Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Note of Thanks

This afternoon, the staff at Heroes for Children received the following email note of thanks from Caren Heilman, pediatric oncology social worker at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin. It is notes like this one that make us feel truly blessed to work each day to support families battling childhood cancer.

Thank you, Caren, for sharing!!

I just wanted to send a thank you note to everyone at Heroes For Children. Thanks for all you do for our families through financial assistance and the laptop program. At this time of year, it has made a significant difference to be able to tell families that we can get a bill paid for them when things seem to be impossible from their perspective.

It has been especially remarkable to give out the rest of the laptops that were allocated to our patients. The looks on our patients’ faces has been priceless. Several parents even became tearful. I wanted to share that most of them are so appreciative, but one patient was in disbelief. He examined the laptop very closely and began planning how he would go about taking care of it to ensure that his siblings (all six that remain in the home) would not damage it. He read the release several times and then got out his phone and began typing in information (I am guessing the name and location of your organization—I didn’t ask because his mother was so moved that she was crying and talking to me at the same time). I would not be a bit surprised if he ends up contacting you himself.

So thanks to all of you from all of us. Thanks for making it possible for us to bear witness to these little moments. These are some of those inspiring moments that remind me how very much I love my job. Our staff has gone through a difficult time lately, but when I tell them these stories, or they get to take part in these moments, it sticks with us for a long time and makes the difficulty just a little more bearable.

Happy holidays and peace to you all,

Monday, December 14, 2009

December Volunteer of the Month

I can't think of a better person to highlight this month than Ashley McClain. When she became involved with our organization this summer, it was just days before her big surgery. Co-Founder Larissa Linton shared her conversation with Ashley and how inspired she was that Ashley wanted to get involved through our Heroes for Children 5K Run/Walk. Days after her surgery, the first step in her battle with breast cancer, Ashley was rallying friends, family, coworkers and everyone else she knew to get involved with the 5K. Her team Fighting Spirit blew us away at the event! Ashley won Best Team Captain for her work and her team won Highest Fundraising Team.

Since then, Ashley has volunteered her time, helping with data entry or working on a mailing. This is in between juggling her work, family, and oh yeah, her own treatment. Ashley continues to amaze and inspire all of us at Heroes for Children. Her story is incredible. I'll leave it to her words for you to learn more about our Volunteer of the Month, Ashley.

Name, Occupation:
Ashley McClain. I am an attorney by trade but have worked for Chubb Insurance for the last 8 years handling employment law and casualty claims. It is a great job and much better than practicing law!

How did you get involved with HFC?
In the beginning of July, my family spent the night at the Great Wolfe Lodge. While there, I ran across a little boy around my kids’ age (6-7 years old) who had cancer. He had lost his hair and it appeared that his dad had supported his son by shaving his head. They were having the time of their lives but at one point I heard the little boy, who was obviously upset and in pain, say that he did not feel well and needed to go back to his room. I was full of so many emotions watching this family-I felt blessed that they had the opportunity to laugh, play and enjoy their time at the water park but also was deeply saddened by the unexplained pain and experiences the child, his sister and his parents were obviously going through. While watching the family, I found myself laughing with them while at the same time tears rolling down my face. I spent hours thinking of this family and could not get them off of my mind and heart.

Even though days passed after our trip, I would still go to sleep and wake up thinking about why this family had been stricken by cancer. I called the Great Wolfe Lodge several times to find out how I could help similar families enjoy their precious time they had together and after a long game of phone tag, they directed me to Make-a-Wish Foundation. However, a short 20 days after our trip to the Great Wolfe Lodge and before I could contact Make-a-Wish, I was diagnosed with cancer.

The news was not fun to hear but all I could think about was that I can beat cancer and I knew something good will come out of it for my family, friends and myself. I have a truly blessed life with a great husband (even though he can be a little much at times); two wonderful kids; an awesome family that is always there for me; fun, crazy and caring friends; a great job and a truly remarkable church, St. Andrew United Methodist Church.

I knew I would get better and my only wish was that my journey could help people that were not as blessed-- such as the little boy who touched my heart. While praying for how my journey could help others, I came across the wonderful organization-Heroes for Children. I loved Heroes for Children because they provide financial and social assistance to Texas families with children battling cancer. To top things off, when I was doing my research, I saw they were holding their 5k on September 12th—which is my awesome niece Tiffani’s birthday. Tiffani and I had been talking about running a 5k in the Fall of 2009 for over a year. As I started chemo on September 3rd, I was not able to run the 5k with Tiffani but she and about 70 other of my friends and family joined her and my team, Fighting Spirit, for the race. The ladies at Heroes for Children and their mission really touched me during this time and I have really enjoyed volunteering there since the race.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?
I have two wonderful girls. Avery is in 2nd grade and is my princess. Kendall is in 1st grade and is my jokester. Kendall and I have bad allergies so we don’t have any pets but enjoy the neighbors’ animals.

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..
I love to watch sports (any and all kind) and play games (poker, pool, board games, fantasy sports, etc). I am very competitive!

Favorite place to eat:
Finos-which is a little Italian restaurant across the street from my house in Plano. If you have not been there, I would highly recommend it. If you go, there is a very good chance you will see me there because we eat there at least once a week. The guys there are all from Italy and make some great food.

What’s on your book shelf?
All of the Twilight books—such a great love story! I also have my journal that I write in when I feel inspired, worried or just bored.

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?
I love the Taylors—Taylor Swift and Taylor Hicks (yes—the American Idol winner from several years ago!) I know after hearing I read Twilight and listen to Taylor Swift, you might think I am a 13 year old girl. Well I am not—I am 39!

Who’s your hero?
Ellen DeGeneres—I love anyone who can make people laugh, is comfortable being themselves and does such great things for people less fortunate.