I know I’m long overdue for an Andy update. It’s coming next week after his appointment on Tuesday. For now tho, I wanted to share about something I’ve that has been a long time in the making. It’s been a difficult post for me to write because it still touches a little bit of an emotional chord for me, so I have just put it off. It has been culminating since March and I have wanted to write about it numerous times, but it never seemed the right time. I already know this entry will be long, but I really don’t want to forget the details.
Back in March, we received a letter in the mail from the local childhood cancer support group, the Candlelighters, asking if our Andy could be part of their “Ride for a Child” fundraiser for 2014. Tears flowed as I read the letter to Chuck. It was such an honor that out of the vast amount of children that have been touched by cancer, they picked our Andy to be one of the faces of their campaign.
“Ride for a Child” is an annual fundraiser that brings in most of the money to help support the Candlelighters organization. This organization is very near and dear to our hearts. They were the first contact we had outside of the oncologist when Andy hadn’t even been officially diagnosed. On our first visit to the oncology office, they were hosting a patient lunch that day and we were able to talk with a volunteer about childhood cancer. Something we were praying wouldn’t be, but in our hearts knew was. This loving lady reached out to us and comforted us in a time of confusion and worry. Her presence and genuine care really helped to set my heart at ease even tho there were so many unknowns that were on the road ahead.
Candlelighters have helped carry us along this journey. One way we’ve been touched is through family activities. The organization strongly believes that cancer affects the entire family, so everything is very family centered. A favorite activity is the annual Christmas party, but there are many opportunities for families to unite all throughout the year. There are even two different summer camps, tho we haven’t attended yet.
Besides family fun, they also bring meals to both local hospitals twice a month. These meals are such a blessing to the families who are either staying in-patient or are just in the clinic for the day. One less thing to have to worry about and truly, one less expense. They also offer financial support to those families that need that too.
While tangible things can often be of help, the network of emotional support the Candlelighters provide is tremendous. As much as people say they understand what you’re going through, honestly, unless you’ve walked through it, you really can’t fully comprehend the magnitude of it all. It’s been refreshing and encouraging to see families who are on the other side; children all finished with treatment. Of course, we’ve also met families who have lost their precious children to this hideous disease and that is always very difficult for us to digest.
“The Ride for a Child” campaign is a huge undertaking. Each year a huge team of bicyclist join together to raise money for the Candlelighters. This year there were seven children who were the face of this campaign. Seven precious lives that have been touched by cancer. Some families we knew already and others we got to know. All the children were actually done with treatment except for Andy and one other child (she just finished up her treatment last month). It was so encouraging to see these dear children overcoming such a horrific illness.
Andy’s team was nothing short of amazing! There were nine cyclists that rode in honor of him. Nine new friends we have made who gave up an entire week to ride nearly 500 miles and to elevations that reached 35,000 ft. It was “7 peaks in 7 days” and it sounds pretty brutal if you ask me! Besides the time spent cycling for the week, there were countless hours spent training for the ride and fundraising. And the part that blows me away is that they were doing this for children they had never even met. It brings me to tears thinking about their selflessness.
We first met Andy’s team in June at a pizza party to kick off the event. At this event we were able to meet five members of his team. Three of the missing members lived too far to travel to the party (one in Minnesota and two in Canada). That was another thing that totally blew me away, people traveling so far to bicycle and raise money in the name of childhood cancer.
Over the course of the summer, Andy received 30 postcards in the mail from the riders. All notes of encouragement to him and the fact that when things were tough for them, they focused on Andy and how tough he was. They sent postcards during the ride telling him what they had seen that day and how far they traveled. The icing on the cake was that we traveled to Madras, Oregon, in September to meet the entire team on a short ride day and got to eat dinner and hang out with them for the evening. What wonderful memories and being able to share his story more in depth with the riders we hadn’t had the opportunity to meet yet. Candlelighters even put each family up in a hotel room and got the kids their own mini riding jersey just like the ones the riders wore – they were too darling!
To wrap up the event, we were invited to the Harvest of Hope. This is a fancy dinner event with both a live and silent auction. We were even reunited with several of the riders from Andy’s team. The evening was nothing short of amazing! All the children got to help auction off desserts in the live auction – pretty tempting not to want to stick a finger in for a taste! This event alone raised $118,000 toward the Candlelighters coming year’s needs and activities.
“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” ~ John 1:16