This is Baby E. We had the huge pleasure of participating in our Local4Local4Local Tour and Mixer at the Ronald McDonald House on August 3rd while this beautiful child played, cood, laughed, and ate her dinner right beside us in the common family area at the house. Her mother remarked early in the evening how 'well' she was, in comparison to how 'unwell' she had been before cardiac surgery. Where once she used to lay listless, she now was active, happy, and able. AND ~ quite frankly ~ so stinkin' CUTE! Her blue eyes shone with wisdom beyond her wee years (months!!), her smile came all the way from her toes, and her sweet little voice was like music. 100% engaging!
That was August 3rd.
Today is August 19th, and she is now an angel among us. She, along with the support of her family, friends, and the RMHNA community fought ~ hard ~ for her recovery and for her life.
And now her family must seek comfort and peace. When all they really want is their baby girl back, healthy and strong. Which seems so unjust ~ and is.
The beautiful part of life is that the story does not end here: Baby E's legacy will live on. "But she was an infant" you might say. "She couldn't yet speak, how could she leave a legacy?" you might also ask.
It's quite simple, really: she lived, she loved, she was loved and cherished, and I suspect that her struggles and her tenacity taught much to each of those whose lives she touched. She was placed in the lives and hearts of her family for a reason. And while she was with them, she was a source of much love, joy, and inspiration, I am sure.
Baby E, we will honor your short life and your memory by being of good service to other families like yours who have little heroes with big needs, and are part of the RMHNA community.
The lovely and talented Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography is one of the Local4Local4Loca member businesses and was kind enough to lend her talents to our tour and mixer on August 3rd. She managed to capture not only our event, but also the essence of WHY Local4Local4Local exists: the families and children of the house. One of her photographs is actually being used in our organization's marketing materials, so that is where we will start:
Meet Madeline and Elysa...
Hailing from Lloydminster, Alberta, Madeline's family is staying at Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta through the full summer of 2011 while their oldest child, 10-year-old Hunter, receives treatment and tests for his Autism at the Stollery Hospital. Hunter, who absolutely loves the computers and selection of books at the House, has been making some great progress with his treatment program. His mother, Aimee, had been worried that her children would have a miserable summer, having to patiently visit the hospital for several hours each day. On the contrary, Hunter and his younger siblings, Madeline, age 5, and Zachary, age 10, have thoroughly enjoyed their stay at the House, meeting many new friends and looking forward to the crafts and activities each day. When their father, Jeremy, has been able to
join them on weekends, the family has shared some wonderful times partaking in Edmonton events and attractions with tickets generously donated to the House. The parents have expressed their appreciation for Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta: the family-friendly activities, sense of community, and opportunity to build friendships with other families have turned what they feared would be their worst summer into one of their best.
Elysa is the beautiful lady enclosing Madeline in an embrace. She is the teacher for the house, and she is incredible ~ a true 'spark plug'. She teaches all of the young residents of the house through the year ~ kindergarten to grade 12! In summer time her focus turnes to recreation and crafts for the children and families at the house. On our tour day, she had led a nature walk, taught a nature craft, and was leading the families in the painting and design of a huge mural that evening as our large group toured through. Thus the sweet little green hands in the photo. This mural was a community effort of the house families ~ parents and children alike ~ and will be auctioned off by the house at a future fundraising event...
More Mural Photos
Our group was toured through the entire house. Here they are in the basement that houses the teen games room, a fitness area, and recreation area... The house is so big that a tour takes close to an hour!
The Local4Local4Local Mixer
Once Jen and I had opened the evening, our group was asked to introduce themselves:
Their names, their business, and why they chose to be a part of Local4Local4Local. There were a few tears as introductions were made, as the group really grasped firsthand the needs and struggles of the families we will serve. Having a few of the families present while we met certainly added to this: as we met, and spoke, and conversed... so did they... while drawing up medicines, caring for medical needs, and drawing up liquid feeds for some of the residents who are fed via gastric tube. A very close look at the reality of the house's families.
We all gathered in the kitchen afterward and enjoyed some amazing food, prepared by Allium Foodworks, Personal Chef Elaine Wilson, who is also one of the Local4Local4Local businesses. The conversation and camaraderie was equally as good as the food. And so it was that our tour and mixer was a huge success to the launch of the Local4Local4Local organization.
Last Wednesday was an epic day. It was a day that I had anticipated and feared, all at the same time. It was the fruition of a dream brought to life: my dream of being of good service to an incredibly worthy charitable organization, and of inspiring others to do the same. I feared many things: speaking at the event (without weeping ~ this journey is near to my heart, as a mother and as a heart-driven business woman), failure in procuring all 24 needed businesses to begin the journey, and most of all, the weight of upholding the reputations of all of the businesses on board weighed very heavily.
