As many of you know, I signed up for this amazing event last year and began to raise funds for Make-A-Wish, an organization very close to my heart. Unfortunately I was unable to participate because I had brain surgery less than a month before the hike and there was just no way I was hiking 28 miles 4 weeks into recovery! So I am very excited to say that I've once again, in honor of two of the most inspiring kids I’ve ever known, registered for the Trailblaze Challenge and am making it my goal to not just hike the 28 miles in one day but to raise $4,000 for Make-A-Wish San Diego. Reaching this goal will help ensure that as many deserving kids as possible get their wishes granted, just like Lauren and Jack did!
As you may know, I have had the privilege (and heartbreak) of babysitting two “wish kids”. Helplessly watching these two young kids go through what no person, let alone child, should ever have to go through was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!
Lauren bravely battled a devastating Mitochondrial Disease called MELAS (mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes) and tragically passed away at the age of 8. I only babysat her for a year before she passed away, but in that time I quickly learned that she was the most incredible kid.She inspired me beyond words with her love for life and her unbelievable strength, even through things more difficult and painful than I could ever imagine. It was heartbreaking to watch the progression of her disease and I was devastated when she passed away. To this day I still find joy in remembering how excited she was to come up with a wish and then how excited she was when it was granted. She went to Hawaii and was able to swim with dolphins, an awesome experience, and now precious memory I am so thankful she and her family were able to enjoy.
Jack, now 12, has just battled cancer for the second time in his young life :( When I first started babysitting him, he was 8 years old, recently diagnosed, and had just begun chemo for Rhabdomyosarcoma. Honestly, it was so soon after Lauren’s passing that I almost didn’t take the job but I am so glad I did because I fell in love with this sweet kid and his family! Jack stayed so remarkably strong and positive and thankfully went into remission, staying cancer free for 2 years. During that first bout with cancer, he was granted a wish and went with his family to Disney’s Aulani resort. They had a great time and enjoyed a much deserved break from reality, something that is really crucial for any family going through something similar (which is why I love and support Make-A-Wish). Unfortunately Jack's cancer came back and he has had to battle it for a second time.
I am so determined to meet my fundraising goal because I am passionate about the mission of Make-A-Wish. I have seen first hand the joy those wishes bring to kids and their families, at crucial times when they need something good! I firmly believe I gained far more from both of those babysitting opportunities than I gave. I learned more about life from a terminally ill 8 year old than you would ever guess! I have been so encouraged and inspired by how Lauren and Jack handled their health battles that it helps me in my own health battle. Not only does it make me thankful I’m not going through something worse, but it also makes me realize that I too can battle it with grace, humor, and quiet strength. I feel blessed that I've recovered fully and that my body is capable of completing a challenge like this, for a cause I am so passionate about, in honor of kids I love so much!