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Posts Tagged ‘Bowling For Cookies’

Make A Wish

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on August 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm

During our recent trip to New York, we celebrated my daughter’s birthday.  Actually, we celebrated her birthday three times (on the actual day, with my family and finally, with my wife’s family).  Suffice it to say that we got our fill of birthday cake.  At each celebration, my daughter would happily blow out the candles and “make a wish”.  At her age though, I’m not so sure that secret wishes are really made, considering the fact that she was constantly verbalizing the things that she wanted.  In fact, the timing of our New York visit was determined by her repeated wish to go to the beach on her birthday.

By the time that the final candle was blown out on the third birthday cake, we were all a little bit heavier from our indulgence, and my daughter’s Pavlovian mindset had her associating presents with dessert.   And though she was very happy with the gifts that she received from everyone, there were still some gifts that she couldn’t get until we got home because of the limited space available in the luggage that we were bringing on the plane.   But she didn’t seem to mind at all.  She got to do everything that she wanted to do on her birthday, and ended up with many of the things that were on her birthday list.

Saying “goodbye” to everyone at the end of our trip was difficult (as we knew that it would be).  Even though we were all exhausted by the time that our visit came to an end, I think that if my daughter had one last birthday wish, it would have been to stay in New York even longer so that she could spend more time with family.  But as the saying goes…“all good things must come to an end.”

As much as I would have liked to have stayed in New York to spend more time with family and friends, I have another reason that I wish that we could have stayed a little bit longer.

My friend, Trish, who lost her daughter (Olivia) in December to a very rare metabolic storage disorder called I-Cell was bringing her son, Mikey, up to Long Island just days after we left New York.  I got to meet Mikey earlier in the year at the first-ever “Bowling For Cookies” event in Florida (where we raised money for the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation).  However, my wife and kids – who have fallen in love with Mikey through pictures and videos – have not gotten the chance to meet him, and this would have been a perfect opportunity.

Our visit to New York can best be described as “bittersweet.” We knew that, when it ended, we wouldn’t be seeing everyone again for a long time (probably until next summer).  Trish’s visit with Mikey, on the other hand, goes way beyond bittersweet.  They are staying in a beautiful beach house on Long Island, but they are doing so courtesy of Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Mikey, like his sister, Olivia, was also born with I-Cell, and the life expectancy for children with this disease is relatively short.  Olivia passed away just days before her fifth birthday and the Make-A-Wish Foundation trip that was planned for her.  Mikey celebrated his fourth birthday at the “Bowling For Cookies” event in April, and will be celebrating another birthday of sorts (4 years post bone marrow transplant) at the upcoming “Bowling For Cookies” event taking place on Saturday, August 14th at Sheridan Bowl in Mineola, NY.

Sometimes, a little perspective is all you need to make you realize just how lucky you are.  As bittersweet as our visit to New York was, it was nothing in comparison to what Trish is going through.  Staying in a beautiful, relaxing beach house on Long Island with Mikey is a memory that will stay with Trish for the rest of her life, but I am sure that she would gladly trade it all in for the restless nights that I spent on pull-out couches and air mattresses, and the sore back that I ended up with due in large part to the endless hours spent in the car (nearly 2000 miles travelled over the course of three weeks).

I’m very happy that my little girl got to “make a wish” as she blew out the candles on each birthday cake.  I’m glad that we were able to celebrate her birthday with the family that has not gotten to see her growth first-hand over the past year.  I don’t know if she actually made a wish or not, but it doesn’t really matter either way.  She had a great birthday, and enjoyed every minute of every celebration in her honor.

I wish that we could have stayed in New York to visit with Trish and Mikey, and attend the upcoming “Bowling For Cookies” event on Long Island.  But more than anything, I wish that Trish’s New York visit could be only as bittersweet as our visit was.

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Looking Back at April

In Family, Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on May 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

Each month, I do a recap to measure my progress while keeping myself accountable to my goals.

Here is my look back at April…

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

After going off course in March due to a change in schedule and some extenuating circumstances, I was determined to do better in April.  Unfortunately, April started off much the same way that March ended.  While I am disappointed overall of my progress for the month, I am happy to say that I wrapped up the month on a high note, which will lay the foundation for May and the months ahead.

