A beautiful letter ended up in my inbox this weekend from Linda James, wife of Camp Soaring Eagle founder, Max James. In it she details their experience at the recent family camp session at Briar Patch Inn. It would be a lie to say I didn’t have big tear drops in my eyes as I read through it, but even more, a big smile on my face. She sums up the reason we are doing this perfectly, this is the “why” behind The Charity Wedding. I wanted to share it in an effort to let everyone who is involved know that what they are doing matters and it is making a difference. Even more so, I wanted to share this with the people who don’t quite understand the concept just yet. I wanted them to read exactly why we wanted our wedding to be structured in this way.
I also have some adorable wedding photos (so you can start blending the idea of wedding and charity!) from a farm style wedding in Wisconsin shot by Melissa Dunstan. Enjoy!
Good morning Everyone,
I wanted to send you my thoughts about my experience this week at Briar Patch. We hosted 8 children with cancer and their families. The children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. Most of the children are still going through some pretty tough treatments to fight their battle with cancer.
When Max and I arrived the children were involved a lot of activities. Some were in arts and crafts making airplanes and some were outside playing kick ball. They were having a ball and there were lots of smiles and laughing all around. The Moms and Dads and siblings were playing right along with them.
A woman came right up to me and gave me a big hug and thanked me for allowing her and her family to attend such an incredible camp. She told me that her son was diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of 3. He had the most common form of childhood cancer, Retinoblastoma, cancer behind the eye. He had gone through some pretty tough treatments for over 2 years and last year was found to be cancer free. Then, this year in March, it came back. He is now going through Radiation and Chemotherapy to stop the spread of the cancer. He is her only son and it looks like she may be having to make a really tough decision. That decision will be whether to take out his eye in order, to perhaps, save his life. I don’t’ know about you, but I can’t imagine having to make that decision about my child. She told me that this week has been the best week in a long time. The stress and pressure of having to deal with a sick child is overwhelming. They spend most of the time in the hospital and when they are not in the hospital, she is dealing with her son being extremely sick. She told me that this week has given she and her husband a chance to just have fun and forget for a moment about the illness he has. She then told me something that honestly, I had to fight back the tears while she was speaking. She said, “how do I tell my son that he may lose his eye?”. At that point, her son ran up and told me what a great time he had this week with everyone and gave me a hug. He then told his Mom that he was very tired and he looked really pale and that he needed to rest. She told me that he is like that most of the time. He then noticed my cowboy boots and so did she. He shared with me a story that I would like to share with you. Last year, the family when to Houston for one of his treatments and they found a card that had cowboy boots on them and it said, “Let’s kick cancers ass”. She told me that they say that all the time and it is the only time that he can use that bad word. I told him that every time now when I put on my boots , I am going to think of him and repeat that saying. How about if we all do it?
We had a great dinner and one of the Dads who was there, told Max that this week is the best he and his family had eaten in a very long time and he thanked Max profusely. I assume that most of the money these families have is going to help their sick child and there is not a lot left over for what we take for granted, like food. You could tell that these families have really bonded together during this week and will stay friends forever.
We then had a camp fire and gave the families an opportunity to share their thoughts with the group. One of the Dads got up with his two year old daughter, who has cancer. He told the story of he and his family were getting ready for vacation when she got sick. They found out that she has Leukemia. He was crying so hard and stated that since May, they have spent most of their time in the hospital. He thanked everyone for allowing his family, he has a another small child as well, time this week to just have fun. He said, I cannot thank the staff enough for that they have done for my family. Now if that does not tugged on your heart strings, I don’t know what will.
Rob Olsen, Owner of Briar Patch was there as well and he stated this was the best week he had as well. That these families and their struggles has so touched him, that he is going to donate a week next year as well. WOW!!!! What an incredible man.
During the week, the children and their families painted a real Totem Pole. They put their handprints on it and drew things that related to their individual families. The pole is now cemented in at Briar Patch and you could not find a dry eye in the house during that ceremony. The families stated when they continue to have rough patches, they will all gather at the Camp Soaring Eagle Totem Pole, whether in person or in the dreams!!!! By the way, the log for the totem pole, Rob had cut down on his property for us. WOW.
We then had a sing along and the kids were playing instruments and boy was everyone having fun. So were the rest of us, by the way. Then, Juan brought all the kids up and had them hold hands and make a circle and then the parents and the rest of us formed a circle around them. Juan then stated that this was the circle of love and all the love was to protect the children. What an emotional ceremony.
There were many, many more stories that came from this week, so watch our Facebook page as well as notes from the team. They are all as touching as the ones I shared with you.
At the end of the evening, all the parents were so appreciated of having this week to spend with their families that they could not thank us enough.
This experience for me was a very emotional one and made me go back to what my friend, Marlo Thomas always says, “Give thanks for the healthy children in your lives and give to those that are not”.
Thank you for sharing our vision.
“If you can change the live of child, you can change the world”.
(Names were removed to protect the privacy of the families.)
For that little boy and all the children fighting, Let’s Kick Cancer’s Ass. Bringing a little joy and happiness to these families is just a small step but one they will never forget. We are so honored and blessed to be a part of the process.