Monday, September 28, 2009

Crazy Uncle Earl

I have a beautiful family...not a problem in the world. But there is this one issue....

I am one of the chosen cousins who has been assigned the job of planning our extended family reunion that happens once every four years or so.

The problem? It's my family. We have a trillion of them at last count.

I'm not exaggerating.

And we're not one of those low-maintenance families that can agree on stuff. You've heard of those families that all like to camp or all enjoy Disney type vacations? That's not us. You've seen the ones that all agree to wearing the same t-shirt and posing for the photo? We will be lucky to get Uncle Earl to wear a shirt at all.

I need your help. You most likely have a family and have attended a family reunion. Tell me about it. What did you do? Where did you go? How affordable was it? What was your favorite part about it?

Where do you go to have one of these things and how do you make it affordable so that everyone can participate? I'm looking for a specific suggestion on location or a type of event or activity.

My wife will judge the best comment and the winner will get...a new hula girl air freshener or something else mostly new that will be a delightful surprise to you.

Please help!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Pile of Cash, Some Bald Kids, and a Medal

Thank You! You did it.

The Walkathon raised over $50,000. And you made something extra special happen. Because of your very generous response, Von raised over $3,000, more than any other team at this very large event.

He was called to the front to be recognized for it and he thought this was his cue to unpack his bag full of money andhand it over. He eagerly kept pulling dollar bills by the handfulls out of his bag and shoving them in the Director's hands while bills were being blown around in the wind. It was fun to watch Von get the concept of giving back and taking so much delight in it.

The starting line looked curiously like my high school prom decorations.

Von got to walk with Olivia, who is battling the same kind of Cancer he has and is just a few months behind him in treatment protocol.
Michelle, Lacey, Angel and Deanna raised their own funds on Von's behalf without ever having met him. Amazing people!
Vienna poured her heart into the fun run. (I like to think she gets her legs from her dad.)

Elle was still going strong at the finish line and could have run a few more laps.

And Sofie ran with the grace and the strides of a gazelle. She also beat a boy, I might add.

The the most significant part of the day for me personally was seeing Von run in the fun run for the 4 and 5 year olds.

I thought the little kids were running fifty yards to the orange cones as the finish line. The kids took off and I could see Von hobbling with his shoulders tucked and his elbows thrust out side to side trying to keep up. Because the drugs have affected his legs, he has to wear braces and...well...I just couldn't wait for him cross the orange cones not too far from the start line and be done with it.

As the kids kept running past the orange cones, it dawned on me that Von was going to have to run the entire way around this half-mile lap. I saw kid after kid passing him and as each one did, he would look over his left shoulder and watch the person pass. I knew he would never make it.

As a dad, I wished I could run for him and then without realizing it found my feet moving in a mad sprint to catch up with him before he got discouraged and turned back. I saw him ahead, still getting passed and slowing each time he saw someone overtake.

I caught up to him and pulled up on his left in silence. He looked over to see who was passing him, almost at a walk now, and then raised a tired and discouraged face.

His eyes met mine and a smile of recognition exploded on his face. And he said something profound that made me feel like a million dollars. He just said, "Dad!".

We ran together, me encouraging him and him throwing is elbows out in a renewed effort to go fast. I even had him dangle from my hand as I jogged and helped him get caught up to the group.

He crossed the finish line pretty spent from the long run but got a participants medal. You could say I'm a proud dad.

Why was that the highlight of my day? It made me think of this past year and the many who have given generously, have come alongside our family, who have prayed, extended grace, communicated, and cheered us on. It made me think that we, like Von, sometimes needed to be carried a little...and you were there.

Thank You!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tomorrow's Big Day

Tomorrow is the HopeKids Fundraiser and you have made it a success by some very generous giving. I have not been able to keep up with the personal thanks, but will be in the next few days. We are so overwhelmed with your kindness and support. Thanks to your generosity, Von has raised more than any other fundraising team by several hundred dollars.

