Our
Journey:
Avalon's Army of Angels
January 29, 2009
Black Tie Blue Jackets Fundraiser
Technically speaking, this entry started on Jan
28...but was forcibly moved to the 29th.  Oh, it is
to laugh...
not.  

Yesterday, Jan 28th, was a whopping snow storm
here in Central Ohio.  I'm not talking
garden-variety Midwestern snowstorm.  I'm
talking  cataclysmic,
had-it-been-rain-we'd-be-looking-for-Noah kind
of snow storm.  And yet, oh lucky me, I had two,
count them
two places I was absolutely
committed to be - no way out.  Fabulous.  

Its important to note here, I HATE driving in snow
and ice.  I love snow - through a window.  I don't
like being in it, I'm not a particular fan of playing
in it, and I absolutely
abhor driving in it.  Imagine
my "glee" when all Tuesday night the news kept
reporting schools and businesses that would be
closed Wednesday morning - and
why-doesn't-everyone-just-stay-off-the-roads
warnings of rush hour doom and gloom?  
Yippee.  

So, as I've discussed in previous posts, it just so
happened that Wed the 28th was the day of not
only Avalon's neuro-ophthalmology appointment,
it was also the day of the Black Tie Blue Jackets
Fundraiser fashion show.  This is the show that
Avalon was not welcome to participate in, so one
would think I wouldn't be going.  However, a
dear, wonderful,
adorable friend of ours was
invited to be in it, and she and her mom asked if I
would mind playing "fill-in-mom" for the event.  
No matter what my personal feelings might be
toward a few Blue Jackets employees at the
moment, the fact is:  I support the cause, like the
players, and LOVE this teenage girl...so I was in.

The teenager in question is Christina.  Some of
you may recognize her from previous posts.  
Christina is a Ewing's Sarcoma survivor.  She
battled one of the deadliest childhood
cancers...and won.  But her victory came at a
large price.   Christina has a muscle disorder
that became catastrophic when she received a
chemo drug that interacted with it.  At the age of
14, she went from being a normal kid, to a
cancer kid, to a near quadriplegic within days.  
She's faced down demons that most adults can't
even imagine...yet she's positive, funny, and
utterly charming.  I'm pretty sure I'd be a
negative, bitter old bat in her brace-filled shoes.  
She's become one of my greatest heroes...

Anyway, Christina and her family live about 40
minutes south of Columbus.  Since we live 40
minutes north of the city, we decided that the
easiest way to handle the fashion show, was for
our family to kidnap her for the night.  We
decided we'd meet halfway, do a prisoner
exchange, then Christina would spend the night
with us after the fashion show, to be returned via
a 2nd prisoner exchange the following day.  All in
all it worked out perfectly, Avalon was scheduled
for the neuro-ophthal exam on Wed, pick-up and
fashion show day.   Then she had neuro-surgery
clinic on Thurs, return-day.  Since the hospital is
1/2 way for both of us, it seemed like near divine
intervention.  Until.....

Until Heaven itself opened up and decided to
bomb this half of the lower 48 with enough snow
for several continents.  Suddenly, the best laid
plans of mice, men, and moms became less
appealing.  But no matter what, Avalon had to
get to her eye appointment, so traveling the few
miles across downtown Columbus to meet
Christina's dad really wasn't that bad for me.  It
was
his nightmare trip from home to the hospital
that was daunting.  Oddly enough, south of
Columbus was hit with even worse conditions
than we were - making his trip far more
treacherous than mine had been.  (and mine  
stunk out loud)  

But eventually I got to the hospital, and
eventually, Christina and I were navigating our
way back to the house, and our dress clothes.  
Because of the 4 x longer than normal drive - we
arrived home with very little time to relax and get
ready for our big "Black Tie" evening.  While
Aurora and the girls helped make Christina
fancy, I hurried up and stuffed my sausage self
into one of the few dressy outfits I have that I
actually don't feel like I look 85.  (wrinkles, gray
hair, and 120 extra pounds don't do much for the
"cocktail" look)  All too soon, Christina and I were
back on the road - fighting our way to the fashion
show.  

