Shine Partner: Aurora Day Camp

Team Maddie,

As the weather warms up, thousands of parents across the country begin making plans for their children to attend summer camp.  The ultimate release.  The ultimate reprieve.  The ultimate break.

There is one special place, however, where that release, that reprieve, and that break reaches all news levels:

Aurora Day Camp.

Aurora Day Camp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers a 7 1/2 week summer camp to children battling cancer (as well as their siblings and recent survivors).  Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and launched as recently as June 2018 (a very special month indeed), Aurora Day Camp became the first camp in Georgia for children with cancer and their siblings.  In fact, for our friends in Atlanta, Aurora’s big fundraising walk – AuroraWALKS – is coming up in just a few weeks.

The concept of summer camp has been one that often accompanies our own journey to bring more smiles to pediatric cancer hospital units across the country.  When explaining to new hospital partners what life was like in Maddie’s hospital room, I am often describing how the experience was more like watching someone at summer camp than inside a hospital.  Well, thanks to Aurora, that vision becomes a reality for so many children and families facing this otherwise devastating diagnosis.

As we continue our efforts to #ShineMaddiesLight on childhood cancer, it is our privilege to shine some light on this special organization.  And to join them as our second official “Shine Partner.”

Between now and March 31st, the net sales proceeds we receive from Maddie’s Miracles will be donated 50/50 between Aurora Day Camp and Dancing While Cancering.  

Please join us in Shining Maddie’s Light and spreading more awareness, changing more lives, and bringing more smiles.  Pass along this post to friends and family in Georgia.  Buy a copy of Maddie’s Miracles for the daycamp lovers in your life.  Post a review on Amazon.com to continue to share the inspiration.  And above all, keep shining.

Thank you all for your never ending light and support.  Here’s to a warm and camp-worthy couple of weeks!

1

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds we receive will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

A Rush of Love

Memory Rush a phenomenon by which certain places, people, or experiences bring back a flood of memories from another time in your life.

This past Thursday, Pammy and I experienced a Memory Rush of the most sacred kind…a Rush of Love.

But first, some context.  For nearly two years, Pammy and I had quite the routine.  Pammy worked on Monroe St. in Chicago, I worked on Monroe St. in Chicago, and we lived as a family – with our then newborn Maddie – on Monroe St. in Chicago.  Literally, when work was over for the day, I would walk 15 minutes due west on Monroe, pick up Pammy in her PepsiCo lobby on Monroe, and we’d walk together another 5 minutes west on Monroe until arriving at our Monroe condo with our happy, smiling little girl waiting.

In every which way, you couldn’t ask for anything more during our time in the West Loop.  A family-friendly, growing neighborhood where we spent two precious and perfect years of Maddie’s life.  Little did we know at the time how sacred those memories would become.

On Thursday, for the first time since moving away from the neighborhood in 2016, we made our way westward from work.  Past our old streets.  Past our old condo.  Past our old park.  Past our old restaurants.  Our old shops.  Our old memories.  Our old lives.

And as we kept going, with this literal rush of the purest memories that Maddie’s childhood had to offer, we made our way to Rush University Children’s Hospital.  A hospital that literally and figuratively sits on the three-way intersection of past, present, and future for our family.  As we formally welcomed Rush Children’s Hospital into the Dancing While Cancering family – our sixth partner hospital in our six months since launch – we couldn’t help but feel the simultaneous Rush of Love.  Surrounded by friends from so many Monroe walks of our lives: The mother of Maddie’s first West Loop buddy.  A local Chicago children’s singer who entertained Maddie in the B.C. World at the West Loop Whole Foods only to later bring her concert inside our Lakeview playroom when the restrictions of cancer limited our available dance floors.  A best friend who was never far away no matter her zip code.  And an old friend, re-introduced into our lives courtesy of Maddie’s inspiration, who graciously connected us to the hospital system in which we stood together…alongside the remaining roomful of incredible child life and medical professionals from Rush University Children’s Hospital.

Through all of these intersections of past, present, and future.  Through all of the memory rushes.  Through all of the rushes of love.  One uniting presence will now forever bind this amazing group of people.  A little girl with her eternally dancing spirit.  Who leaves rushes of inspiration wherever she goes.

Thank you, Team Maddie, for continuing to open the floodgates of these rushes of inspiration and impact.  Thank you to our new friends at Rush for the unparalleled commitment you have for your patients.  Because of all of you, the rush of love marches on.  Past Monroe St. and beyond.  Creating new and beautiful memories for other families that will last a lifetime.

IMG-3153

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

 

#ShineMaddiesLight Update (2/24/19)

Team Maddie,

Maddie’s light was shining in such new and special ways this morning!