We will stuff a briefcase full of some one dollar bills and hand these to Josh tomorrow to help Von connect with the concept of passing on your generosity as a way of saying 'thanks'.

Permit me to look back one more time this week before we wrap up the HopeKids week. This clip was taken when Von emerged from a dangerous and life-threatening fever. Some of you remember my desperate request for prayer. The next day the fever left and doctors (and us) breathed a big sigh of relief.

How do I know it was a miracle? The video shows all this energy and life in him, that was missing just the day before.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and for giving to HopeKids on Von's behalf. If you missed out and still want to give before 10am Central on Sunday, you can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Darth Vader to attend the big giving event 5...two more days until the big giving occasion.

I found this video tonight and remembered the past year. But there is a family downtown Minneapolis tonight that is taking a video just like this of their kid getting his first chemo treatment and looking at the year ahead and wondering what to expect. We're going to do something to help that family through HopeKids!

I was again shocked today when I checked in on the donation summary for the HopeKids event. I thought there was a type-o. You have given on Von's behalf and he is the second highest giver (thanks to you) in the whole fundraiser. Thank you! (You can see the log on his contribution by clicking here.

This day reminds me about a story in the world's best-selling book about a man named Jesus who bumped into ten pathetic looking men with some awful disease, probably much like cancer.

In the story, the men were made whole and sent off along their merry way. But one man comes back to Jesus and does something contrary to human nature-he thanks him!

My heart wells with gratitude tonight because of your participation with us in exercising a grateful heart. Together, we're like the one guy that came back to Jesus to thank him.

If you're just now joining us, we are two days away from the event and can read about why we are doing that by clicking here.

If you still want to donate something small, you can do so here.

I'm working on a way to have a whole heap of dollar bills for Von to unload from his backpack and give the HopeKids director on Sunday as a symbolic way of saying thanks to Jesus, you, and HopeKids for this past year.

And if I know Von, he is going to ask us if Darth Vader can show up to the ceremony and do the honors in a deep voice.

Disco Bowling and Fake Tornadoes 3 of 6 till Von's big giving day...

Von is in Mexico tonight and is getting updates about the large sum of cash he will get to hand over to Josh on Sunday. Thank you all for the love and support. I was completely knocked off balance today with your generosity.

Von remembers this past year's doctor's visits, the early morning drives for an emergency hospital visit with fever and shakes. He can tell you how to vomit without crying and how to hold still and breathe into the Darth Vader mask while they do a spinal tap.

He remembers the blue mask he wore everywhere, the leg pain and braces, the medicines, the shots and the embarrassment of the curious stares as people realize eyebrows AND hair are missing. (He still asks me about the girl in the church nursery who said she didn't want to play with him because he was missing hair.)

Von remembers Ellie Willeart his peer in age and cancer battling buddy and remembers her funeral. She and her family are amazing examples of grace and Von will remember Ellie forever.

But Von also remembers bowling in blue disco lights. He can tell you how to make a tornado on stage from seeing the Wizard of Oz play. And he knows from shaking the scarecrow's hand afterwards that stage makeup is creepy up close.

He remembers being the reason HopeKids was sending him and his family to see the movie Up and can tell you it felt special. He can also show you how to yell at the ball game to get the noise meter on the scoreboard to go up.

He knows what it feels like to wear a 'free pass' wristband from HopeKids to the mall of America and the joy of handing these out to your sisters.

Now that we are through the rough part, we want to exercise a grateful heart and help make it possible for HopeKids to keep sending other little boys and girls and their families on normal little outings. You can make a small or large tax deductible gift here.

We are humbled by your overwhelming response. Thank you! We will be sending you a little special gift from Von. (Sorry, no fake dog poo!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Malaria Healer and Tool Belt King

Continued from yesterday...

Think of this, if you had to be told today your child is going to have to battle cancer for the next three years, and this first year would be a real doozie, the last kind of things you think about are planning a fun escape to the bowling alley, or making time for some important family photos, or springing for tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters to celebrate the little successes in the treatment plan.