Again I feel the need for a slight 'aside'.  I'm sure
you may be asking yourself,
If schools,
universities, and businesses are all closed - why
on earth is a charity fashion show going on?  If
surrounding counties are under Level 3 snow
emergencies, where you can be ticketed for
driving, why for-the-sake-of-Pete are these crazy
people risking life and limb to go to a fashion
show?  Are they INSANE?!
 The short answer is,
yes - we're NUTS.  But this was a
once-in-a-lifetime chance for Christina, and I
wasn't about to disappoint her.  As for the show
itself, Tuesday night, the organizer had sent a
stern email to all the kids involved stating that
yes,  beyond a doubt, the fashion show would go
on.  They were told that with the players'
schedules, and the hotel ballroom schedule, it
was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to change the date
of the show - it HAD to go on the night of the
28th.  There was NO WAY it would be cancelled.  
Christina had called to tell me about the email,
so we had decided come heck or high water -
we'd get her there.

Moving on, Christina and I had the luxury of
hours in the car on Wednesday, to discuss the
frivolity of continuing with a fashion show when
more than likely - several of the ticket holders
wouldn't be able to get there.  She said she'd
checked email several times, right up until she
and her father left to meet me - still in disbelief
that they wouldn't cancel the event.  As we pulled
into the hotel's unplowed parking lot, we were,
again, worried about how the ticket holders
would feel about the evening.  

I dropped Christina off at the door, and fought
my way through the lot to a space I thought I
might be able to get the van in and out of.  Then,
in my one nice, it-makes-me-feel-less-frumpy
dress, I climbed through snow drifts that were up
to my knees, to make my way back to the hotel
lobby.  Once inside, a very wet, very cold me -
met up with a very cold, very excited Christina.  
We joined up and made our way to the fashion
show.....uh...
NOT.

The reality is, we were
on our way to the fashion
show ballroom, when we were met by the very
same woman who had called and uninvited my
kids from the police academy event.  She smiled
and said, "Oh - this is what I was afraid of...  
You're the
one hero I couldn't get a hold of.   
The show's been postponed until tomorrow.  
Sorry about that."  
WHAT?!!!  ARE YOU
SERIOUS!!!!!?

Yep, dead serious.  The
it-absolutely-cannot-be-postponed fashion show,
had been
postponed.  ARGHHHHH.....  
Supposedly, this person had tried to call
Christina - but couldn't get a hold of her.  When
they checked the number, its because she was
calling a number Christina hasn't had in over 8
months.  Not to mention, that this same person
has contacted Christina since then - at the
correct number.  Or, that this same person
obviously didn't think to ask around - if anyone
else might know how to contact her.  One of the
main volunteers for the show knew that I was the
one bringing Christina, and my phone numbers
are on her phone.  Again I say...Arghhhhh.....

We were offered pizza for our troubles and told
what time to come back tomorrow.  While
Christina went to grab a bite (wonder why I had
no appetite?) I went to chat with one of my
friends that was there volunteering.  It didn't take
long before Christina and I were heading home
for a night of fun with the kids.  We spent most of
the return trip laughing.  I mean really, the
absurdity of it all was hysterical.  In another life, I
would have been seriously honked off, both of us
would have.  But less than a month ago,
Christina and I cried together at the funeral of an
8 yo girl we know, who lost her fight.  No matter
how rude the people were for not contacting
Christina, or more so - for being flippant about
what her family and I went through to get her
there...the fact is, the money goes to help cancer
kids.  The employees don't have any idea what
its like to face death - we do.  That reality makes
this kind of stuff just silliness.  Rude, yes, but not
worth stressing over.  

On the way home, Christina called her mom and
explained everything.  Lisa had a good laugh
about the insanity of it all too.  Once we made it
to the house, we made one more phone call to
work out the details.  Christina and I both had
8am appointments on Friday, so the new plan
was to do the fashion show Thursday night, then
meet Christina's dad at the hospital after the
show.  Not quite as peaceful and simple as the
original timing, but still nothing difficult to
accomplish.  Aurora ended up with the bonus of
having Christina here to help her wrangle Anam
and Ambrosia while I took Avalon to see Dr.
Kosnik.  All in all, we made the best of it, and had
a ton of fun!  

After Avalon's neuro-surgery clinic, she and I
headed home so Christina and I could try this
business again.  I kept joking about "same Bat
time, same Bat place..." - but the stinkin' kids are
too young to appreciate how funny I am...  