Dancing While Cancering was one of three featured nonprofits at a local service event hosted by the Gratitude Generation.  The primary mission of the Gratitude Generation is to help instill gratitude in children through service and education.  Dancing While Cancering joined forces in this generational aspiration, as we offered the opportunity for volunteers to make “craft kits,” so that pediatric cancer patients can receive a ready-to-make art project to enjoy bedside.  This is our first meaningful experience with direct volunteer engagement, and it was just beautiful.  Driven by guests primarily 13 years old and younger, this next generation created 75 craft kits over the course of a two-hour event.  Simply incredible.

Equally special, Pammy and I will be dropping off the craft kits at Lurie’s Place on Thursday.  And so in less than one week from now, today’s amazing service event will convert to invaluable smiles.

Thank you again, Gratitude Generation.  Here’s to more love and more smiles for generations to come.

 

 

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

 

When Disney Met Dastardly…

In November 2015, Pammy and I walked into Little Beans Cafe for the first time.  With Maddie by our side, we had one purpose for this inaugural visit:

Meeting Elsa.

That’s right.  For some unknown reason, Elsa decided to take some personal time away from Arendelle to visit Chicago in November.  Apparently, Cabo wasn’t offering the sales it is today.  That’ll teach her to rely on Sven for vacation advice!

While we knew full well that we were going to get a morning full of getting our Letting it Go on, we didn’t realize we’d also learn about Maddie in the process.  Just 17 months old at the time, Maddie was as sweet as sugar.  100% Disney and 0% Dastardly.  But as we tiptoe’d into the playspace maze, there stood Princess Elsa.  Blond hair, blue dress and all, Elsa was immediately swarmed by a score of toddlers twice Maddie’s size.

What was our little Maddie to do?  We trekked all the way from the West Loop to see her singing sidekick.  Our little load of love was not going to be deterred.  Instead of waiting sweetly for her turn, Maddie dashed into action.  Slowly but surely, she elbowed, prodded, kneed, stiff-armed, and wrestled her way through the crowd of kiddos.  All with this look of undeterred determination on her otherwise soft, sweet face.  Until she made it to the Promised Land.  Hovering within inches of Elsa’s princess presence.  Social norms be damned, Maddie had met her maker.  And it was perfect.

On any other day, Pammy and I probably would’ve pulled Maddie away from the closely-knitted crowd as she clawed her way through.  But on that day, true to the theme, we really stood frozen.  Watching in awe of this never-seen-before version of Maddie.  A Maddie who was equal parts Disney and Dastardly.  A Maddie who showed signs of Grace and Grit.  Fairy and Fighter.  Sweety and Soldier.  Toddler and Trooper.  Wiggleworm and Warrior.

In the years that followed, these first signs of sprouting of our Little Bean at Little Beans became the seeds of her brave battle.  Maddie harnessed every bit of grace and grit as she battled her cancerous enemy with imaginative forces that none of us standing guard could imagine.  In doing so, Maddie taught all of us about the importance of balancing these two sides of the life struggle coin in facing the unimaginable.

To hold on to the Toddler within us all as we take on the Toil.

To harness a little Disney in the face of Adversity.

To never forget our ability to stay Dancing While Cancering.

Tomorrow, Pammy and I return to Little Beans Cafe for the first time since November 2015.  Channeling my own inner Elsa and Anna, I’m reminded of the guiding theme of the movie’s closing clip.  “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”  As Chicago temps remain frozen for what feels like anything but the first time in forever, and as we stand over one year from Maddie’s passing, these words ring truer than ever.  In many ways, this one loving sentence defines the path behind and the path ahead.

And tomorrow, an old friend re-joins our journey.  As Little Beans takes on a new loving and heart-melting role.  Starting tomorrow, in their act of true love, Little Beans will be donating a portion of their playspace admissions back to the Foundation whose foundational roots in some ways rest in their home.  The place where Maddie met Elsa.  The place where Disney met Dastardly.  Thank you, Little Beans, for your act of true love.  And thank you, Maddie, for continuing to remind us of our path forward.

Elsa and Maddie

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

#ShineMaddiesLight Update

Team Maddie,

Happy Valentine’s Day!  There is no shortage of love flowing around Team Maddie and Dancing While Cancering these days!

For our Chicago-based Team Maddie, we just wanted to share a few special events taking place in the upcoming weeks, as other local organizations begin to shine Maddie’s light!

