Miracles in the Making … Erin’s Advent-ure Calendar – Week Three

Communications specialist Erin Baily chronicles her adventures as the newest member of the Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis team. Click here for background on this feature. 

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams. ~ Oprah Winfrey

Day 10+ – Dec. 9

I know. I know. It’s Saturday. I just couldn’t help myself, though. I heard the word “party” and I heard the word “kids” and I was in!

Today was the annual pediatric cancer patient holiday party at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. I hadn’t planned to “work” at this event, but was compelled to get to know some of the families, including one from Chico.

Elena Lor is a patient, but it was two of her big brothers (she is one of eight siblings) who I initially spied, rep-re-sent-in’ CHICO (my hometown) with their matching wrestling jackets. Reminds me of a cheer: “Take’em down, lay’em flat, pin their shoulders to the mat!” There I go again. And yes, I really cheered that cheer. Commence eye roll.City 

ANYWAY, I simply mentioned the CHICO jackets to Mom, Sally Yang, and we struck up a conversation. We chatted about her BIG family which includes beautiful eight-year-old Elena, battling leukemia. Elena was all dressed up for this occasion in her pretty pink dress. If the pictures are any indication, she reveled in the festivities, as did her siblings: There was face painting (she got a rainbow); a Santa visit (check out her gift); and a meet and greet with Beauty AND the Beast, among games, crafts, bounce houses, food and more.

For me, another of the many highlights included a special Sacramento Sheriff’s Department service dog. I had just stopped to pet him when I met two cuties in matching emoji dresses (kids AND dogs … WOW!).

Six-year-old Paislee and her younger sister Adaleigh wanted in on the puppy pats, so I moved aside and let the dog “work” the event (he and I both have great gigs). It was then I had the chance to meet Mom, Lisa, and Dad, Justin, parents of five from Orland. Here we go again! Orland was part of my “beat” way back when (yes, I have done more than just cheerleading) so, like with Elena’s family, we had something in common.

The Schumanns’ party visit was a welcome distraction from their usual reason for making the drive to Sacramento. Daughter Paislee was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 3 and the family was recently given the news she needed to return for weekly treatment. It was a blow for the Schumanns, but they are taking it in stride, as is Paislee … at least in memorable moments likes these made possible by the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, the generous support of the Active 20-30 Sacramento and many gracious donors.

It was a magical event. Too bad I had to “work.”

Day 11 – Dec. 11

For most adults, the weekends go by even more quickly than usual this time of year. The hustle and bustle of the season means trips to the mall, visits to Grandma’s, excursions to the mountains (or the tree lot, as the case may be) and games of parking lot patience … often at the same time! Made worse by the “how many days left til____” signs, we are constantly watching the clock, scrambling to get it all done as time ticks closer to “then.”

That’s the case for me as well, but this year, my “then” also includes a “when”. When is my next CMN or Children’s Hospital event? When will I be able to go to visit the kids again? When can I tell his/her story? It’s about clock watching of a different sort. It’s about anticipation. “Only 14 hours til tomorrow and another amazing story! I can’t wait,” I tell myself as I write this blog.

It’s kinda like what kids do. Go figure. Can’t wait to hang out with them again. They’re rubbing off on me.

Day 12 – Dec. 12

Tick tock. Tick tock. Diiiinnnnngggg! The alarm went off this morning and I wondered what the day would hold. I just knew there would be another wonderful surprise.

It started with another trip to UC Davis Children’s Hospital … yes! I was excited to see the kids and they were excited to see … well, not me, but Arik Armstead!

A grad of Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, Arik is now a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers. If you saw this hulking guy on the football field, look out! But in person, Arik is nothing but a teddy bear.

Armed with all kinds of stuffed animals and toys, Arik paid a visit to UC Davis Children’s Hospital to deliver presents to sick and injured kids, just like he did last year. From a giant whale and kangaroo, to cars and games and the ever-elusive Hatchimals, Arik’s generosity brought smiles to the kids’ faces. Watching Arik interact with the children brought a smile to mine.

“I have been blessed and it is important to me to give back,” Arik told me. “Plus, I think we all have a responsibility to show love and compassion. I just want the kids and their families to enjoy a break from the very serious situations they are facing.” Cheer accomplished. No need for pompoms.

Day 13 – Dec. 13

As we prepared for an Extra Life event in Midtown Sacramento, I was reminded that ‘tis the season to game. As Extra Lifers already know, really ANY season is the right season. But as the holidays approach, this time of year is ideal. Family and friends gather to celebrate; everyone is in a playful mood. So why not spend your quality time together doing just that … playing!

