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Here’s a link to an article I wrote for the St. Baldrick’s website, which was posted today.  They had originally asked me to write something about the sibling aspect and the friendly competition we set up between Braedan’s and Austin’s teams. But that can be a bit of a touchy subject around here, especially as Austin’s team was both larger and raised more money than his big brother’s.  Fortunately, Braedan hasn’t seemed to notice that, in part because their individual donations came out so close (thank you, everyone, for taking the time to split your money between them), but I didn’t want to draw any more attention to it than necessary.

So, I switched my focus long after the kids’ bedtime last night and here’s the piece, which I’m pretty pleased with.

There’s also an article written by one of the doctors at Rainbow, Alex Huang, focusing on his St. Baldrick’s-funded research. He was never Austin’s direct provider, but it’s a pretty small world over there so we’ve certainly known him over the years. It was really interesting to read his background and how losing childhood friends to cancer drove him into this career.  And I love his closing line: “Most importantly, my personal involvement in St. Baldrick’s fundraising efforts affirms my commitment to pediatric oncology research every year, so I don’t ever lose sight of why I am doing what I do in the first place.”

And, at the risk of boring you all with my repetitive lines, here’s an article from the April Heights Observer about our event, written by — ahem — Mark (his wife was clearly referenced and quoted too often to be the author).

There are so many reasons we love St. Baldrick’s. Of course, the very necessary research they fund is the main one. But these events and the shavees give us so much more than that.

Here are some of the gifts, large and small, we’ve received from our involvement with St. Baldrick’s this year.

There are tangible gifts, actual boxes that arrived in the mail and were excitedly torn open:

And then there are the gifts that could never pack up and mail, no matter how big the box. One middle school boy, who’s shaving at our event, is honoring his aunt who died nearly one year to the day of March 11. He originally set a goal of $500 but, upon seeing the reaction of his friends and family, quickly raised it to $1000 and had now increased it to $1,500. The husband of one of my best friends is also shaving, as part of Team Gallagher at AJ Rocco’s (along with Mark and my brother Kirk). This friend said he would happily have donated $1,000 on his own if he could, but since he can’t, he’ll raise it instead. And raise it has, in a mere 24 hours.

And there are more gifts, sometimes in place of gifts: One of the six shavees from St Paul’s Cooperative Preschool had his 5th birthday party over the weekend and requested donations to St Baldrick’s in lieu of presents.

The youngest shavee in our group, my four-year-old nephew Van, has spawned an event of his own. The staff at his day care were so inspired by what he was doing that they’ve organized a pancake breakfast to be held the day before our head-shaving, to which all the families have been invited. Austin and I will attend also and I will give a short talk. They’re making faces on the pancakes so they’ll resemble perfectly oval bald heads. All the money they raise, which they predict could be $500, will be donated on Van’s head in honor of his effort. Austin loves pancakes and, as you an see from his St Baldrick’s Valentine (which was posted on their Twitter feed last week), he loves bald people too:

There are currently nine students from Fairfax Elementary shaving their heads alongside Braedan, seven of them his second grade classmates. Last night at dinner, he was asking how much each kid had raised and I told him that some of them were still just beginning and didn’t have much or any money yet. Without missing a beat, he said, “I think I should give some money to them. Maybe one dollar each.”  So tonight, my sweet charitable eight-year-old, will hand over some crumpled dollar bills (and a lot of coins) while I go through every page and place single dollar donations with my credit card. Love that boy.

And then there’s Mrs Glasier, fourth grade teacher at Fairfax, who set an extremely ambitious goal of raising $10,000. I will admit that I tried to talk her down to something more easily attainable, but she wouldn’t hear it. She’s only a small way there but this is a determined woman and I trust that she will keep asking, begging, pleading, cajoling and threatening until she reaches that goal, even if it’s not til after the event.

Another teacher in on the act (though not in the shaving kind of way!) is the boys’ preschool teacher who has insisted on going through and making a small donation on the individual pages of each current or former student and their siblings. I has suggested she could save a lot of time by making a few bigger donations, perhaps one to Team Austin and one to Team Fairfax, but no, she said she wanted each child to see their amount go up and see her name in their online lists of donors. She has spent years working with young children, after all, and she knows them well.

There’s another woman shaving at our event alongside her young daughter, who emailed to see if I knew any child who has or had cancer who might want to help shave her head.  Huh, do I ever! I told her I couldn’t guarantee the quality of Austin’s head-shaving skills but she didn’t bat an eye (this obviously isn’t for the vain).

So, we receive these gifts large and small, a dollar here, a dollar there. One more shavee registered today and another tomorrow. One more sign of love and support for us and for all the others who’ve traveled this road before and all those who will travel it after us. It all adds up to something big and powerful. Actually, it all adds up to $5 million, raised in record-breaking time. Check out today’s St. Baldrick’s headlines. Recognize anyone underneath all that hair?