Soon enough, Christina and I were dolled up
again, and headed back to the hotel.  We knew
we were good to go when we got there and the
parking lot was actually plowed!  Wahoo!  I also
remembered to grab the handicapped placard,
so I was able to park and help Christina out,
instead of dropping her at the door like a frog at
the closest pond.  

Once inside, the real magic started.  From the
moment Christina walked in the door, she was
given full out star treatment.  Each of the heroes
were assigned a "helper" - to get them anything
they needed, and to make sure they got from
place to place on time.  Christina's "helper" was
Haley, a charming young lady that Aurora is
friends with!  Haley's mom is the overly-incredible
woman that went to Aurora's swim meet to cheer
her on when I couldn't be there.  Seeing the two
of them first thing, set the mood for a perfect
evening.  

Better yet, 4 people we know and LOVE from the
Heme-Onc clinic were the ones volunteering in
the Hero Room, helping to feed, change, and
keep track of the heros during the night.  
Seriously, you'd be hard pressed to line up four
kinder, more amazing people.  Avalon would
have been in heaven - these are four of her
favorite people of all time:  Diane, Joan, Debbie,
and Ryan.  (OK, Liz, Tiffany, and the surg center
gang were missing, and Felicia and Elizabeth live
in CA...but you get the idea)

It was perfect because not only do those four
people know most of the kids, but they absolutely
understand the importance of funds.  These are
people who have dedicated their lives to cancer
kids, who better to enjoy an evening that helps
them?

I suppose I should explain about the whole
evening.  Columbus' professional hockey team,
the Columbus Blue Jackets, has a charitable
foundation that raises money for our Children's
Hospital.  They have a focus on cancer kids, but
have donated money to build a family resource
center in our hospital, and give money to several
local charities that we enjoy activities with.  The
CBJ Foundation calls cancer kids "Heroes".  
Hence, why I keep referring to the participants of
the fashion show that way.

The fashion show is one of the largest annual
fundraisers for the Foundation.  The show is put
on in cooperation with Saks Fifth Avenue.  In the
show, players and their wives/girlfriends model
the latest Saks styles, alongside local cancer
"heroes".  This is the same show I wrote about
last year.  Except this year's show was much,
MUCH bigger and better - thanks in a large part
to our friend, Lori.  This year, siblings of heroes
also participated.  (wouldn't Ambrosia have
LOVED that?!  And Aurora would have flipped to
get to meet the players)   In addition, this year's
event was in a ballroom of a beautiful hotel, with
a band, stage, lighting, and video screens.  Last
year was a runway that stuck out from an
entrance of Saks into the mall....  The best I can
say is the difference between last year to this
was a fuzz-covered mint from the bottom of
Grandma's purse...to a gourmet chocolate
delight from a French Chef.  There really was no
comparison.

Before the cocktail hour, the heroes and the
players were called to the ballroom to learn how
the show was going to work.  Three of the
fashion directors showed the "models" how they
should walk, where to pose, and how to wait to
make sure the descriptions of the outfits and
heroes were finished before they left the stage.  
All in all, it was very professional, and quite
impressive.  The kids were vibrating, they were
so excited!  I giggled quite a bit with a mom I'd
met before, and the mother of one of the teen
heroes.  The teen daughter was croaking.  
There she was, 18 and cute, standing across
from some very "datable" players, with no make
up and her hair not done yet.  She was
miserable.  We laughed.  Man, moms are just
jerks sometimes!

As the "mom" of a hero, I was permitted to attend
the $200/ticket event, and enjoy the wine tasting
party before and dinner during the show.  While
those were nice perks, I would have gladly worn
sweats in the corner for the chance to get to see
Christina's face.  She truly had an enchanted
evening!  I never saw her that she wasn't
grinning ear to ear, and drinking in every
moment of the night, in spite of being pretty darn
sick and feeling like dreck.  The whole event
made her feel like the special, beautiful girl that
she is.  I think she took back a little of what
cancer had stolen from her...

