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With the holidays fast approaching, its a great time to expose children to the joy that volunteering, and giving back to those in need can bring. Way back when I was a sophomore in high school, my favorite nun, Sister Marie Gregory, approached me and my best bud in the halls. We thought we were in trouble for something! It turns out she was recruiting students to accompany her to the mountains of West Virginia to help fix up homes for those less fortunate in the Appalachian Mountains. I had never really done anything like this before, but knew I liked helping people – that was something that my Catholic education had instilled in me from a very young age. I went on to attend this work camp yearly for the next 7 years and looked forward to it every year. What’s the point of this story you ask? Certainly not to toot my own horn, but to show you that when you expose children and young adults to the joy of giving, it doesn’t go away. Ever since then I have had a need and a longing to give back. This is one thing that is so very important to instill in our children so that they can continue to wish to help others as an adult. Sometimes its hard to find opportunities for children to get involved in giving, but here is a great opportunity to do just that!!
About twelve years ago, I was a special education teacher at a HCPS elementary school. I worked with many super talented and amazing people, one being Betsy, a Speech Pathologist. We became great friends from the start, and Betsy attended our wedding shortly after I started working there. About a year later, our first daughter, Jocelyn, died suddenly at 2 months. Betsy was one of the people who helped me grieve her loss and supported me in ways that I will never be able to thank her enough for. She was one of the ones who just always knew the right thing to say, or not say – and one who wasn’t afraid to just call me often to check on me. You can imagine the emotion we both felt when arriving to work one day, both announcing to each other and our other co-workers that we were BOTH PREGNANT – me with our rainbow baby, who would ultimately help heal our broken hearts, and her with her long awaited first baby! What are the odds of that?!
Mermaid was born to us March 17th, 2005 – just a week before what would have been Jocelyn’s first birthday. Ashton was born to Betsy just 5 days later on March 22nd! We were elated that they would be best buds, just like their mamas! Over the next few months, we did many things together including a weekly playgroup, outings, frequent phone calls and attending breastfeeding support group. We had the best time together, strengthening our friendship, going through new motherhood together.
Then, i will never forget the phone call i received one day in September. I was at Annie’s playground with hubby, six month old Mermaid and some friends – we were all taking turns volunteering to build Annie’s playground – a memorial for a child who was killed by a drunk driver while attending the circus with her family. We were there volunteering because a brick would be placed in our angel’s name there shortly after it would be completed. Betsy was frantic saying that Ashton had been taken to the hospital while at day care – at that time I don’t think they knew that he had a stroke, but knew it definitely was not good. I remember feeling terrified for her, and that it brought up so many of the feelings that I had when we were scared that our Jocelyn wouldn’t make it. I SO wanted to take that fear and pain away from her and I dropped to my knees asking God to please save our dear friend’s baby, Ashton. He did. However, it was found that he has Arterial Veinous Malformations (AVMs). This is a condition that he would have to live with, for there is no cure. It is also extremely rare and complicated. You can read more about his condition here on his Facebook Page.
As I type this post, I have tears in my eyes. Ashton is now 11.5 years old and is the bravest, kindest person I am privileged to know. We have watched his successes and set backs many times over the years. I probably have said way too much, but I wanted everyone to know how special Ashton and his family is to us. They have received the support from so many, that they host this Annual Day of Giving so they can give back to the community. That’s how special they are! I really hope you all will consider attending and giving to this family’s causes! It brings us great joy each year and I think it could do the same for your family!
I would like to take this opportunity to invite anyone interested to come to Ashton’s Day of Giving which is taking place at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church this Saturday November 5th 2016. It is the perfect opportunity to expose children to the joy of helping others. I guarantee if you decide to attend, you and your family will see for yourselves how special Ashton and his family are. My hope is that you will feel moved enough to want to volunteer, give back, or help others in some way.
At Ashton’s Day of Giving there is something for everyone! Here are some ways you and your children can “give back” on that day:
Ashton has been the recipient of many units of blood over the years during his hospital stays, so a blood drive is a big part of this Day of Giving. The red cross will be set up to receive blood donations from 8:30-2:30. I am proud to say that I will be donating blood for THE FIRST TIME EVER in honor of Ashton and another dear friend who recently was in the hospital and needed multiple blood transfusions. Did you know that there is a critical blood shortage at this time? They are even cancelling many non-emergent surgeries because of a lack of blood. What a better time and thing to do?! Giving blood saves lives! If you are not in our area, you can find a blood donation center here. Give blood in Ashton’s honor!
Donate Pillow Cases!
Pillow cases are donated to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital and given to children to brighten their rooms while staying in the hospital. These can be store bought or home made. Think characters and fun bright patterns to put a smile on the kids faces! JC Penny and Dollar General are great options if you wish to purchase your pillowcases. Or you can even order them on Amazon – here are some suggestions:
You can even write a little message and include in with the pillowcase, saying “Get Well Soon” to the recipient! This is a super fun way to get kids involved – have them pick out the pattern! If you wish to donate pillowcases but can’t get them by Saturday, contact me and I will be happy to get them to Ashton’s family at a later date. They always need them at the hospital! I’ll be sewing mine up this week.
Donate Canned Goods and Non-perishables!
St. Matthew’s has a food pantry that really needs replenishing around this time before the holidays. All the food goes to needy families right here in our community. If you are not in our area, again, please donate to your local food bank in honor of Ashton!
In addition to the donating aspect of this gathering, there is FREE FOOD, generously donated by many local organizations. In the past, Kona Ice, Chick Fil A, Pats Pizza, and more have donated yummy food. There has never been a shortage, so come on out and have lunch or some snacks while we enjoy each other’s company!
This event really is so much fun for the kids! Here is a schedule of events you can enjoy. Come at any time, stay as long as you like and leave whenever you want. There are even door prizes!!
10:00 – Magic show by “Magic Jack”
10:30 – Raven’s Superfans
11:00 – Visits from “The Magic Continues” and “Your Fav Princess” Princesses, Super Heros, Ravens Superfans and other characters!
12:00 Officer Off Beat show
Face Painting, crafts and activities for kids and door prizes.
SEE! Look how much fun you can have with your family, all while showing them the importance of GIVING. I hope to see you there! If you cannot make it to this event, but still want to volunteer or give back in some way, please find something that suits your family. You will not regret it for sure! If you wish to donate to Ashton and his family’s needs (his medical bills are very high!) you can do so here on their Go Fund Me page. Ashton, Betsy and the rest of the family are the most humble and appreciative family you will meet. See you there! Please message me with any questions, and don’t forget to share your family adventures on Instagram with the #harryupandgo. I can’t wait to hear about the ways you get your family involved with giving back!
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