People Helping (the Youngest) People
From Felicity Guerin:
I’m quite sure I have no way of capturing the medal ceremony at the Children’s Miracle Network annual “Celebration” in words.
The day is full of contradictions: amazing miracles and tragic deaths; stories of life and of loss; newfound hope and continued frustration. Maybe the most staggering contradiction of all is the people. Frail, disabled, ill children full of vitality, excitement and pride, stand next to the healthy, successful, accomplished businessmen, visibly shaken by the realness of personal vulnerability, a lack of control and the fragility of life.
The medal ceremony recognizes each of the 167 “Champions” from each of the Canadian provinces and each of the United States individually. In theory, the presenters read each child’s name aloud, and the Champion walks on stage to the applause of over 1,000 spectators, shakes hands with the presenters, receives their medal and smiles brightly for the cameras. This happens about half of the time. Some of the Champion children are so excited, they miss the presenters altogether and literally run to be adorned with their medal. Some turn cartwheels; some have crutches; some have wheelchairs. All are beaming.
Some of the children, like the young lady from Hawaii, follow the process exactly as instructed. My memory of Arrianna is of a graceful, excited and happy young lady, smiling brightly for the camera…even though she relapsed a few short weeks earlier, and her brain cancer is back. MacKenzie wasn’t there. The little girl who was Maryland’s Champion passed away a month before the event. Her mother received the medal in her daughter’s stead – to a standing ovation. I will venture to guess there was not a dry eye in the audience. But the most challenging medal winner for me to watch was the Champion from Kansas, a dear little girl named America. I have never seen a child be so happy and try so hard to smile – but be too weak and exhausted to do so.
Another poignant contradiction was the heartbroken families who are full of gratitude. “We’re the luckiest family here,” Those are the words of Sam, the Champion Child from Texas. “They tell us that everyone thinks they’re the luckiest…but we actually are.” What an amazing outlook. He does not complain about being dragged around to doctor after doctor while they were trying to diagnose him after waking up one day and not being able to feel his leg. He doesn’t whine about the pain he still feels or the treatments he’s had to ensure. There is no self-pity, impatience, jealousy or anger present in Sam’s stories about the time he spent at the Children’s Hospital. This boy is simply thankful for every way the nurses and doctors help him. I was moved.
I am moved.
The medal ceremony may be the most emotional event I have ever – or will ever – experience. It was certainly not the saddest, nor was it the happiest; it was definitely the most confusing. There were times I wasn’t sure if I was crying tears of joy or tears of sadness. But I was crying. And so was every other adult in the room.
In fact, I am still full of mixed emotions from the trip, but I choose to focus on the positive ones. I’m proud to be part of an industry which embraces the people helping people philosophy by wholeheartedly supporting these children. I am thankful I get to spend my days helping the credit union movement become even more involved in this wonderful cause. I am excited to help us invite our members to join us in Credit Unions for Kids endeavors. I am eager to share my experience with fellow credit union believers.
Felicity Guerin is the Credit Unions for Kids Liaison for the American Association of Credit Union Leagues. For more information about Credit Unions for Kids, Children’s Miracle Network and how you can get involved, please feel free to contact Felicity at 202.508.8758.