In the pictures on the right, I've labeled things
pretty extensively.  There are lots of pictures of
Christina, some of other friends that were in the
show, and lots of our hockey buddies, Ole and
Guro.  I took the Ole and Guro pics because my
children threatened me...but also as an
illustration.  The men and women involved in the
show are amazing.  They take the kids to heart,
and do their best to make them feel welcome and
comfortable.  Having been to several of these
types of events, I'm so thrilled to tell you how
genuine those smiles are.  Sure, not every
hockey guy is a child-loving sweetheart.  But this
team, this coach, these men - have bred an
atmosphere of love and support, and our
community is blessed to have them.  I honestly
believe that John McConnell's legacy to our city
is that he instilled not only a belief in charity in
his team, he showed them what it is to Love their
community and its most fragile members.  These
men and women really do care, their hearts are
honestly there.  

Because this year's show was so much bigger
and fancier - the organizers knew that the parent
bottleneck of last year wasn't the smoothest way
to operate.  The four Heme-onc volunteers I
mentioned and the "handlers" were responsible
for the Heroes, rather than a discordant group of
parents.  It left me with the curse/blessing of
being there with no one.  It was fun to have no
little people to have to mind, but lonely
navigating a room full of people by myself.  I
won't lie, there were times that were odd, but
overall, I had a tremendous amount of fun
chatting with players and other oncology families
we've come to know and love.  

Before I launch into my version of the evening,
its important to share something.  I LOVE
meeting people.  I think people are fascinating.  I
love hearing about their lives, what they do,
where they came from.  My teenager thinks I'm
nosy, but that's not it.  I don't ask questions or
talk to people to gain anything, or to judge them.  
I genuinely love learning about people, and what
makes them happy.  I've always been like that.  I
love going "behind the scenes" of any place -
learning what makes it tick, what makes it
work.  
However, this interest in people also makes me a
horrible, and I mean
horrible fan.  

When I say I'm a bad fan, I mean have no fan
attributes. I have absolutely ZERO interest in
autographs.  In fact, I seriously don't understand
why people get so flippy about them.  So Mr.
Smith can sign his name.  So what?  I'll sign my
name on your hat if it seems to make you happy,
but I haven't the foggiest idea why you would
want it.  I'd much rather chat with you than "get"
something from you.  A warm hug or a friendly
smile is priceless in my book.  The normal "fan"
stuff just confuses me.

I'm the worst stalker on the planet - virtually no
one in the world impresses me with their job.    
The way I see it, everyone puts their pants on
the same way I do, and takes them off for the
same reasons.  Its a great equalizer,  if you think
about it.  When I say I love talking to people, I
mean all people.  Your age, size, race,
socio-economic status and job mean very little to
me - I'm interested in
you.  While this belief
leaves me free to approach and chat with
anyone, it has often irritated people who felt I
should be more impressed with them than I was.  

I bring this up because I have found the Blue
Jackets players we've met to be warm and
wonderful humans.  I've also found the fans that
stalk them to be...perplexing.  Its often been
interesting to stand and watch how people
interact with someone they feel is a "celebrity".  It
seems that the more they 'worship' someone, the
worse they treat them.  Fans that know every
detail of a player's history and stats, will demand
an autograph and a picture - then run on to their
next conquest, rather than actually speak to the
person they so admire.  The whole circle
frustrates me endlessly.  I often find myself
playing "porch" at these events, watching how
people behave as they pass in front of me,
endlessly curious about that element of society
that I seem to not grasp.

The gift of my failure-to-be-impressed is that I'm
free from the tyranny of 'Fan-dom'.  I don't have
to quell a butterfly attack, or steady my nerves.  
I'm free to walk up and chat with anyone,
because I have no preconceived notions about
them.  While I've always held a strict belief in
thanking someone who has paid you a kindness
in either word or deed, I've felt an overwhelming
need to thank a great deal of complete strangers
over the past few years.  Watching people raise
money to help children like Avalon, leaves me
desperate to tell them how much I appreciate
them.  I've made it a bit of a mission in my life, to
take the time to tell people how much I
appreciate the kindness they are sowing in the
world.  I always hope that if someone hears that
they've touched a heart, they will be inspired to
do so again.  

Anyway, I felt the need to explain all of that - so
that you understand when/if I refer to a player, or
someone else in the public eye - I do so as a
friend.  I don't give two hoots about whether
anyone is impressed by whom they are - the
story is about my friend, nothing more.  

