July is my favorite month. My birthday is the 16th, our wedding anniversary was the 12th, and I am a summer, warm and sunny weather, fanatic. So much cause for celebration. Last week is easily one of the biggest gifts I've been given. To hear that my brain tumor is shrinking was a divine gift from God. On that very same day- the newest member of the Westra family made his arrival. Rick's brother Matt, and his wife Julie welcomed Bennett Matthew into the world. Our heart's desire is to travel to visit them soon- I just need one more good report from Dr. Panwalkar in two weeks.
The gifts I've counted these past few days are as equally profound as they are life altering. I'm not sure I can comprehend why so much goodness and light and love has come around, but I am feeling like one lucky girl.
So I am going to take my time and document this for some very personal reasons. It'll be lengthy- feel free to skip right over it if you are short on time :)
We kicked off Cully's Kids 3 day event (Cullen Children's Foundation provides financial resources to organizations that support children's healthcare needs with an emphasis on cancer,) Thursday night at Ushers. The excitement was growing all day. We all knew this year there was a "big announcement" being made on the 2nd day of the 3 day event. The anticipation charged the air with an extra current of energy felt by so many.
As I went to view some of the silent auction items, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a familiar face that I hadn't seen in 20 plus years, my friend Wendy. Wendy and I went to college together at Concordia. But we also went to Europe together for 5 weeks and were roommates most of the trip. The flood of memories that chased me all night long were so rich and sweet and I felt like a piece of me had come home. I think its safe to say a friendship has been resurrected, and I am still beaming.
But Wendy and I have more in common. Wendy works for Sanford's Children's Hospital and has been there ever since we graduated college. Part of the big announcement from the Cullen's has a lot to do with Wendy... (part II coming...)
My sweet friend Julie has been part of Cully's Kids for 8 years now. To say her and her husband Tony, have given a lot of their time, talent and energy, doesn't scratch the surface of the contributions they've made. It was Julie that called us 4 years ago to see if our boys would volunteer at the picnic on the third day. The boys have loved every minute they have been involved. Do you also see the "keys" around our necks? More about those shortly...
Dawn is another friend with whom I share a long history. Fortunately we cross paths frequently. Dawn, a well known figure skater, is largely responsible for teaching both of our boys to skate. Just multiply all the years she has been teaching, and all of the kids she has taught and her legacy stretches out in rippling waves that know no ends.
Bridget Cullen, graciously posing with our friend Joel. Joel has been training Nolan off the ice. Rick and I have been amazed at how much he has shaped Nolan both physically, and mentally. Joel has been beyond generous in his time and talent given to Nolan and we are so grateful.
I don't know where to begin to try and tell you about Bridget Cullen. Her husband Matt is the "celebrity" behind Cully's Kids (Matt is an NHL hockey player for the Minnesota Wild.) But the heart, the soul, and the driving force, of the Cullen Children's Foundation squarely lies in the hands of Bridget. There are so many words that you could use to describe her- warm, engaging, generous, compassionate- and they'd all be true. But she is one of those rare people, whose gift is making you feel like you matter. Talk with her for 15 seconds, or 5 minutes, and you'll walk away feeling better about life in general.
Rachel and Jen are hockey mom's like myself. They've both given of their time and talents to my own family and it does not surprise me in the least to see them volunteering for Cully's Kids either.
Part of the excitement of the night was due to these keys around our necks. There were only 100 keys. You could purchase one for 50 dollars. One of the keys unlocked a box- to a beautiful diamond ring valued at $3,000. Whose key would be magic?
First Bridget randomly picked a color of ribbon from all the possible colors. If your ribbon matched that color picked, you would get a chance to try your key in the lock. And the color chosen? SILVER. Do you see which color is around my neck above? It happened to be our 15th wedding anniversary. The excitement was growing... I happened to be third to try my lock and...
it didn't open... nope... wouldn't budge. But the girl next to me? She happens to be Bridget's friend, Tanya, the wife of NHL player Eric Staal of the Hurricanes, and yep... she won!
And for the rest of the night- I was the girl who "almost" won. But...
really... you know I feel like I won already. The gift of friendship, of community- the spirit of giving- those were all the gifts being given. I've found the real "key" to receiving all those gifts? Is opening your heart... and my heart has been laid wide open.
more... part II...
It's my birthday today... I'm so grateful to celebrate another year... 45 years and counting...