If you read the 5 Components of Confidence, then you know how I feel about the importance of a good support network and having confidence in your relationships. You need your own personal cheerleading squad.
Imagine, for a minute, the most tightly-knit support network of people you’ve ever seen in your life…EVER. Imagine this group celebrating all of life’s ups and downs as a whole, with each group member making every effort to be present at every function.
Imagine each addition to the group, whether it’s friendship, marriage, or a new baby, being celebrated by anywhere between ten and hundreds of people. Imagine the solace the group finds when life takes unpleasant turn, and they can call the group for comfort, knowing that any number of people will arrive ready to give advice, be a shoulder to cry on, or maybe just bring the alcohol for a good ol-fashioned pity party.
Picture the memories they share. The stories. The inside jokes. The feeling of knowing they’ll never need to be alone in any joy or any struggle.
Now imagine that they are all related… and now, imagine they are all united in fighting for a cause about which they feel incredibly passionate.
Are you getting a mental image of this group? Do you get goosebumps when you try to think of just how much of a difference they can make? Are you a little bit jealous? It’s okay to admit it. What they have is admirable.
I don’t need a mental image to get goosebumps about this network of people. I’ve met them. In.Real.Life.
And I’ve been lucky enough to see them grow a project started out of passion into something massive and awe-inspiring.
But since maybe you haven’t had the chance to meet them firsthand, I’ll give you a visual. Meet the Stevensons, and the extended Darilek Family.
Joyce (Darilek) Stevenson lost her life to cancer in August of 2002. Terry, Joyce’s husband, and their eight children (along with countless cousins, aunts, uncles, and neighbors) now host an annual event in Moulton, TX to raise money in the fight against cancer. What started 7 years ago as a team registered for Relay for Life has now become a weekend-long celebration of life and fundraiser for Team ReJoyce and the American Cancer Society, raising over $26,000 last year alone. The event has aptly been dubbed The Weekend of Hope.
The Weekend of Hope takes place this year April 17-18. It includes a crawfish boil, washer tournament, silent auction, and dancing and live music. I can say from first-hand experience that if you’ve never been to Moulton, TX for a washer tournament and live music, then you’re missing out. Never pitched washers before? There’s no better reason to learn than to help benefit a great cause.
Obviously, no one likes cancer. We’ve all had it touch our lives in one form or another. I’ve had friends lose loved ones at terribly young ages. One, a father. Another, a son. My own aunt and grandmother when I was so young I can barely remember. It’s heart-wrenching to see the damage this disease can cause, and all you can do is pray for people and their families and pray that it never comes into your life again.
And maybe you find a worthy cause that will make you feel like you’re helping.
I first met the Stevenson family about 5 or 6 years ago. I participated in two of the early washer tournaments Team ReJoyce hosted. Then, as life tends to go, we went our separate ways. But thanks to Facebook and social media, I was able to keep up with the growth of their fund raiser.
Each year, for a reason I could never identify, I felt called to continue to support their cause. Sure, there are plenty of ways to donate in the fight against cancer. So, why stick with this one? This family, with whom I had minimal ties and no communication outside seeing posts from a distance … the way we all interact with old friends on social media? What was it about THEIR fund raiser that felt so important to me?
I might never truly know why I was compelled to continue to support Team ReJoyce year after year, instead of switching my allegiance to a larger network, a larger foundation, one that raised millions annually. I suppose part of it was feeling like I was playing a role in something incredibly special, like my donation wasn’t just a small drop in a massive bucket. It was as though I could truly get behind a cause with a face that I’d met and spent time with in real life.
Partly, I’m sure, it stemmed from the awe-struck feeling I had (have) whenever I think about how they unite and support each other with such strength. So, I continued to donate each year and watch the photos from the Weekend of Hope and read the updates on how successful they were growing. And I felt like I was doing something good, for good people.
Then, at the end of 2014, a few short months ago, my dad was diagnosed with a stage 3 malignant mengianoma. Brain cancer. A type so rare we’ve barely found much literature on it, and the doctors left us with “we’ll have to try something without knowing quite what to expect since this doesn’t happen often.”
He underwent his first surgery right before Christmas, back when the doctors still thought the tumor was benign. I had just landed in Vermont for a weekend with Mr. BQC when my dad called to tell me he’d be having brain surgery that week. That’s a family thing… the whole “keep it to yourself so no one worries.” He was concerned that we’d change our Christmas plans after hearing the news.
We spent Christmas Day in the cafeteria of the rehabilitation center where dad was undergoing numerous therapies to try and get him back to a healthy state. His health showed minimal improvement. Nothing even close to what the doctors had predicted. “A noticeable difference,” they’d said… but it wasn’t happening.
A few weeks later, we were told it was, in fact, malignant. The plan would be for dad to go through a radiation treatment that would be “debilitating.” My dad told me he knew he’d live, he just didn’t know if it would be for months or years. My sister flew in from California, and we went to visit dad. Then we cried together after leaving his house.
The doctors decided to try surgery again. So, for a second time, I went to see my dad the night before and gave him lots of hugs and told him I’d be praying for him and tried not to let him know how scared I was. After all, he had already dubbed me “the emotional one,” so I figure he knew I was crying when he wasn’t looking. I didn’t want him to feel worse, as if I had any more reason than he did to be scared. I shudder at the thought of what it was like for him.
The second surgery was, as best we can tell at this point, much more successful than the first. Within a very short time, the pressure from his brain had been relieved, and he was able to regain a shocking amount of the independence he’d lost. I went to visit him (along with his sister, brother, and sister-in-law… turns out we’re also blessed with quite a supportive family!) early last week. The difference was breath-taking. It took every ounce of self-control in me to not break down in big, sloppy tears when he not only came out to meet us for lunch, but walked, on his own, from the parking lot to the table. Two weeks after brain surgery, people.
My dad has a long road ahead. There will still be radiation. The therapy boot camps (yikes!) are still scheduled. His diet and lifestyle have dramatically changed. But, the other day on the phone, when I said that I’d be coming to visit him for dinner, he said “Well, I’m going to be around for a long time, so come by anytime.” Naturally, I cried. If you know me, you know I’m crying now… and have been since about the second sentence of this post.
So this year, instead of quietly donating to Team ReJoyce and the Weekend of Hope, I’m asking that you do the same.
In addition to my regular donation for the 2015 Weekend of Hope, I will also be donating 15% of all sales from Confident Complexions for the next 15 days. Any purchase you make between now and April 10, 2015 will help raise money for Team ReJoyce and the Weekend of Hope. I’ve also made a Confident Complexions donation to the silent auction… so get out there and bid on it!
Register for the washer tournament. Buy something at the silent auction. Make a weekend out of it and visit a place in Texas you might never have otherwise heard of. Meet the most supportive family you’ll ever have the opportunity to meet. Visit The Weekend of Hope online to see all the many other ways you can contribute to this cause.
And maybe one of these years, I’ll see you in Moulton.
(photo credits go to Rebecca & Shelly Stevenson… thanks for letting me steal them from your FB!)