle prizes, great food, and more! This year we have exciting new features for the Golf Classic so be sure to register your team today!

On October 25th we have our inaugural Hold’Em for Heroes event. This one is exclusively for the guys. The ladies have their fun with handbags, it’s about time we let the men have some fun! Hold’em for Heroes will be held at Brook Hollow Golf Course from 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM.

And for the grand finale, in April 2008, the annual Heroes and Handbags will be held in Dallas and Houston. In 2007, the Handbags events collectively raised about $500,000!! So be sure to save the date for the Dallas Heroes and Handbags event on April 4th, 2008 at the Hilton Anatole . The Houston Heroes and Handbags event will be April 11, 2008 at River Oaks Country Club .

Visit our website or email Christi if you would like more information about Heroes for Children special events!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How I Found Heroes

Thanks for the great welcome to HFC! I am so excited to begin my career with HFC! I found the organization online last winter and immediately knew I had to work for them. As soon as I read HFC’s mission, I was hooked.

In May of 2003, one of my best friends from High School, Kira, was diagnosed with AML. Her college physical blood work found the leukemia. She was immediately sent to Charlottesville for treatment and was in and out of the hospital for the remainder of her senior year. She didn’t even get to walk across the stage because she was undergoing treatment. Her father wore her gown and walked across the stage with her cap that proudly stated “Kira’s Dad”. My mom called her on the phone when her name was about to be called out so she could hear the principal call her name and the resounding standing ovation. After graduation, a few of us drove to Charlottesville to throw Kira her own graduation in the hospital. I spent the summer spending time with Kira either in Charlottesville or her home.

In the fall, I traveled to Houston to attend Rice University. It seemed like they had the Leukemia under control. I went back to Virginia in October for Fall Break and spent time with Kira. She was so upset during the fall because she was supposed to be in college like the rest of her friends. Her new chapter in life consisted of hospital stays and chemotherapy, not interesting college classes and new friends.

In November, she was sent to Seattle for a bone marrow transplant. However, when she arrived in Seattle the doctors told her the leukemia had progressed too much and a bone marrow transplant was not possible. The doctors told her she not be able to make the flight home, but she would have none of that. She begged and pleaded for them to fly her home. She flew from Seattle to Virginia and I immediately caught a flight from Houston to Virginia. She made the flight and began hospice care at home. I spent the next week at her side helping her parents take care of her. It was the most heart-wrenching experience. I could just see the life being sucked out of her little by little. She stayed alive to say goodbye to all the people she cared about. One friend wasn’t able to come right away, but she was very important to Kira. Once her last friend arrived to say goodbye, Kira died a few hours later. She was surrounded by her 13 disciples. I will never forget seeing her take her last breath! She died six months after her diagnosis, just a few weeks before her 19th birthday.

That is what lead me to HFC. Jenny and Larissa lost their girls to AML and I lost Kira to AML. After her death, I decided I wanted to work for a non-profit that was cancer related. Here I am at HFC and I can’t wait to help HFC grow and succeed so it can help more and more families!

Things I learned while visiting Kira at the hospital.
~ Laptops really do make a difference
~Crosswords puzzles and books are boring after a while
~Hanging coloring pictures on the wall is good thing to get people out of bed- Kira loved the Disney princesses (Cindarella)so I gave her crayons and a coloring book and her mom taped them on the wall so Kira would get out of bed and color
~Remembering milestones is huge, like birthdays and graduations!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Welcome Christi!!

I'm bubbling over with excitement! Just a few more days and Heroes for Children grows by one new staff member! Please join me in welcoming Christi Disch as the new Special Events Coordinator of Heroes for Children!

Christi joins the HFC team on Monday ready to jump in to our planning process for all our fall events. No, we won't make her responsible for all the events right away, but we're SO looking forward to an extra pair of hands around here. She will work specifically on Hold'Em for Heroes and Heroes and Handbags Dallas and Houston, as well as assisting with the others.

Christi, known to our Houston group as "Christi the Intern" has been volunteering for us since January. She attended all meetings with the Core Team of Heroes and Handbags Houston to assist in the coordination of the inaugural event. A Rice senior looking for her out of college job, she contacted us last December. She found us and loved the mission of Heroes for Children, having her own personal experience with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (I'll leave that story to Christi). Her passion for working for nonprofit and her drive truly impressed and inspired us.

At the time, we had no position available, but we knew our rapid growth was going to leave us needing someone sooner than later. So, I struck a deal with her--volunteer with the Houston group for Heroes and Handbags and see how you like us (and us see how we liked her--we LOVED her instantly though!). My promise was that if it all worked out, we would have something to offer her by April, or she could go elsewhere in Dallas to let another nonprofit snatch her up. Then, I began planting the seeds to the board. By April, we had a position created and an offer ready. Three months later, we are anxiously awaiting her official start date here in the HFC office!