OK, off the soapbox, back to the story.  As
Christina hung out with Haley and the other
heroes, I was free to wander around the wine
tasting party.  I started out by meandering back
to the dressing area - to smooch on our beloved
Guro.  Criminy, those hair dressers and
fashionistas had it made!  Hockey wives and
girlfriends are
stunning!  Guro is straight out of
any fashion magazine - she's gorgeous.  She
also happens to be as sweet and kind as she is
beautiful.   She's total proof of don't judge a
book by its cover, she's so pretty no one can
believe how dear she is!

One of the first players I ran into was Guro's
other half, Ole.  I had to sadly report that Anam
is no longer calling him, "Odee" - he has actually
moved on to "Ole".  Darn it.  I love it when little
kids say things wrong!  It makes it so much more
personal!!  I also had to threaten Ole for ruining
Anam.  Darn his hide.  Anam is absolutely bonzo
for hockey.  He "pays ha-ee" constantly.  I'm
convinced its all Ole's fault.  He laughed when I
asked him how his mom deals with watching him
get in fights.  Then, he was nice to Anam.  Oh
great - be good to my kid, and now he wants to
be like you!  AAACCKK!!  I told Ole I'm not cut
out to be a hockey mom.  I think he somehow
jinxed me...  He did appreciate that Anam is now
"checking" himself into our couches when he
plays.  He and Guro had also very much enjoyed
Avalon's recent black eye.  I suppose if my son
has to grow up to give me gray hair...at least he
can model himself after someone who's as
wonderful as Ole.  But cripes...could we make
him a goalie,
please?!  They wear more pads...

I had a weird moment while talking to Ole.  This
camera guy came up and was taking a bunch of
pictures.  I didn't do well with the whole
pretend-he's-not-there-keep-looking-at-Ole
thing.  Poor Ole, he tried to give me the "look" to
help me out, but it was odd.  I don't mind
speaking in public. (see the above discussion
about people not intimidating me)  But having a
private conversation while someone stalked us
on camera was difficult to get used to.  Ole was
much more mature than I was, I just wanted the
guy gone.  I suppose 'celebrities' have to get
used to it, but for 1/2 a second I understood why
they whack the paparazzi every now and then.

After hugs from Ole, I was off to find someone
else to talk to.  I ran into Manny, another hockey
player we've gotten to know.  We actually met his
wife, before we got to know him.  Although she
was just his girlfriend then, JoAnn was
unbelievably kind to Ambrosia when we attended
the opening of the CBJ family resource center at
the hospital a few years ago.  Avalon was busy in
pictures with the players, and Ambrosia was,
once again, the left out sissy.  JoAnn went out of
her way to play with Ambrosia, and make her feel
special.  She gave something amazing to
Ambrosia that day - time and a feeling of
importance.  It was a gift beyond what my simple
"Thank you" could hope to touch.

Manny and I were only able to chat briefly, the
demands for his time and attention were plentiful.
 He really is a player who deserves a standing
ovation though.  He is utterly committed to the
kids in this community.  He and Ole are tireless in
their appearances and financial support of
several charities.  Their hearts are really as big
as their playing abilities.

Next I sought out Jiri.  Jiri was one of the players
who played with the kids at the hospital
Christmas party.  I figured he'd have no idea who
I was, but I wanted to thank him for such a
wonderful day and fun memories.  I started out
by saying, "I'm sure you don't remember me but I
wanted to thank you..."  He cut me off by saying I
was the lady from the hospital and I had 4 kids,
right?  Check!  We had a lovely conversation,
and I was able to thank him for being so sweet.  
I'd love to have a more in-depth conversation
with him some time, he's obviously another really
great guy.  

Next I went on a hunt for Rusty, the other player
that had been so nice to the kids.  Again, I didn't
think for half a second he'd have any idea who I
was.  Wrong!  I got another warm hug, and lots
of questions about where the kids were.  I also
received a formal request for a copy of the video
of he and Jiri and the kids, if I can get my hands
on it.  Way to melt a mom's heart...ask about her
kids!  This is why these young men impress me
so much - they really do care about the children
they meet.  Honestly, folks, when I was their age,
I didn't give a fig or a holler about other people's
children, I was too busy in my own world.  These
guys have every reason to be full of themselves
and in their own heads - and they honestly pay
attention to the children they help.  I may be a
rotten fan, but I'm one doting momma.  I'd bring
them all home for dinner, if they'd let me!  :-)

I met a new player tonight, the CBJ goalie, Steve
Mason.  He's young (a teenager!), incredibly
talented, and handled the adoration of the crowd
really well.  He laughed when I told him I didn't
have a single thing for him to sign, I'd much
rather just shake his hand and say, "Hi!"  He's
another one I'd love to sit down and have a nice
long talk with.  What must it be like to leave home
so young, make so much money, and suddenly
have an entire city watching your every move?  
I'm sure he'd have a lot of interesting viewpoints
on things.  Ah....I guess I'll have to wait for
another day.  