And so it was that the big day arrived... and it was not without incident. I was in a car accident that day, our chef for the evening, Elaine (don't worry ~ I'll come back to her in a moment) had lost power in her commercial kitchen that day ~ it was a day where Murphy and his crazy laws ruled the roost!
My vision for the evening was that the business representatives would arrive and mingle, getting to know each other a little before eventually meeting in the kitchen, be taken on a tour of the house, and realize fully how important they are to the process. People arrived, many of whom I had never met outside of emails and telephone calls, and it was somewhat stilted. Not a whole lot of mingling.
Then the amazing Jen Panteluk, the evening's representative for the house, took all but a few of us (who - except for our chef, Elaine, had already been on a tour) through the amazing house in its entirety. They saw the kitchens, family rooms, games room, exercise area, underground parkade, family suites, mother's rooms, quilt room, and 'magic room'. (Want to know about the magic room? Reply to this blog post!) Suffice it to say that the group of Local4Local4Local business people that returned after the tour were a different group. The question of "WHY" am I here? had been answered, and you could almost see the sleeves rolling up in preparation to get into the kitchen and get cooking!
Speaking of the kitchen... one of our on board businesses is Allium Foodworks, a personal chef service operated by Elaine Wilson. Elaine kindly provided our DIVINE and tasty treats for the evening... which, again, we will revisit.
My children, Owen aged 9 and a half and Amanda aged 5 and a half, attended the evening with my husband. It was such a great feeling to have them there. Amanda was born premature, and her arrival was not without incident. Our short 10 day stay in NICU following her birth was challenging. 10 days. There are families that have been at the house for 10 months. 10 months. Perspective.
The individuals attending the function each introduced themselves,
shared their business functions, and shared WHY they chose to participate in Local4Local4Local. It was where the proverbial rubber hit the road. Many shared how they felt as parents touring the house, and feeling such empathy for the families in crises that the house's four walls enclose. Some spoke ~ with tears ~ of their own experiences with children who had suffered illness or crisis, and as a result they were able to empathize very strongly. Still others just shared the passion of insight into what other human beings face as their 'reality' and for which we hold them as heroes and wish to make life just a little easier.
My children also granted some humour to the evening. Upon completion of the tour, Jen Panteluk asked the group if they had any questions below returning downstairs. Amanda piped up, and said "I will give this tour FIVE out of FIVE stars!"... Then after I had finished my verbal presentation, I also asked if anybody had questions before we made our way into the kitchen for treats. My son put his hand up, and when I asked him to speak up, he spouted out "Kristi Hammond, can we please eat now?"... Comic relief is always appreciated.
Back to the kitchen... after my long speech, in which I set out some protocol and policy for our organization (read: DRY) we FINALLY got to 'Mangia!' on some delicious and delectable treats (which I helped to prepare!!) by the incredibly talented and humorous Elaine Wilson of Allium Foodworks. She served red bean empanadas (YUM!!), pesto, beef, and cheese baguette bites, crudites and dip, dark chocolate fudge and black bean brownies, and some refreshing punch. We ate well.
While all of this was going on, a few families of the house were also hanging out alongside us. Their presence and reality were a reminder through the evening as to WHY we were there. I fell head over heels for MORE RMHNA little people: Baby E who has undergone heart surgery and is a sweet little cherub who offers smiles and coos a-plenty. Baby D who has undergone a FIVE organ transplant, and whom I was able to cuddle at the end of the evening, tubes and all, as he smiled, coo'd, and pulled at my earring. And my little friend, D, who is recovering from a liver transplant and is now inexplicably wheelchairbound as he suffers from 'doctor puzzling' back spasms. He is wise far beyond his years, matter of fact about his physical condition, and wants nothing more than to experience a 'normal' day.
And so it is that our journey officially begins. We are 24 local businesses, who are coming together in groups of three, once per month, to make a small difference in the lives of families living at The Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta. We are committed to supporting our local economy by buying all food for our dinners from local sources as much as possible. We are committed to doing well by doing good. We are committed to being ambassadors of the house and its families as well as of each other.
And we are committed to make a difference. Together.
The CRUNCH is on... Local4Local4Local is TWO days away from its tour and mixer at The Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta, and we are TWO businesses away from filling our 24 business roster! The process has been incredibly swift and incredibly organic with all participants coming on board in only three short weeks! YES! We still need TWO local businesses to join our group of heart driven businesses that are committed to 'doing well by doing good' in support of RMHNA. If you or somebody you know are interested, please contact us by filling out a contact form!