Part of the reason that it took until the end of the month to “right the ship” is because I was waiting for a new workout video to arrive.  Of course, that is no excuse for not doing something else until it arrived.  But since I can’t go back in time, I’ll just have to look ahead, and stop worrying about mistakes that I made early in the month.

The video finally arrived just as I was about to go out of town.  My wife and I decided to start the new workout when I got back, although we watched it a few times just to see what we needed to do to prepare.

Since the video was made by a friend, and we are acting as “testers,” it did not have the full workout to follow along with the instructor.  We wrote out each exercise and a list of things that we would need to do the workout.  I was happy that the workout could be done at home without having to spend a lot of money on equipment.  As we watched the video, I thought that it would be a good, effective workout, but one that I would be able to finish the first time that I tried it.  WRONG!!!

This workout is going to whip me into shape, but it is not something that can easily be finished coming off of the couch, largely because it is about going all out for a short period of time rather than being able to pace yourself.  It is going to take several tries before I can complete the entire workout in the way that it is intended to be completed.

Always one to look ahead, I asked the creator of the video what happens when I start to plateau.  His response was interesting, and something that I never thought about.  He admitted that the workout is going to start to feel easier at some point, but then it will start to get more difficult again if done properly.  Because the workout centers on a lot of jumping, and giving maximum effort in short bursts, it can actually build upon itself.  This is because, as the muscles start to develop, it will allow me to jump higher and move faster, so the same exact workout will end up having a higher degree of difficulty.

Of course, all of this exercise wouldn’t be as effective without an altered diet as well.  But unlike many “diets,” this one does not tell you what to eat, when to eat it, and how much to have.  It doesn’t have that feeling of dread, and it can be modified depending on your lifestyle and your goals.  This nutrition plan is more about what not to eat than what to eat.  I won’t say that it is easy, especially if you want to eat meals outside of the home, but it is manageable.

In addition to the 3-day-a-week exercise plan, and nutrition guidelines, I will also be incorporating fun exercise into the mix on the off-days.  Thrilled to hear that swinging a bat is good exercise for the off-days, I immediately found a batting cage nearby.  I went for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed myself.  The best part is that it is much cheaper than what I am used to paying (it’s only $1 for 20 balls).

I believe that May will be the month where I take a huge leap forward in my pursuit of health.

THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH

Because I have to rely on other people to get my projects off of the ground, there have been unforeseen delays.  If I had to sum up April in a word, it would be “progress.”

One of my projects is finally ready to take a big step forward, and I will actually be reaching out to others to see if they would like to be a part of it in the next week or so.

The other project took a slight step backwards, but in some ways, I think that the step backwards may end up being the most progress that I made this month.  I’ve learned that not everyone makes an ideal business partner.  And while I had hoped to be moving along with this particular project, I think that things may work out much better by partnering with someone else.  I guess time will tell if I was right.

THE PURSUIT OF “HAPPYNESS”

With the difficult month of March behind me, I thought that April would be better…and it was.

While I found some frustration in my pursuit of wealth, I made progress.

While it took a while to get my pursuit of health back on track, I finally did it.

And, as usual, I had a lot of fun with my wife and kids.  Ultimately, this is what it all comes down to anyway.

But when I look back at April 2010 in the future, the thing that I will remember most will be the first-ever fundraiser for the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation called “Bowling For Cookies” (which I wrote about recently).

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.  Even worse, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and having another child with the same terminal illness.  But that is the hand that my friend Trish has been dealt.  And while no one would blame her for falling apart, she has boldly taken a step in the other direction by launching the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation.

I proudly serve as a board member for the foundation, and was thrilled to have been a part of the first fundraiser.  It is hard to believe how much has been accomplished since Olivia passed away in December of 2009.

Without going into too much detail, I can honestly say that the results of the fundraiser blew me away.  If you want to see why, please read “Bowling For Cookies.”

The work that I do with the foundation truly makes me happy.  Part of it is because of the good that will come as a result of our collective efforts, but for now, the best part is supporting a friend in something that means so much to her.

“While her life was short, her impact will last a lifetime” is the tagline for the foundation.  The first fundraiser already proved that this is true.  The next fundraiser is planned for August, and it should be great as well.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t done so yet, to please check out www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.com and www.OliviasCookieJar.com.

CONCLUSION

April was much better than March (as anticipated). A lot of good things started to fall into place.  Hopefully the foundation that has been laid in April will result in a great May!

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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