HopeKids did just that for us. They helped us be a normal family through some abnormal circumstances. In fact, without them, this past year would have been spent thinking a whole lot more about cancer than about being a family and getting through.

This coming Sunday, Von and family are walking a 5K to help raise some money so that HopeKids can keep on doing what the do best. Von is looking forward to handing Josh the money he raised this coming Sunday.

Von got excited tonight when I told him that two very cool people have donated some money that he will be able to give to HopeKids.

Mary Kauffman, the Malaria Healer and second mom to me, made a very nice donation. She is the one who before nursing me back to health had picked me up off the floor during youth group and told the kids it was a malaria fever that made me pass out and that they didn't need to start a prayer chain for a drinking habit. Her mothering instincts came through and sensibly came a dollar short of the 'Affirming Weggie' donation amount. Thanks Mary!

Jamey Clayberg, the only man who appreciates construction tool-belts as a fashion accessory, gave the 'Knuckle Bump' amount. He is cool enough to know the real name of that move where cool guys hit their fists together without any fight erupting. Thanks Claybs!

You can also give Von a $5 "High Five" and it is pretty easy by going here.

Von is sending a special gift to Mary and Jamey. I'll post what that is tomorrow.

Fair Warning-Smiles Ahead!

I'll be blogging every day for the next week in a shameless attempt to ask you for a small amount of spare change.
Yes, I'm sharing the photo of Von at his worst (and I think his best because of his smile) to get you thinking that direction.

The reason?

Von and our family want to give back to the people that have helped us be normal and get through our first year of battling childhood Leukemia. One year down, two and a half to go!

HopeKids is a small organization that focuses on doing small, ongoing, and thoroughly helpful things for families like ours.

If you've ever read our blog and thought, 'they need to quit having so much fun and get busy battling cancer', then blame HopeKids. They are the ones who provide all these opportunities for us to be normal instead of 'the family with the bald kid.'

I'll post more about HopeKids and what they do in the coming days.

For now, think about giving $5 to Von to give to HopeKids at the next HopeKids event. We set up a donation site to make it easy here.

Don't do anything quite yet. Tomorrow, you may have an incentive to do better than $5 and one can't live with regrets especially with a smile like this!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hot Tub Rules

Conversation in the car last week while Von and I drove to the hardware store to buy sandpaper and guy things:

Me: Terry at Make-a-Wish called and said they are working on your hot-tub. How does it feel to soon be the owner of a hot tub?

Von: Good.

(long pause)

Von: Dad, if I take my medicine and they wash the cancer away and it is all gone, do I still get to keep the hot tub?

Me: Yes, yes, yes!!!

It makes me happy to tears to think that Von is through the roughest part of his treatments and that the generous people at Make-a-Wish granted him a hot tub. It's perfect! Our whole family will get to enjoy this with Von over and over.

It is his hot tub and he is making up the rules. When asked what the first rule of the hot tub is, he says, "You have to wear a swimsuit."

That's a great start.

Thanks Make-a-Wish!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

And the wish is...

Grab your suit! Von is the proud owner of a hot tub, thanks to the fine folks at Make-a-Wish!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A little bit of screaming and jumping tonight

Today is the day. The big day. I bet it will look a little like that big lady running down the isle on The Price is Right!

For the past 10 months, we have been using any incentive to get Von to do his best to fight cancer. In this photo, fake dog poop was the best carrot we could muster.

We've been telling Von that if he is a big boy, and takes his medicine, and cooperates nicely in his treatments, he gets to make a wish and it will be granted.

So tonight we will meet the Make-A-Wish folks and they will announce to Von that they will grant one of his three wishes.

1) Trip to Africa
2) Hot Tub
3) Motorcycle Sidecar

I can't tell you how handy this wish granting business has been to us as parents these past months. There will be some noise and celebrating tonight.