I am urging you to drag out the board games, play some cards or game on your new system ‘til your heart’s content. Whatever you play, if you make it happen before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, you can add to the Extra Life totals for 2017!

It’s not too late to support the kids this year … just like First Tech Federal Credit Union. First Tech is helping to build a better future for children and families in need. Partnering with CMN at UC Davis again this year, the company’s annual “Season of Giving” campaign gave First Tech employees, members and the broader community a chance to vote on which non-profit should receive a donation. UC Davis Children’s Hospital was one of several chosen! In addition to this $6,500 donation from the Season of Giving campaign, First Tech is also planning to make another donation to UC Davis before year’s end. The gifts just keep coming!

 

Day 14 – Dec. 14

Early Morning – Extra Life: 5am-10am

The Extra Life event this morning at Mango’s in Sacramento was out of this world … and I am not just talking about ABC10’s Mark S. Allen’s holiday Star Wars suit and the IHOP pancakes! Playing the latest Star Wars video game, Mark broadcasted live as local gamers not only shared their systems, but shared just how simple it is to game for good.

“Gaming is so accessible and it appeals to everyone,” says Cheryl Wisdom, a founding member of the local Extra Life Guild. “Computer games count toward your goals, but so does Monopoly. It’s a charity people can easily connect to.”

For those who signed up but have yet to log your donations (or those who just LOVE to play for the kids), you still can!

Challenge each other … heck, challenge Grandma! Ask her to play a mean game of bridge or write you a check instead of giving you “that” sweater.  Politely tell your neighbors to keep the fruitcake and donate instead. Get your boss to match your totals. Share with your friends that all you want this holiday is to help a child get lifesaving treatment … like Gracie.


Generosity with a capital G!: 11:30am

Gracie Gonzalez is the amazing girl behind Gracie’s Gift Drive, a toy drive to benefit UC Davis Children’s Hospital. A cancer patient herself, this 13-year-old has leukemia and has had to be in the hospital during the holidays. “It is hard to be here,” Gracie told me. “I want it to be the best it can possibly be for the kids.”

With help from Sycamore Middle School, Gracie’s hometown of Gridley and donations from Chico gathered by fellow cancer patient Madeline Ballew, three full bins of toys were delivered to the hospital.

According to Gracie’s mom, Julie, people really wanted to help, but just didn’t know how. Gracie’s Gift Drive gave them the opportunity. “We are so thankful for the support,” Julie told me. “Our city is awesome.”

Apparently, so is my hometown. Great job, Gracie, Madeline, Gridley and Chico! Or, in Spanish, “Gran trabajo, a todos!”

 

Santa Claus (and Mr. DJ Omar) viene al pueblo

I say that because Mr. DJ Omar of Latino 97.9 also stopped by UC Davis today. Although I wish I spoke Spanish more fluently, I clearly understood what a difference the visit  made to Jose, a patient at the hospital.

Jose’s mom had emailed the radio station about whether Omar could help boost her son’s spirits by paying a visit; oh, and she asked if Omar could bring Santa, too. That’s a tall order for anyone, but unbeknownst to her, the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department had already arranged for the big man in red to make another appearance! Not only did Jose get to meet a radio personality, he got to meet Santa, too. It was a ho-ho-holiday treat for all, including Omar.

As a DJ with a Lazer Broadcasting station, Omar and Latino 97.9 partner with Children’s Miracle Network to benefit UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Broadcasting a mix of patient stories, facts and interviews, the annual Lazer Radiothon highlights the quality patient care, programs, life-saving equipment and cutting-edge research at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Although Omar is a Radiothon veteran, Jose gave him the chance to remember what the money goes toward (close to $200,000 raised this year alone)  … and as importantly, who.  Kids like Jose.

Day 15 – Dec. 15

As bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I was at the beginning of this week (by the way, ask me about my bunny shoes sometime – maybe closer to a different holiday), I must say I am over … joyed! I bet you thought I was going to say, “overwhelmed.” Well, I guess, in truth, I am both.

I am overjoyed at the overwhelming gratitude I feel toward the people whom I have shared my week with; or better yet, who shared their week with me. It was non-stop goodness! Loving parents and amazing kids; dedicated nurses and staff; communities rallying to support Children’s Miracle Network and  UC Davis Children’s Hospital (Arik Armstead and family, Extra Lifers at Mango’s, Gridley and Chico-backed Gracie’s Gift Drive, Latino 97.9 and the most gracious of Santas, making rounds); and colleagues who share their passion everywhere, every day.

Yes, my bright eyes are tired and my tail, well, let’s just say I worked it off … but I loved every minute of it.

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