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2014 Children's Miracle Network Momentum

By Rose Wich

When GLTPA’s Executive Director first asked if I was interested in going to a National Log A Load For Kids convention in Orlando, FL, of course I jumped at the opportunity

As it turns out Sherrie Hanson, the new Log A Load For Kids National Advisory Committee Chairman, and several GLTPA board members had attended the American Loggers Council Annual meeting where Sherrie spoke about the National Children’s Miracle Network’s (CMN) 2014 Momentum Celebration, to be held at Disneyworld’s Coronado Springs Resort November 12 - 14, 2014.

Each year one child from each state and Canadian providence is selected as Champions to represent the 32 million treatments provided each year at the 170 Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.  For one week these children and their families are brought together to conduct media interviews, inspire corporate partners, meet celebrities, visit Walt Disney World Resort and share their stories.   Through their inspirational stories we learn why children’s hospitals need donations and how those funds have directly impacted each of them.

Even though I was very excited and grateful for this generous opportunity, I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant.    Now I’m sure you are wondering, hmmm, your boss offers you an opportunity to represent the association at a national event in Orlando, FL, in the middle of November when it’s snowing and cold and you are hesitant? 

Well, yes, because I knew attending was going to be very emotional, bringing up memories from long ago.

When I first started at Timber Producer’s Association (TPA as it was known back in 1997), I had just lost Sam, my first husband and father to our only child, Timmy, to melanoma cancer.   It was a difficult time for me, widowed at the age of 33, now a single parent to our 5 year old son. 

I was still in the midst of my grief, when shortly after I started at TPA we began administering the Log A Load For Kids program for Michigan and Wisconsin.  I didn’t know a lot about the timber industry and even less about the Log A Load For Kids program but I soon learned a lot from the Charitable Harvests that were organized and run by our generous members.  Being the accountant I did know the proceeds being raised went to seven Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Michigan and Wisconsin to help sick and injured children.  I had heard of Children’s Miracle Network but I honestly didn’t know that much about it.  Little did I know then that I was helping to raise funds for this worthwhile cause and very soon  was going to be on the receiving end of it.

Fast forward to January 2000 when my son, Timmy, who was only 8 years old at the time, was unexpectedly diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects mainly children and adolescents. It accounts for only 1% of all childhood cancers.  I was in complete shock, my world  turned upside down, and I could not believe this was happening again. 

After diagnosis,  Timmy was scheduled for surgery later in the week.  He would have little time to heal before he began his first of many chemotherapy treatments.   I knew this first visit was going to be about a month in the hospital.  When Timmy was first admitted to the hospital he asked me if he could go outside every day. 

Now this was the middle of winter but that didn’t bother him.  Being the wise parent, I told him  they didn’t let patients leave the hospital once they were admitted.  Timmy kept pestering me to just ask the doctor.  Finally, after listening to him plead with me for the umpteenth time the doctor walked in his room.  Timmy kept nudging me in the arm, “Just ask, Mom, Just ask!”  Reluctantly, and quite sheepishly I looked at his doctor and explained that Timmy wanted to know if he could get a pass out of the hospital every day.  Of course I knew what the doctor was going to say but I thought I would appease my son.  Imagine my surprise when the doctor replied, “Sure, we can give him a pass to go out.”  After the doctor left the room, Timmy looked at me with that sly grin on his face and replied, “See it doesn’t hurt to ask.”  This has become a motto in our family now – “As a wise young man once said, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Timmy and I spent nearly all of the next 2 years going back and forth to Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Marshfield, WI.  Timmy had several surgeries including removal of one of his ribs, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  From that point forward there were no longer “normal” kid activities like soccer or baseball for Timmy.  We were now living in a hospital one or more of every three weeks for chemo treatments.  I began to realize I must redefine “normal” and embrace those fleeting moments when your child isn’t throwing up or in pain - those rare moments when he has a “good” day, or more like a “good” hour, and he’s smiling, joking, energetic, feeling good, like the healthy child he was not that long ago. 

Over the next several months during Timmy’s treatments I got to know Patti Shafto Carlson, CMN Director of Development, and her team of child life specialists at Ministry St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital quite well.  These hard working individuals provide a number of opportunities for therapeutic play for the children like the pet therapy program where they bring in dogs & cats for the kids to interact with.  This was one of Timmy’s favorites.  They even bring the kids a bear complete with a gown, go over upcoming surgeries and accompany the kids in the recovery room where parents are not allowed.  They provide the kids with interactive games, movies and special medical devices.  I was beginning to understand how all those dollars raised were helping out so many children including my own son.

Timmy fought a hard battle and taught me and so many others what courage, love and a sense of humor can do for the human spirit.  Unfortunately, he lost his battle to cancer at the very young age of 10 on Halloween 2001.  His memories and legacy live on.  To this day I quote many “Timmerisms” as I call them.  He was a wise old soul trapped in a young man’s body.

