I’m stoked to be participating in the Trailblaze Challenge for the 5th year!!! Well, if I can call it that… 2018 I signed up by myself after first finding out about the event, fundraised the $2,500, but then was unable to actually hike due to having brain surgery a few weeks before. 2019 I hiked it and it was a life changing experience and solidified the fact that I want to participate every year! 2020, covid. 2021, hiked it again :) And now here I am going into my 5th year participating, I talked friends into joining me, and I’m volunteering as a member of the Hike Support Team! :) To say I’m passionate about this event and this organization would be an understatement!
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 remains, to this day, 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, and create precious memories with her parents!
Jack, now a freshman in high school, has battled cancer twice 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 before beating it a second time. 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 the work and mission of Make-A-Wish).
These babysitting experiences not only allowed me to get a glimpse of the magic that Make-A-Wish brings to these kids’ lives, they also taught me so much! I learned more about truly living and appreciating life from a terminally ill 8 year old than I have from most adults! 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 bravely 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! 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! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, but most importantly, for joining me in supporting this amazing organization!