So, I ask you our blog followers, please welcome our new staff member! Leave her a comment to give her a warm welcome on her first job (and a giant congratulations for graduating from Rice University this May!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Charity begins at home

I believe that most parents want to raise their children to be compassionate, altruistic members of society. I also believe that many parents are at a loss as to how to ingrain and impart this attitude, particularly with today's frenetic and harried schedules and pace. We as adults may satisfy our wish to give back by donating money to our favorite nonprofits or boxing up outgrown toys for the local shelter, but young children can't exactly write a check (and often have trouble with the concept of giving away their toys!)

Furthermore, when it comes to the realm of pediatric cancer, I know many parents feel uncomfortable with the idea of exposing their children to the realities of seriously or terminally ill children. I have known people to say "I just don't want to have to explain a child dying" or "it just hits too close to home" and prefer to keep their own healthy children unaware and sheltered from the knowledge that their peers can, and do, become very, very sick little boys and girls.

I understand the ostrich instinct; it is overwhelming and devastating to put faces to the statistics, to care about individual children and grieve when they lose the battle. But for me, I view the fight against pediatric cancer as a golden opportunity to really teach my children what it means to be empathetic. I want them to understand that yes, children get very sick, and yes, children can and do die; I want them to learn, even at a tender age, that we have a responsibility to help those who need it - and that not everyone is as lucky as them to be healthy.

My children have known about pediatric cancer for 3 years now, since I did my first Light The Night walk in 2004 in honor of Allie Scott. They got to know a little boy who was fighting cancer, and knew when he lost his battle. It was a hard discussion to have with my two older boys - that this sweet baby boy who went trick or treating with them on Halloween and came and swam in the pool with them lost the fight, like Grandpa Joe (my Dad) who died of pancreatic cancer. They understand death, as much as any of us do, and I watched their eyes grow wide as they struggled to understand that this young and playful baby that they knew would no longer come over.

But they also met children who were and are beating the disease. While I inwardly cringed when my oldest son asked my colleague and friend's son (age 5), with a serious and concerned tone, if he was "going to die from the cancer", I also knew that this conversation, this openly concerned and interested dialogue, was ultimately a very good thing (and luckily my friend agreed). My children not only know that other children get cancer and sometimes die, they want to help. They want to make a difference.

So it was no surprise to me that, after seeing a lemonade stand by our community pool recently, my oldest son (age 7) came home with the idea to have his own lemonade stand, and the following conversation ensued:

Me: "Hey, maybe we can do a lemonade stand sometime this summer and you can raise money to bring to Dallas for the 5k walk in September."
Son: "That's a good idea"
Me: "Yeah, did you know my friend Miss Jenny's job is to help kids with cancer?"
Son: (his eyes big) "It is?"
Me: "Yup. She owns her very own business, and she raises money and then gives it to families who have kids with cancer"
Son: "Wow. Why does she care that much?"
Me: "well, do you remember Allie? Remember how mommy raised money to help kids with cancer, and there was that baby named Allie who died from cancer?"
Son: "yes! I remember her picture!" (from the team banner/t-shirts)
Me: "that was Miss Jenny's baby"
Son: (thinks for a minute) "Well she must care an awful lot then"
Me: "yes she does"
Son: "well I think we should help Miss Jenny! We need to help kids with cancer too!"

For me, that awareness and compassion that I am hopefully cultivating is worth the loss of their naivete and innocence that children are invincible, and can always be protected.

For more ideas on how to raise charitable children, see this article.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Becoming an Educated Donor and Volunteer

I like to check in with Charity Navigator Trent Stamp's blog on a frequent basis. This week, he posted a link to an article in Money Magazine educating donors how to be efficient in both their monetary donations and volunteerism for charities.

I think the point of the article is reminding people to find the passion in what they are commiting to. Get involved with a charity (doesn't have to be this one, though we love to have you!) because it means something to you. Doing something out of obligation never is effective.

For me, I had to narrow it down. I run a charity, so that means I tend to have a bleeding heart. I watched American Idol's show Idol Gives Back and like the rest wanted to reach for my phone and get to calling for my donation. I have been fortunate to attend many charity events in the last few years. I have not found many charities that aren't doing good works for good causes. But, I just can't give to them all.

So, this past year, I narrowed down my list. Naturally, Heroes for Children is my largest charity involvement. Well, it does pay my salary! But, and this is the more important part--it is what means the most to me. I love the cause and I love to see the positive effects of the dollars to the families. It is hard for me to give money to any other group. With the exception of very small donations to support friends or family (such as a donation to my mother in law's Team in Training run last year). But, I do volunteer my TIME, which I feel is just as important in many cases, to a different group other than Heroes for Children.

