Monday, November 7, 2011

The Story of Why I Chose to Light the Night...

The above video shows the Just Try and Ruin My Day team after the walk discussing why we walked and who we walked for. 

*Light the Night is a walk to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.* 

When my cousin Stacey married Brian, I just figured that we had a new member to the family that I would eventually meet. Little did I know, Brian would be the most inspirational person I have ever encountered in my life. Now, this might be a surprise but I walked for someone I’ve never personally met. Brian and Stacey lived in Iowa and I was unable to make it to their wedding though I did follow how they were doing after they were married through conversations with my parents. That’s also how I found out that Brian was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin B lymphocyte with T cell activity lymphoma, stage 4 in April of 2010. It is always heartbreaking to hear that someone has cancer and especially gut wrenching when that person is family (whether we’ve met or not).  My heart went out to my cousins in this hard time and more than once I found myself wishing I could do something for them.

Around this same time, I received a message via email from Brian’s friends who found me and the rest of Brian and Stacey’s friends and family through Facebook and other means. There was a link to a blog and a grand plan to have a surprise fundraising party for Brian in Iowa in order to help them in their upcoming trials and hard times. I have never seen something take off so fast. The Just Try and Ruin My Day blog was born, a paypal account was set up, and plans for the party were posted. Just Try and Ruin My Day was something that Brian said often because that was the kind of person he was; happy, smiling, full of faith…something I learned while reading the blog and the thoughts of Brian and Stacey. 

Once Brian found out about the party and the fundraising, he began to update the blog himself. It was this blog, his writing, that made me feel like I knew him personally. He started posting himself about how he was feeling, what he was going through and genuinely being candid about his situation. He never saw it as “Why me?” but as God’s will. He was a good man that made me think about life, happiness, and perspective. The love that Stacey and Brian shared in their too-short marriage was something out of a fairy tale; a love that transcends time, faith, reality. Reading each day, week, month about how Brian was doing was both heartbreaking and uplifting. It was incredible to see how much faith he had and how much he truly loved God and Stacey. Even towards the end, when Stacey had to update the blog because Brian was so weak, he was still inspirational in how he looked at what he was going through.

When Brian passed, it was such a sad time for our family. A beautiful light in this world was put out but he touched everyone that read his words. I felt like I needed to find something to do in memory of him, out of respect for the person he was. I found the Light the Night Walk in my search and knew that this is what I could do. I could help someone else, I could help find a cure, I could make sure Brian is remembered. A few months after I decided to be a team captain for this walk, my grandfather passed away, though not of cancer. He loved Brian and Stacey and while we were going through his things, we found notes and reminders for him to donate in support of a cure for Brian. For his memorial fund, my father represented him in the walk and raised over $500. My mom, dad, sister, and friend all walked together with me as Champions for a Cure.

Throughout the last couple of months, as the walk day came closer I started feeling kind of like a fake, or a phony. Who was I to make up this team based on the beliefs of a person I had never even met but still called family? In my head and my heart, I know that I did all of this for especially for someone I had never met. Brian’s blog inspired me to get up and do something on a windy, chilly Saturday night instead of just sitting at home reading or doing homework. Brian’s words provoked me to develop a team in his memory, and raise awareness and funds for those that are still struggling with blood cancer today. Had it not been for Brian, I would have never been at the Oceanfront with a lit up balloon with my team family with over $1,800 raised. Even though I never once met him or spoke with him, he still inspired me to do more. I hope that one day I can inspire just one person the way he inspired so many.

I’ll leave everyone with this quote from Brian’s blog shortly after discovering he had cancer:
“You know what, people shouldn't feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for me. I have a great wife, 2 great families, and many friends that pray for me, send me emails, text me, send me cards, and people who just love me. People should feel sorry for the people who don't have that."

We were trying to get a group picture and this woman decided to walk through the picture lol

Cisco was such a good sport about the walk :)

The team in the beginning (Shana was there for the walk)

It was pretty windy out there!

Mom, Jenn and myself waiting for the walk to start with our balloons.

Dad and I tying a fish with Brian's name around the lighted railing.

In loving memory

I was having problems with the knot.

It's a little bitter sweet to smile knowing why we were there.

View from the walk

A lot of people were there but a lot of balloons flew away because of the wind.

The Just Try and Ruin My Day team

I'm not sure why I look so scared but we were doing a pretty good job showing off our signs.

The team (minus Dad) after the walk.

Just Try and Ruin My Day

Trying to figure out what is for dinner (since Dad was buying).

Cisco's trademark picture with Neptune in the background.
An interesting sidenote to the walk and fundraiser is that Shana has taken one of the signs that I made for the walk and posted it at The Breadbox (where she works) to get more awareness out there and still continue to raise money. We had a wonderful team this year and I hope to do this all again next year. Thanks for reading!

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