  • LITTLE BEANS CAFE ESCAPE:  For city friends, Little Beans Cafe on Webster will be donating 25% of their playspace admissions between Sunday February 17th through Sunday February 23rd to Dancing While Cancering!!!
  • GRATITUDE GENERATION: For those in the northern burbs, an organization called Gratitude Generation is hosting a small “service day” at the Heinen’s in Bannockburn next Sunday (February 24th).  In doing so, their volunteers will be doing a few projects for three local organizations, including Dancing While Cancering!  In our case, they’ll be creating craft kits that we’ll be sending to partner hospitals!

Please feel free to join!  Further details are included in the flyers below.  Amazingly, both of these special organizations approached us to help out of the goodness of their hearts.  They put together the flyers and the special ideas.  As Team Maddie continues to grow, we feel blessed to know Maddie’s light continues to inspire others…

Please feel free to share with other Chicagoland parents!  In the meantime, sending lots of love your way!

 

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

The Goalie

A little over a year ago, when Lily was first learning to sit up, she used to do the oddest move with her body.

She would go from being positioned flat on her belly, just laying in a typical tummy time trance, until all of a sudden she would use her hands and arms to push herself up, while simultaneously her legs would manipulate into a splits position, at which point her hips would almost disjoint until she was sitting upright with her legs in front of her.

In true Lily Bug form, it was more of a slow motion move you’d expect to see from an actual bug on the Discovery Channel.  Once she fully emerged in her legs-out-but-sitting position, I would jokingly refer to her as “The Goalie.”  Because if the Discovery Channel wasn’t your jam, the only other place to see this type of pretzel-like movement would be from some contortionist goalie in the NHL.

Looking back, we couldn’t have created a better nickname for Lily.  “The Goalie.”  The hockey position responsible for recording one primary statistic – Saves.  A fitting role for the little girl who is literally responsible for saving her parents.  Day by day.  Giggle by giggle.  Smile by smile.  Since April 2017, life has slapshotted an onslaught of incomparably painful pucks our way.  In any ordinary world, Pammy and I would be paralyzingly frozen within the icy cold of our life’s rink.  But with Lily playing our pudgy protector, we have remained safe.  We have remained comforted.  We have remained saved.

And so today is a day to celebrate our little hero.  Today – February 13, 2019 – our little Goalie officially turns two years old.  It’s hard to imagine a two year old having a more influential role on her parents than Lily has had on me and Pammy.  She has in every which way picked up the bright and beautiful torch that her bright and beautiful sister left behind and carries it meaningfully each day behind those bright baby blues.  With a shimmer in her eyes, and plenty of shimmy shake in her disjointable hips, Lily is a blessing.  And as we light her two birthday candles, we know how much light is packed into each flickering wick.  Lights of loving.  Lights of saving.  Lights of Lily.

Happy Birthday, Lily.

 

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net royalties for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.

 

#ShineMaddiesLight Update (1/30/19)

Team Maddie,

As the polar vortex chills our Chicago bones, we are warming up our souls with a little bit of Maddie’s light.  Starting February 1st, we are excited to announce our first Maddie’s Miracles “Shining Partner” of 2019!

From February 1st through February 14th, the net proceeds we receive from the sales of Maddie’s Miracles will be donated 50/50 to the Love Jen Cancer Fund and Dancing While Cancering.  Founded in 1990, Love Jen was formed by Drs. Wendy and Nick Masi to honor their daughter, Jennifer.  Love Jen provides an array of social, emotional, financial and educational services to help children and families battling pediatric cancer at our second partner hospital, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.

Through our Shining Partner program, we hope to shine a light on various special organizations this year and shine Maddie’s light and love in the process.  To Shine Maddie’s Light on the Love Jen Cancer Fund, purchase a copy of Maddie’s Miracles today by clicking here.

Already have a copy of Maddie’s Miracles?  You can still play your part in one of two ways:

  1. FORWARD this e-mail to friends and family in Florida to help benefit the Love Jen Cancer Fund and Dancing While Cancering.  Ask them to do the same!
  2. VISIT our Maddie’s Miracles Amazon page and leave a review, so that new readers will continue to be encouraged to soak in Maddie’s legacy.

________

New to Maddie’s Miracles?  See the details below!

LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here).  100% of the net sales proceeds will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight through efforts that drive awareness, inspiration, and charity.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor.  Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer.  While 100% of the net sales proceeds for Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life will be used to #ShineMaddiesLight, a portion will be specifically donated to Dancing While Cancering.  Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org

SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and clicking the FOLLOW button that appears on the right sidebar of your desktop browser (for mobile phone users, scroll down further  to use this feature).  You can also follow Dancing While Cancering on Instagram at @dancingwhilecancering, “like” us on Facebook at fb.me/dancingwhilecancering and follow us on Twitter at @DWC_BringJoy.