After Timmy passed away, I was numb.  They say losing your child is the worst kind of loss and even though my husband’s loss was extremely difficult, this was so much worse.  It took a lot of time, tears and prayers to get through my grief.  You don’t get over grief, you get through it.  Yet every year I wanted to attend the annual Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) kickoff event at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Marshfield where Timmy was treated.  It was hard watching them introduce the CMN champion kids for the current year, yet I found it so inspiring.  I would look at these kid’s faces and think of what an inspiration they are and how much they can teach us all.  I learned so much from my own son when he was going through his illness.  No matter how sick, he always had hope and always looked forward not backwards.  He would be so sick in the hospital, yet all he would talk about is what he was going to do when he got out which usually involved riding his 4 wheeler, hunting or some other outdoor activity.  Timmy was never one to sit in front of the TV or play video games. 

Even though I was reluctant, I knew the CMN Momentum Celebration in Florida was going to be like the local CMN kickoff but on a much grander scale. So I packed my bags and prepared myself for the roller-coaster of emotions I knew I would experience.

As soon as I attended the welcome and introductions the first afternoon I was hooked.  The excitement in the air was contagious.  I knew I was going to have flashbacks to my own time spent in the hospitals caring for Sam and Timmy, but I also knew on a deeper level this was going to be magnificent and it was!

On Thursday, the CMN Momentum kicked off with Marie Osmond and John Schneider, co-founders of CMN, who welcomed all the CMN hospital staff, media, corporate partners (like Log A Load For Kids) and guest emcees, Nick Cannon from America’s Got Talent and Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015.  As they introduced each child, they marched down the main aisle with their family members surrounding them.  Everyone in the audience gave them a standing ovation.  The atmosphere was electric as each of the 64 kids walked, danced, were carried or pushed in a wheelchair down that aisle.  Tears flowed freely as we watched these kids in awe.  Here they are so sick, hurting, and yet laughing, dancing and waving with the biggest, brightest smiles on their faces.  It brought me right back to the memories of Timmy.  So sick yet more concerned about everyone else.  Always engaging others, asking what was new in their lives.  He never concentrated on his own illness; he was way too busy concentrating on others or just being in the moment.  Just like these kids were now.   As I looked into the parents faces, the tears running down their cheeks, I could see the gratitude to all of us who have helped their child by donating our time to raise money for CMN.  And looking around at all of us corporate partners, tears flowing down our faces, knowing that all the hard work was worth every moment just to see these kids smile.  Wow…so inspiring!!
Each child was then brought on stage individually to meet Miss America and receive a medal from two of the corporate sponsors.  I just love watching children.  They have no problem just being themselves.  Some dance, some are shy, some give high fives or thumbs up, and some, well they even snub Miss America!

After meeting the Champion kids and attending the awards ceremony, I attended the National Log A Load For Kids Advisory Committee meeting.  Several of us met to discuss what different regions throughout the United States are doing in their areas to raise funds for Log A Load For Kids.  It’s a great opportunity to share ideas, network and learn more from the corporate offices of CMN.

  It appears that we are somewhat unique in the Great Lakes Region with our charitable harvests.  If you have never attended a Log A Load For Kids Charitable Harvest, I strongly encourage you to do so.  I saw firsthand, as did 700 to 900 local school children, how important the forest industry is.  Watching those kids’ faces when the trees are harvested is unbelievable.  We have received so many awesome thank you notes over the years from children thanking us for this opportunity to attend, and letting us know how much they enjoyed learning about the forest industry. 

Since GLTPA took over the Log A Load For Kids program back in 1998, we have raised over $490,000 just from these harvests alone.  Overall, we have raised a total of over $880,000 with all the individual and corporate member donations and charitable harvests.  We have done a great job and the momentum moving forward is to reach $1,000,000 by 2019.  On a national level with 28 states participating in Log A Load For Kids Programs, we have collectively raised over $40 million in funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. 

After our Log A Load For Kids meeting we were in for a fun night of entertainment with all the Champion Kids as Lady Antebellum performed for us.  The concert was great with all the kids coming up on stage and at one point the Champion girl from Georgia even got to do a solo with the band.

On Friday, all the corporate partners, and CMN staff gathered to listen to a variety of inspirational speakers.  Friday’s session was appropriately called “Ignite” -  to be inspired and to ignite the flame within each of us to help gain the momentum forward to reach CMN’s goals to raise $1 billion dollars by 2022. 

John Lauck, President & CEO of CMN, stated, “Every minute, 62 children enter a CMN Hospital for treatment.  Without funds generated through CMN Hospitals, these sick and injured kids may not receive the care they desperately need.  It is critical that we hit our $1 billion annual fundraising goal by 2022 so children’s hospitals can continue providing world-class care that saves kids’ lives. “ 

Just like GLTPA, CMN is also in the process of improving its marketing strategy.  They have updated their logo and ask that we all use this new logo on any advertising.  In 2015, they will be introducing a nationwide marketing effort to further draw attention to CMN Hospitals and the care they provide. 

Far too soon the conference came to an end.  But with renewed spirits just in time for the giving holiday season, we embarked on our journeys back home.  From a parent who has been on the receiving end of all this generosity, please know that words can never truly express our gratitude to all of you who so big-heartedly give your time and money to help our children. 

So I encourage each of you to get involved with the Log A Load For Kids Program.   And as a wise, young man once said, “It doesn’t hurt to ask”.  So let’s ask for those donations and keep the momentum moving forward one dollar at a time!

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