Wendy's Championship for Children
Avalon
Hey there, Hi there, Ho there!  You're all as welcome as can be...

Contrary to what I had pledged a few weeks ago, this email is a bit of a backtrack.  Yeah,
yeah...promises, promises...so sue me..

This particular story begins with the email I've pasted below.  I received it on August 11, 2005
from our Columbus Children's Hospital foundation friend, Nichole.  You may remember Nichole
from emails about Circle of Friends and the Children's Miracle Network Telethon.  Avalon is a
giant Nichole fan...she squeals when she sees her..knows exactly where Nichole keeps her
candy...and generally speaking, disrupts Nichole's entire office whenever we stop by to say
"Hi!"  The fun thing is, Nichole is equally an Avalon fan.  Its definitely a mutual love-fest.  With
that in mind, here is the email she sent:
__________________________________________________________________________
Hi!
Just wanted to let you know that the marketing liaison in my office submitted all of the banners that we
have used all summer to the Wendy’s Championship for Children LPGA Tournament to let them pick
which “cute kid” they wanted to use for inside tent etc… Of course they picked Avalon!!  So I wanted to
let you know that her picture will be hanging in a tent at the Golf Club of Dublin for the week of the
tourney… There  will be a lot going on in that tent.  I will let you know if I hear of anything that you may  
be interested in attending.  

Nichole

__________________________________________________________________________

You could hardly live in Columbus and not know about the existence of the Wendy's
Championship for Children.  They blanket the airways with radio and television commercials,
have billboards every 10 miles and signs and promotions at every Wendy's restaurant.  
Moreover, the Championship is held at Tartan Fields Golf Club - the golf course in the sub-
division where Nick works.  Every year during television broadcasts - he and other contractors
have "be-quiet" orders if they're too close to the course.  Even with all of that, we didn't have
the slightest clue what the Championship benefited.  Frankly, we both presumed that it was to
raise funds for adoption causes or mentoring programs...Dave Thomas was a well-known
supporter of both.  

When I received the email about choosing Avalon's picture, I couldn't fathom what she had to
do with adoption.  I then took the millennium route for curious people...and went internet
searching to learn about the tournament.  I was dutifully shocked by what I found.  The
Wendy's Championship for Children is to raise money for pediatric cancer research and
treatment, with the principal benefactor being our own Children's Hospital!  Who knew?  
(http://wendyschampionship.com/charity/index.asp ) I was so excited and impressed with what I
read, that I decided to write a Thank You note to the Championship - to tell them how much we
parents appreciate their efforts.  I'm so glad I did.
Its a funny thing, gratitude.  The more you learn to
appreciate the things around you...the more you wish to
tell people how much they mean to your life.  I've always
had the personal belief of commenting on the "good" in
the world...good restaurant service, kind cashiers,
thoughtful people.  I figure that if I take the time to say
"Thank You" for the good, I have a right to complain
about the "bad".  Anyway, ever since Avalon's diagnosis
- I've been overwhelmed with the good that I've been
given the opportunity to be grateful for.  This tournament
is no exception.  Finding out that a local corporation has
raised over 2.2 million dollars for pediatric cancer in the
past 4 years...well, that's gratitude exponential!  

As I said before, I'm glad I chose to write.  The responses
I received in return were breathtaking.  I didn't know if
anyone would see my letter, or even, if they'd give two
hoots that some weird mom chose to write.  I'm happy to
report that I could not have been more wrong!  The
group of people who organize the Championship are
kind, open-hearted, and all-around fabulous humans.  
They offered us tickets to events, heart-warming
well-wishes, and e-hugs that were big enough you could
barely stand it.  We eventually agreed to attend the first
night's dinner - it was not only a "draw party" for the
pro-am tournament, it was also to celebrate the president
of Children's who is leaving to run a new hospital in
Seattle.  It seemed like a perfect fit for us.   (
Thank you
email and responses)

Since Aurora was visiting our friend, Anne, in
Washington D.C. that week, and Ambrosia was spending
the weekend with my parents, we asked if Avalon was
permitted to join us for the dinner.  The organizers
graciously agreed, and were even excited to get to meet
her.  So off we were, for yet another charity event -
where we financially couldn't have fit in less - but couldn't
have been more thrilled to get to attend.

The event was at the Dublin Golf Club and consisted of
hors de' vours, a few short speeches, a dinner, and the
draw for tournament pairings for the next morning.  I'm
happy to report that for this event...we managed to drive
the "good" car - so we didn't have to die of
embarrassment when we handed it over to the valets!  
When we arrived, Nick nearly passed out from joy at the
sight of the hors de' vours table...shrimp and crab claws
so plentiful that Jaws himself would have salivated.  Not
to mention the cheese platters that would have made any
Wisconsonian weep with joy.  We'd been there 5
minutes, and it was already shaping up to be charity
nirvana...

The best surprise of the evening came very early on -
when we were able to meet three of the organizing team
from HNS Sports Group (the people who organize the
tournament for Wendy's).  Hattie, Alison, and Heather
greeted us like old friends, with warm hugs and smiles as
big as the course itself.  They stood and chatted with us
like we'd known each other for years.  We laughed,
teased, and enjoyed every minute with them.  Next, I was
thrilled to meet Randy, the director of sales and
marketing for HNS.  He was as friendly and welcoming as
Hattie, Alison, and Heather.  I couldn't be happier to
report on how many giant hugs I received from these
people...I felt as if we were truly blessed to have met
them.  