And then take a second (four minutes actually, but it’s worth it) to watch these two brothers. The wisdom of kids ….

 

 

 

Well, I think we’ve finally dug out from under the pile of wrapping paper and boxes and excessive toy packaging (how ridiculous are those tie tabs that hold toys to their boxes?). Christmas was another major success for the Gallagher boys. Somehow my attempts at simplicity always fail (much to their relief and delight).

Santa brought new bicycles, Braedan’s outfitted with a speedometer.

Austin’s is small enough he’s able to maneuver it around the house, so he’s been pedaling away, lap after lap through the kitchen and living room. I’m not quite sure his choice of attire is what Santa had in mind though:

Braedan has to take his outside (clothed), which he somehow convinced me to do on Christmas morning when we rode through the snow to my parents’ house. Not great cycling weather but we managed (and even went “12.6 miles per hour!” — I had to keep reminding him to look up every once in a while).

Christmas Eve was lovely, as always, although it is rather difficult to snap a good picture of five sweet grandchildren ranging in age from 9 months to 7 years. We certainly tried though (these are the very best out of at least thirty):

Braedan celebrated his birthday (again), with cake and candles and a few more presents (just what he needed!):

Mark and I got them some fun accessories for the treehouse — a periscope and steering wheel and this cool extension thing for the tube slide  so when you come down it in the summertime you land in water. I painted wooden wishing stars to hang inside from the peaked ceiling (I was considerably more excited about them opening these than they were):

Braedan had purchased gifts for the rest of us at the holiday shop set up in his school cafeteria and I’ve never seen him so excited about giving.  He carefully wrapped each item, complete with tags and bows, and as they were waiting (im)patiently at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning, he announced that he wanted us to open our gifts first. For Austin, a little red racecar and a light-up key chain (you know, for all his keys), Mark got the obligatory #1 Dad pen and a tool set, and yours truly received “diamond” hoop earrings and a little gold butterfly ring. Which, yes, I wore all that day and several times since. It was all very sweet.

So, all in all, I’d say all our Christmas wishes have come true.

My boys have a bad case of the gimmes. And the early arrival of the holiday season is only making it worse. Breadan has already circled every single toy in the Target and Toys R Us catalogs, with the exception of princess and Barbie gear. He then stapled together seven sheets of paper to create a scroll for recording how much money all his gifts would cost, carefully adding it all together, remote control car by remote control car. He’s smart enough to round up (no $0.99 for this kid) and counted by tens to a whooping grand total of $1,940.00!

Okay, I thought. This is fine for a math lesson. But not so much for a life lesson.

So Mark and I have been trying to figure out to how help them see outside themselves and their ever-growing list of wants, wants, wants.  Especially considering that last year, they were the recipients of another family’s kindness and generosity. My, how quickly we forget.

I did a little online searching and found a few good options that will allow them to actively participate in giving: One is at Bellefaire, where they have Wish Lists — 2,300 of them in fact! — written by the children and teens they serve. Each list contains only two items, one “need” like cold weather gear and one “want.” This in and of itself is eye-opening for boys like mine who wouldn’t think of gloves or boots as a worthy Christmas present. Maybe something you get, sure, but not something you actually ask for. So we’re going over on Wednesday to sift through the lists until we find some written by boys aged 4 and 7 and then it’s off to Target.

Then there is  Providence House, which is a “crisis nursery” (that name sort of says it all, doesn’t it?). Their holiday wish list was sad to even read because it had such basic needs on it: diapers and wipes, toilet paper and laundry detergent, canned veggies and baby formula. We talked about it tonight at dinner and the boys were amazed that someone could lack such basic items. Braedan wanted to make sure that the kids still got gifts from Santa, which I answered in a roundabout way — “Well, yes, because they’re still good children, they haven’t been naughty, but usually only one gift.” (I didn’t want to ruin the magic of Santa but also didn’t want to let him take the responsibility of these children off anyone else’s hands.)  Austin immediately suggested we count out the money in our change jar so we could go to the grocery store and start filling boxes. We spent the next hour on the dining room floor, stacking out coins, Braedan carefully counting the nickels and quarters while I tackled the dimes and pennies, and discovered we had an impressive $77 (not including the $5 worth of quarters we set aside so Mark can park near the courthouse). That, coupled with the change in Braedan’s “give” jar and whatever else they find over the next two weeks ought to make for a lot of canned veggies.

I figure if we can turn even just a little of their get-get-getting into give-give-giving — and actually make it exciting and enjoyable — then we’ve done a pretty good job.

 

 

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