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Bowling For Cookies

In Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on April 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

Olivia Grace Armand, affectionately known as “Cookie,” died of a rare disease called I-Cell (or Mucolipidosis Type II) on December 11, 2009 (10 days before her 5th birthday).  Within a few weeks of Olivia’s passing, her parents, Trish and Mike Armand, established the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation.

Being that Olivia’s brother, Mikey (who turned 4 yesterday), also suffers from the same rare disease that took his sister’s life, it is logical to think that the foundation was set up to find a cure for I-Cell, but it wasn’t.  Unfortunately, the harsh realization is that very little can be done for Mikey at this point, but that hasn’t stopped Trish and Mike Armand from wanting to selflessly “pay it forward.”

Because of their disease, Olivia and Mikey have spent countless days in hospitals.  The Armands give a lot of credit to the doctors that they have dealt with, but the ones who have given them comfort and strength are the incredible pediatric nurses that they have encountered over the years.  For this reason, the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation was established to provide pediatric nursing scholarships to the unsung heroes who provide an emotional support system that goes beyond medical care.

Needless to say, I was honored when I was asked to be a board member for this incredibly noble foundation.  Although I haven’t personally had much experience around pediatric nurses, I have seen the difference that compassionate nurses can make in the lives of family members who are dealing with a dire situation.

In 2001, a severe head injury caused my father to go into a coma.  The neurosurgeons did absolutely nothing to comfort us.  In fact, their stark presentation of my father’s condition made things even worse.  The only solace that we ever received was from the compassionate nurses.  Even though it has been nearly nine years since my father’s passing, I still remember one particular nurse named Colleen.  Colleen treated our family as if we were long-time friends, and it didn’t take long for me to trust whatever she told us.

My father’s fight for his life lasted for 5 days, until he finally couldn’t fight any longer.  During that time, Colleen would tell us what was happening, and what was likely to happen next.  She was never wrong!  Even though the news was never good, she always delivered the message with great compassion.  The night that my father died, Colleen hugged each of us, and cried with us as we said our goodbyes.  I’ll never forget Colleen as long as I live, so I know exactly why Trish and Mike feel so strongly about giving back to pediatric nurses.

In a short time, the foundation had already raised $10,000 leading up to the first fundraiser, “Bowling for Cookies,”which was held this past weekend.  I am truly honored to have been a part of it.

When I arrived in Florida on Saturday evening, I was greeted at the airport by Trish and a few other board members (some of whom I had never met before).  It was a fun-filled evening with a lot of laughs.  By the time that the night came to an end, I felt as if I had made new friends.  We only spent a short time planning for the event the next day, and since none of us had done this before, we were going to have to learn on the job (so to speak).

After having a quick breakfast together, we started our day by going to visit Olivia’s gravesite.  Although visiting a cemetery is usually very solemn for me, Olivia’s final resting place felt different.  Trish described it best in one word…“peaceful.” The wind chimes hanging from a small tree blew gently in the breeze as we all stood together talking about the day.  I was sad that we were standing by the grave of a little girl, but happy that we were about to do something special in her name.

We arrived at the bowling alley about four hours before the event was to begin.  At first, it was a little confusing trying to figure out each of our roles, but before long, we were working together as a team, and getting things done.  Slowly but surely, the lobby was transformed into a greeting area that made you forget for a moment that you were inside of a bowling alley, the billiard room became a silent auction staging area, and it began to feel as though we were a team of people who had done this together before.  Each of us seemed to just gravitate towards a responsibility as Trish led the way, which couldn’t have been easy with all of the stress and emotion that she was feeling.

There were many touching moments throughout the day.  It began with the first family showing up, and each of them wearing purple (the foundation’s official color).  As the bowling alley filled up, Trish gave a speech thanking everyone for coming.  Through the tears, and a quiver in her voice, you could feel the passion that she has to make this foundation a success.  And perhaps the most touching moment of all came when Trish picked the winning ticket for the 50/50 raffle, which ended up being a $400 cash prize to the winner.  Everyone applauded as Trish’s friend Jason came forward to claim his prize.  As Trish went to hand Jason the money, he immediately told her not to hand it to him, and that the money was for the foundation.  Trish announced Jason’s generosity to the crowd, choked up, with tears in her eyes, and said…“you see everyone, this is what paying it forward it all about!”

Shortly after Jason’s show of generosity, everyone attending the event sang “Happy Birthday” to Mikey.  And though I couldn’t see his face from my vantage point, I got the full description from Trish’s dad and step-mom, who told me that he usually gets a little scared around the candles, but not this time.  They told me that he really enjoyed himself, just like everyone else who attended the event.

“Bowling For Cookies” was a tremendous success.  It seemed as much a celebration of Cookie’s life as it did a fundraiser for nursing scholarships.  Being that this was the first event, I had no idea what to expect in terms of money being raised, but I do know that my expectations were exceeded.  We ended up raising over $8000 to go towards the “Cookie Jar!” Pretty amazing when you take today’s economy into account!

I encourage everyone to check out www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.org for more information about this amazing little girl and to make donations.  Please also visit www.OliviasCookieJar.com to shop in the Olivia Grace Armand Mall, where all proceeds go directly to the foundation.

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  1. Adam you are a special man! Trish is so lucky you are a part of her lives. all of us are, You really are an amazing person ! You should feel real good about yourself!
    Love, Helene

  2. Adam,
    I’ve been recounting the weekend through in my head and in photos, but your written accounting of the weekend quickly summed up an amazing time. Just as I had no idea what to expect as far as the Bowling event went, I had no idea how a Florida girl submerged in a pre-existing network of New York friends would fit in. I got my answer in the first meeting of Lisa, Julie, and Val. None of the ordinary “nice to meet you” greetings, but giant hugs and three common bonds…Trish, Mikey and Olivia. When your plane arrived, it completed the group and it was time to get to work with brainstorming and making it all work. I had such a wonderful and emotional weekend. Thanks for posting this. When the buzz wears off, I’ll read it again to remind myself how truly incredible this weekend was!!

  3. Really wish I could have been there to experience the whole affair! But Adam’s recount and photos have been refresing. Trish is an amazing person and ya’ll have been rock solid in your support…mentally and physically. I am so thrilled so many cookies have been raised…so much can be done! Ya’ll are truly amazing; and I am in awe. Keep up the good work, and let me know what I can do from here. Much muahs!

  4. Ok, as I wipe the tears away, I can type this.

    The day was beautiful and once again, I am blessed to surround myself with such a wonderful group.

    Adam, my forever friend, our “Charlie”…thank you.

    Love you!

  5. This was a very well written account of how the weekend was and how important it is for Trish and Mike to move forward with this. It was a great time and the passion that you all put into this is very rewarding. I was once on a board for a foundation for Children with cancer. I know how much effort goes into these things and you guys pulled it off with great success… Keep up the good work and always keep it fun!

    Great job… (and thanks for the mention! – it is my pleasure and I wish I could do more…)

  6. Wow what a great week end you all had. I wish I lived closer. One day I will make it down there to meet Trish and get inspired by her in person…and hug her for for everything she does. Adam thats a nice recant of the week end events .

  7. Adam,
    It sounds as if the day was a huge success and I could not be happier for everyone involved. I must admit that just reading about the days event brought tears to my eyes several times.
    Thank you for sharing this with those of us who were unable to attend.

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