I managed to squeak in a teasing or two to
another player friend, Chris.  Last year, they
gave him a purse in the fashion show.  
Seriously...a
purse.  It wasn't good.  I really didn't
know him well enough to be as ornery as I was
either....but he forgave me for it.  C'mon...a new
hockey player - and a purse.  You're telling me
you could have resisted daring him to "snap it
out" at the end of the runway?  OK, maybe I
have no self-control...

I spent the rest of the evening, enjoying the
company of other cancer families.  A family we
met in clinic several years ago, a family we know
from CBJ events, and several families we know
from Kids N Kamp, a local pediatric cancer
charity we do a lot with.  While chatting for a few
minutes with players we don't see often was nice,
the backbone of the evening for me was these
families.  We all needed each other desperately
tonight.  One of our own was losing the battle, we
knew it, and we needed each other to face it.  

As I said in the neuro-surgery update, I went to
briefly see a friend, Andrea, and her son, Mason,
after Avalon's appointment.  At the time we
stopped by, they were waiting on test results.  By
the time of the fashion show, the results were in,
the cancer was back.  I have goosebumps just
writing that.  Its a worst fear for all of us, a living
nightmare that we all share.  There is no one
who understands what that means to you like
another cancer mom does.  There is so much to
say, yet you don't have to, you can just
exchange looks and know what's in her heart.  

We discussed how hard it was to be there and
try to have fun, when someone we know and love
is suffering so.  We also agreed that Andrea and
Mason would have been the ones to tell us to go.
 They love hockey, and they support the work of
the Foundation.  Knowing that, didn't make the
other things we know any easier to live with.  

I told one of the other moms that I had this
overwhelming urge to randomly stop
ticketholders and point to the pictures on the
walls and tell them the reality behind those faces.
 "That's Matthew, he's undergoing radiation right
now for relapsed brain cancer.  That's Mason, he
relapsed ALL, went through bone marrow
transplant, and has now relapsed in his central
nervous system.  That's Joe, he just relapsed his
bone cancer in his lungs and ribs.  They put off a
critical surgery so he could get married."  That's
what I said to my friend.  What I really wanted to
do was scream at people, "
Do you know those
children may not be here next year??!!!!"  
I do,
and it eats at my heart.
Helper Haley on the left - Christina the
star on the right, practicing her smile!
Heroes lining up by the runway for
practice.
Isaac and his hero brother, Will.  We
know them from Kids N Kamp.  Isaac
and Aurora became friends this year at
camp.  Both boys are sweethearts.  
Will's walk down the runway brought
me many, many happy tears.  He
suffered a stroke this past Spring, and
was in-house on the Rehab floor, while
Avalon was in for the bad surgery.  
Watching him WALK down the runway
was MAGIC...
Players lined up for the practice. There
were some cute tushies up there!  But I
would
never say anything like that...
Christina's picture from the show
line-up - they had outfit pics posted
like in a professional fashion show!
Ole and the little guy were chosen to
be the sample models.  Cute, cute, cute!
Preshow, heroes, siblings, and players
Will caught me looking.  What a ham!  
I'm so angry I didn't have my flash on.  
I hadn't wanted to interfere with the
practice...but that grin is priceless!
3 year old hero - he is recovering from
a bone marrow transplant that was his
only chance for a cure from a blood
disorder.  Is he too cute or what?
Heading to the practice session.  Silent
auction items were on tables throughout
the cocktail area.
I had so much fun playing "Proud Mom"
of Christina for a night!
Sorry, Isaac - he's got you!
Rusty getting left out...  Too funny!
Will is a HUGE hockey fan - getting to
walk with the new goalie was a dream
come true!
Adorable....
Isaac working it with Rusty and his
wife?  (not sure wife or girlfriend)
In the outfit...ready for hair and
makeup!
"Low five" for Ole and hero
I loved the screens.  They showed
pictures of the hero and their family
while they walked the runway.  Hi Will!
Christina finally looks 16!!  OK, and
Ryan looks cute too...
During the finale, Christina walked with
a different player, Jared Boll.  She
had all the luck!
Hee hee hee...she had them all to herself!
Four of the best, nicest, most amazing
people you'd ever want to meet!!!!!
Ryan, Diane, Debbie, Joan
Christina with Derek Dorsett.  He is so nice, he
came to find her in the crowd before he left.  
He wanted to thank her for walking with him,
and tell her how great she did.  I was really
impressed!
Ole and Guro with Chase - a teenage
cancer survivor and avid activist for
the cause
Every girl in the room was jealous!
Christina with Steve Mason.  Seriously, could
they find taller players?  Good grief, he
makes you feel like an elf.  You have to love
those grins!
Christina - with Steve Mason in the
blue, and Derek Dorsett in the gray.
I know that the vast majority of the people there don't realize that - I certainly didn't before I was
thrown into this life.  I know that many of them don't want to.  That's not a judgement either, its
an honest admission.  I didn't want to know about this world before I became a part of it.  Its one
of the things that makes me appreciate the players as people.  They do know, they do want to
learn.  They often go very far out of their way to help our kids, all without that camera that was
stalking them tonight.  When our friend Joe relapsed recently, there weren't cameras there
when a player friend went to hug on him, because his special player friend no longer works for
the Blue Jackets.  No cameras, just a kind heart.

