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The CureSearch Walk was lovely. Thank you so much to those of you who came or who donated money to our team. Northeast Ohio raised more than $47,000 for the important research of the Children’s Oncology Group.
Last year, because the weather was so awful, people registered quickly, walked with their heads down against the wind and took off before the rain came. This year, on a gorgeous sunny morning, we had the opportunity to actually have a ceremony and what an emotional ceremony it was.
The event opened up with Steve Crowley, father of Olivia and co-chair of the Cleveland walk, saying these words into the microphone, “There are two things no parent ever wants to hear: Your child has cancer. And I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else we can do.” Well, the crowd of gathered families got quiet pretty quickly with that one. I’ve heard that first statement (three times too many) and hope to never ever hear the second.
He was followed by our own Dr. Auletta, proudly representing Rainbow, and then oncologists from both the Clinic and Akron Children’s, all repeating the same message: pediatric cancer affects too many children and families, is the number one cause of death by disease for young people, and is pathetically underfunded.
Then there was the balloon release. So we’re all standing around on the grass in front of the stage at Wade Oval and you can see this woman up there with a huge handful of helium balloons and you’re sort of wondering who’s gonna get to hold them and what they’re for (and you know the kids were all wishing they were for them), and then the MC invites up the families who’ve lost a child to cancer. And they slowly start to trickle out of the crowd, one or two at first, parents and grandparents and little kids who’ve lost their brothers and sisters, some individually, some in groups. And suddenly there’s this big crowd up there, much bigger than it ever should be, and Sarah MacLachlan’s Blackbird is playing over the loud speaker and it was just devastating, crushing (play the song before reading on if you really want to experience this). Everyone was crying as all those families slowly let go of their balloons (how many times must they let go?) and up they floated, a crowd of dead children in the air above us, hovering for a moment and then taking off with the wind until they were nothing more than tiny white dots in the sky.
And then, while I was still wiping the mascara off my eyes, they invite the survivors up to the stage. So I popped my sunglasses on my face and carried Austin up with the others. A line of children, some young, some teenagers, many with hair just growing in, plus one grown man — a twenty-year survivor — standing up with his own healthy children, received their survivor medals from Mayor Jackson, Austin hiding his head in my shoulder the whole time.
And then, the heavy moments behind us (in more ways than one), we walked, in front of the Art Museum and around the pond, now more interested in ducks and geese than chemo and doctors. Kids just being kids, running ahead, lagging behind, laughing and chasing each other. Families just being families, enjoying a beautiful summer day. Together. As it should be.
I didn’t really have an overwhelming response from all of you after my last post but I’m going to operate on the if-I-build-it-you-will-come principle. I have created two teams for the June 10 Kick It event in Chagrin Falls: Team Austin for 7 to 9 year olds and Team Austin for 4 to 6 year olds.
The organization is very lax about ages and categories, so your children can sign up for whichever team they are most comfortable. Obviously, if you have a 6-year old first grader who’s a classmate of Braedan’s, you may sign up for the 7-9 team. The woman I spoke with even said that 10-year olds or 3-year olds can sign up if they want. (It’s just kickball, after all!)
It’s free to register but is of course a fundraiser for vitally important pediatric cancer research so a small donation would be much appreciated. This event was started in Chagrin Falls by a local boy and has a huge following of supporters there, so it should be really fun. The games will take place at Gurney Elementary School between 6 and 7:30 pm, followed by games, food, a bounce house obstacle course, the whole bit.
What better way to celebrate the start of summer than with a kickball tournament? Please sign your kids up here by clicking on the appropriate team. You don’t even have to create an official fundraising page, you can just add their name and contact info (much easier and faster than the CureSearch site, I promise!). Spread the word, bring your friends, cheer us on … play kickball, cure children’s cancer.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a post that has generated so many comments, both here and on Facebook, so thank you for your thoughts and your encouragement.
More musings as we work through this decision: A few of you referenced my mom and the fact that my family moved from a “regular” house to a larger and grander one shortly after the birth of my brother Cory. (My parents, three teenagers and a baby had been sharing one bathroom, so I guess I can’t complain!) Well, my mother hated living in that new house and we moved again within eight months. But–and this is important–it wasn’t the house that made her so unhappy; it was the neighborhood she’d left behind. We had lived on the corner of two vibrant blocks that were absolutely swarming with kids. We walked to school in a rowdy pack, played our summer night games (Ghost in the Graveyard and Release the Dungeon) across a dozen backyards, had elaborate block parties with bike races and square dances. My parents met people on that street who become their closest friends and have remained so to this day. So, despite the fact that we only moved a mile away, it was a huge loss for my mom. As a stay-at-home mother, she felt isolated and lonely on a block filled with old rich people. (Ironically, that very street today is alive with young families, but the turnover had yet to occur.)
So it wasn’t that my mom regretted moving to a larger house (in fact, the house they moved to next and that they still live in today is larger than that one was). It’s the people that surrounded them. The lesson here for me is a big one. We live on a nice street now, as I’ve already said and we have lovely neighbors, people who are friendly and stop to chat and follow along with Austin’s story (and I know a lot of you are reading and I truly mean no offense). But these are not our closest friends and they are not the best friends of our children. In fact, there are surprisingly few families with young kids on this block.
Now the block we might move to, the block with the big house, is swarming with young children. I’ve been told by one woman (part of the group currently lobbying us to move there) that there are 43 kids in a block-and-a-half stretch. Forty-three kids who have bike races and lemonade stands, play wiffle ball and kick-the-can, and who walk together in a noisy jumble to public school.
My mom is actually strongly encouraging this move, saying things like, “Oh, I walked by it today and that house doesn’t look all that big.” Now anyone who knows my mom and her reluctant attitude towards extravagence, knows how funny this is. But, in her mind, there is nothing like belonging to a street of families who’ve come together to raise their children. That is the strongest bond. It is our village.
We’re leaning towards it, if you couldn’t already tell. We go back tomorrow with a contractor we know and trust who will help us gauge the significance and necessity (and cost) of improvements and upkeep. For those of you who’ve asked very specific questions, it does have all new copper plumbing and a brand new roof, and yes, we are taking heating costs into consideration (it’s one of the biggest considerations!).
As Mark and I lay in bed last night discussing it yet again (you see, that’s our only chance to talk uninterrupted), we noted how happy we’ve been here, happy as a couple and happy as a family, and we wondered if messing with that could be a mistake. But we both agreed that the happiness and the magic is not in the house. It’s not in this house and it’s not in that one. It’s in us. And we’ll pack it up and bring it with us wherever we go.