When it was time for dinner, everyone was ushered into
a giant outdoor tent.  Our next surprise was in the form of
a 5 foot tall banner of Avalon's face!  Down the center of
the tent, at the highest point, hung a row of these huge
banners.  Avalon's was in the center of the room, facing
the entrance.  It was the picture from the opening page
of the website...and it was HUGE.  She had immense
amounts of fun looking up at herself and announcing to
everyone..."Dats
me!"  

Dinner was delicious.  Our tablemates were very tolerant
of Avalon.  The couple directly next to me were actually
very friendly to her, and interested in her story.  Dinner
was followed by a short video about this year's poster
child, and then a few speeches explaining what the
tournament is all about.  If you go to the Wendy's link
above, you will see that,in part, the tournament funds a
position for a doctor, specifically, Dr. Gross - a bone
marrow transplant specialist.  

In his speech, Dr. Gross told the crowd that prior to the
inception of the Championship for Children, Children's in
Columbus was only doing 10 or so bone marrow
transplants per year.  This year, they will do over 35!!!  
That's astonishing.  That number doesn't sound big to
most people - but to those of us who know transplant
families...its huge.  To be able to stay in your own city for
a transplant, is an enormous gift.  BMT kids are in house
for 6 weeks to 6 months...some longer.  The stress that
places on the family is mind-boggling, all of which is
exacerbated if the family is far from home.  To be able to
help Columbus families in Columbus...is all any doctor
could hope for.  
Avalon in her party finery...  
Don't you love her "bow"?  Its a
head band, so she can pretend
she has a hairbow like sissy.
This was the view as you walked
into the dinner tent.
She loved standing right here,
under the banner, and pointing
up at herself.
Does this give you an idea about
how big the banner is?  Its as
tall as we are!
While Nick and I found the speeches fascinating...Avalon was rather non-plussed.  She had
discovered the joy in crunching ice chips from water glasses.  After she plowed through her
own, mine, Nick's, and the glass from the empty place setting...we were desperately begging a
server to bring her more to shush her "I want ice!" mantra.  I just kept hoping that if Dr. Gross
heard her, he'd smile that she was healthy enough to complain....  

We have actually met Dr. Gross before, although we had no idea who he was, or how
important he is.  When Avalon was in-house for her port infection, we met Dr. Gross on "the
bridge" when the Blue Jackets came to visit.  You may recall, that's when Avalon was refusing
to leave her room unless she was wearing a crown and feather boa.  At the Wendy's dinner,
Randy introduced us to Dr. Gross officially.  I told him we'd met before in-house, and he
said..."Yeah, I thought she was my "boa girl".  For someone so overly-educated, and amazingly
devoted...he is as kind, and warm as your favorite uncle.  He has an utterly charming smile,
and very child-friendly disposition.  Avalon liked him, until we made the colossal mistake of
referring to him as "Dr. Gross".  The second we put the "doctor" in there, she hid...game over.  
Fortunately, Dr. Gross found that as funny as we did.  I give him credit, he nearly stood on his
head to try to win her over...no luck.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love our Heme-Onc
people?  Dr. Gross is just another example of how special that group of humans are...

After speeches, they drew pairings for the Pro-Am tournament that started bright and early the
next morning.  Since it truly started
early, the party was pretty much dead over the second the
drawings were done.  Of course, it had taken that whole time, dinner, and lots of ice...to warm
Avalon up to the place.  Consequently, it was on our way out that she found her groove thing.  
As we were making our way to the exit, she had to continuously stop to feel the music...  Oh
well, she tickled quite a few people as they were leaving.  I suppose seeing a cancer kid feeling
the beat was probably a pretty good send off for the night.  I know I liked it!

We opted out of attending the rest of the tournament.  Frankly, as much as I loved these
people, and appreciate their efforts for our kids...bleck, I don't like golf.  Doesn't mean I won't
volunteer in future years, doesn't mean I won't sing their praises...just means I didn't want to
have to hike to watch what I don't understand.  Besides, chemo kids and sun just don't mix.  I
did briefly take Avalon and Ambrosia to the Friday Family Night events.  Ambrosia had tons of
fun in a bouncy room and on a few blow-up obstacle courses.  As usual though, Avalon was
relegated to "observer", not the most fun position to be in.  The highlight of the night was
getting to meet another staffer from HNS, Denise.  Again, it was like meeting up with an old
friend.  Ambrosia and Denise's daughter were instant partners in crime - and had riotously
large amounts of fun trying to bury each other in grass.  I'm pretty sure Avalon thought they
were nuts...

All in all, the whole Wendy's Championship for Children experience will go in my memory banks
as one of the highlights of our cancer journey.  I met wonderful people, and learned that
something as simple as a "thank you" can mean more to someone than you ever knew
possible.  If I have anything to share with you from this, its the lesson of take the time to tell
someone that they've touched your life.  You may very well be astonished at how much you've
touched theirs...

Each and every time you take the time to read our emails, you touch us.  We love ALL of you,
more than my simple words can ever convey.

Hugs,
Alicia, Nick, Aurora, Ambrosia, and
Avalon
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Our Journey:
Avalon's Army of Angels