I've been fortunate to be the Arts & Crafts staff member (Director this summer--yikes!) for Camp Discovery, a week long cancer camp for kids 7-16 from San Antonio, Dallas (Medical City Children's Hospital only) and Austin. The camp is funded by the American Cancer Society and free for all campers. Since January, I have attended monthly planning meetings to help in the coordination of camp. Camp is in two weeks and I can't wait! I spend one exhausting week with kids, working in the A&C room to create woodworking projects, lanyard necklaces, and fuse bead art. I even suffer through my least favorite activity--tye dying--and participate in the ever disgusting "Jello Wars."

For me, it was about finding what means the most and sticking to just though. Heroes for Children and Camp Discovery have my heart. What has yours?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cancer stinks!!

It seems like everyday, more and more people around us get diagnosed with cancer. It is mind boggling, and hard to understand. Just last week, a dear friend had surgery for breast cancer, a young mother....why???? Then another friends husband was diagnosed with AML, after they already lost a child at the age of 2. We can put men (and women) on the moon, but can't discover what causes or cures cancer?? It is such a hard part of my job to think of all the parents and families out their that are currently dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis. It is so heartbreaking, when you know personally what they are experiencing. Very sad. While HFC can help, it is never enough, and we can not wipe away the pain. Cancer robs these precious kids of their childhood, and that is NOT FAIR!! Taylor would be 10 years old next month. TEN!! It is hard to believe. I only had her for 4 1/2 precious years. Not near enough time.
Karen Stevenson, aka "Cupcake" is a fabulous photographer here in town. She has taken some great pics of all my kids. Her old assistant, recently lost her son to complications from leukemia. Karen is having a photography contest to raise money for the family. All you need to do is snap a close up picture of your child's eyes, send it to her and a $5 minimum donation. All $ goes to the family, and you have a chance to win a great prize!! Check out www.photographybycupcake.com for all the details!!
On a brighter note, my 3 kiddos are all doing great and enjoying their summer!! Lots of time spent at the swimming pool, (well except for this week!) Luke just LOVEs the water, and will stick his entire face in it! Tristyn loves to carry him across the shallow end, while he kicks his little feet!! They are such blessings in my life! Tristyn even will put Luke down for his nap or bedtime now! What a huge help she is!! That will come in handy when baby sis is born! We had a great time at our board of directors/advisory board pool party last Sunday. All the kids enjoyed swimming, sliding down the huge waterslide and chowing down on some delicious hamburgers! Thanks to the Smith Family for hosting us!
Happy Summer!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How did I get so lucky?

Julianna during treatment

Sometimes I look at Julianna and wonder, how did I get so lucky? She is such a GREAT kid - seriously! She will stop whatever she is playing with and help me if I ask her to. This morning, I decided that I wanted to move all of the toys from what is supposed to be my formal living room (though we've been using it as a "play room") and move them into Jamison's room. She was right in the middle of watching Madagascar, but she stopped and helped me for three solid hours. She worked SO HARD. I kept telling her that it was fine with me if she went and watched her movie or whatever, but she was happy just helping me. She is always so giving to others.

I remember when Stewart Investments sponosored our Make a Wish Foundation wish and they had a cocktail party for us on the top floor of a high rise building in downtown Dallas. They presented Julianna with literally a MOUNTAIN of Disney related toys. It was enough for 10 kids, but most of it was for her. There were a few gifts for Reagan and Jamison too. She didn't know that at first. She was 3.5 years old at the time of the party, and while I was making a speech and thanking everyone for their generosity, Julianna was making three piles of toys. I finally asked her what she was doing, and she said, "Well, this pile is for Reagan, this pile is for Jamison, and this pile is mine!" Yes, her pile was a little bigger ;) but can you believe that she was sharing without even being asked? She didn't even need to share because her siblings already had gifts. What a sweetheart.

When she was four, she got up before everyone in the whole house on Easter Sunday and hunted all of the Easter eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden. She came into my room and proudly announced what she had done. I kind of shrugged and thought to myself, Well, I guess I will need to hide some of those eggs so that Reagan and Jamison can hunt a little, but when I went into the living room, on the coffee table sat three Easter baskets - all of them full of the hunted eggs. She had evenly distributed all of the eggs into all three baskets! FOUR YEARS OLD!

I hope that she always stays this giving. She has such a kind heart, and I think it will carry her far. She has been through so much in her short life, and you'd think she'd be somewhat jaded, but she definitely isn't. She knows that she was sick - she remembers. She just chooses to look to the future instead of dwell on the past.

Sounds like a good plan to me.