Unfortunately, the audience did end up getting a small taste of our cancer world.  One of the
heroes had to leave the show before he was able to walk down the runway.  After months of
working to make it down that almighty stage - he became too sick to make the actual walk.  He'd
had so much fun at the cocktail hour, enjoying visiting, and drinking in every moment of the
experience...that he over-tired himself.  Bodies that are beaten up by chemo often just can't
keep up with the spirits that dwell within them.  

Christina reported after the show, how much she now admired a certain player, Jason.  
Backstage, as Ryan became more and more ill, they were desperately looking for a wheelchair
to try to allow him to make the trip down the runway.  Jason offered to carry him - just to make
sure he could do it.  (Ryan is a teenager, probably as tall as Jason)  Someone chastised Jason,
saying he was in a Saks suit - he might damage it.  Christina's eyes glowed as she reported
Jason's answer, and his willingness to move heaven and Earth to make that young man's dream
come true.  While the runway walk was not meant to be - Ryan's courage, and Jason's devotion
to a fellow fighter, were truly inspirational for Christina.  

Christina's runway walk was nothing short of perfection.  The other teen girls were unabashedly
jealous!  Christina walked the runway holding hands with not one, but
two of the most popular,
and eligible bachelors in the bunch!  When we found out she was walking with the infamous new
goalie, Steve, we couldn't text Aurora fast enough with the news.  If giggles were flowers, I'd
have been up to my eyeballs in poppies from Haley and Christina.  

Speaking of Haley, I hornswaggled her into sitting with me through the fashion show.  We had
two seats at the dinner table, one for me, one for Christina.  Obviously Christina's wasn't being
used during the show, so I dragged Haley in with me to enjoy the spectacle.  The other two
families we sat with welcomed her warmly, and helped me soothe her fears that she wasn't
dressed fancy enough.  We told her we didn't care, and heck - the families were in the cheap
seats - as far back as they could hide us!  Not only did
we not care - no one could see her
anyway!  Hah!  

So Haley stayed with me during dinner, helping me feel a bit less conspicuous, and much
happier.  No question that I vacillated back and forth between the joy of watching the smiles of
the kids I know, and the sadness for the families I know that are struggling.  But Haley was good
for me.  She was hope.  Haley's family hasn't been touched by childhood cancer, yet they come
and the volunteer.  Haley's mom says she swims every meet in honor of Avalon - just because
she cares.  If this one young woman can reach out, and open her heart to children like
Avalon...there is hope.  If these men and women can look past their own lives, and embrace my
child, and those that will follow her...there is hope.  

If people continue to come here to learn what our lives are like...I have Hope.  I believe in the
beauty and fragility of Life.  I have Hope that sometimes, I help you believe in it too...