Monday, August 22, 2011

Storms smooth out the Rough Edges

This week, I asked one of our "kids" to be the guest blogger.  Danielle and her family are a blessing that I am thrilled to now have in my life as part of the Little Pink family.  As you will see, she is no "kid", but a beautiful young woman.   Thanks Danielle!

Being away at college while my mother went through everything was a difficult time. I pushed it aside as best as I could, trying to just focus on school. And although school was important, it was hard for me to focus when such big other things were going on in my life. What bothered me most was that I was away. I wasn’t there to support my mom and be involved in her treatments, or even just be able to take her to doctor’s appointments.

When I heard about this trip, I wasn’t sure what would come of it, but I knew it would be my chance to get involved. I honestly didn’t think we would be picked to join this group in North Carolina though, so I pushed the thought aside, hoping my mom would do the same and not get her hopes up.

Turns out she did, and when she got the call that our family was chosen, she had forgotten all about it, and was fanatic that we were chosen. Having only 2 weeks notice, I was in shock. I didn’t quite know what to think. I was actually quite skeptical. Being 20 years old, I’m not quite old enough to be considered an adult, but I’m not a child either, so I wasn’t sure I would have much fun.

Our flights were messy, so it threw me off, expecting the worst of the rest of the trip. What first changed that image was the look on my moms face when Michael, my step-dad, was introducing our family, and talking about the struggle we had during the past year. I realized how important this trip was to her. Then Jeanine and Melissa’s personalities came out. From then on, I knew this would be a great trip.

The first day was hard, everyone was exhausted from their flights and didn’t quite know what to expect. But right off the bat, the next couple days were filled with activities on the beach and in a park, where the families really just got to have some fun and get to know each other. They were easy, but fun days, to really start to relax and get to know each other, while also still resting from traveling. Mid-week, everyone was having a blast. We took wonderful professional family pictures on the beach, then got to do something we had never done before, and something I had always wanted to do; stand-up paddle boarding!

My mom was so happy she was able to do this, it wasn’t so much about the paddle boarding, is was about the fact that it was a somewhat difficult task, and even after her surgery and trying to recover, she was still able to do it by herself. She can’t really use her left arm too much, the nerves were damaged during surgery and she can only lift it so high. Watching her succeed at something that she herself thought she would struggle with was a great feeling. Something to just add to the already great vacation.

Throughout the week, the “Volunstars” and people around the extremely courteous community donated their time, food, and houses to us just to make sure we were comfortable and happy on our vacation. We were provided lunch and dinner everyday of the week, along with two breakfasts at the local pancake house, a delivery of “Britts donuts” (which were fantastic), and cereal of our choice included in a welcome package.

The thought, time, and donations that go into this organization are mind-blowing. To see a community step up to help out is really a life-changing experience in itself. Sometimes you forget how wonderful people can be, when you’re surrounded by bad so often. As Melissa said on the last night, “Storms smooth out the rough edges.” I was really touched by this quote as I’ve come to recently strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. Although you may be in a hard situation now, or have gone through one in your life, it really makes you who you are in the end. It’s hard to keep that in mind, and to remind yourself that something good will come of this and that after that hard situation is over, something will reward you, but it’s true. This vacation, and meeting these families and the “Volunstars” has been that life-changing experience, that great reward after such a hard year. I learned so much this week, about life, people, and myself, and I would love for everyone to have an experience like this. To be a part of this new family we’ve created, this organization, and this experience as a whole, has made this the best summer I could have ever asked for, and I can’t wait to be able to volunteer as a “Volunstar” next summer. Thanks to Little Pink Houses of Hope and all of the Volunstars for such an amazing experience!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Teary Eyed Goodbyes

The families had a free day today to spend on the beach, visit the aquarium and relax before a final dinner on the beach. Some of the older kids went for a rigorous 14-mile bike ride in the morning. After dinner everyone gathered around and shared the best of their week while people started to tear up at the idea of leaving. The kids played on the beach together for the last time. Hugs were tight as people were reluctant to say goodbye to all of the new friends they had made and the strong bonds that had been formed. It has been amazing to watch the relationships form as families relaxed without any worries. We are honored to meet these five amazing women and their families who have faced this battle with cancer. And of course, a special thank you to all of our amazing volunstars who have worked so hard to provide a special week for our families.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rainy Day

This morning what was supposed to be a community hang out on the beach got rained out. Volunstars set up the beach chairs and tents while watching water spouts further down the beach. A couple families were able to enjoy the sun left on the beach while we buried kids in the sand. After lunch it poured and afternoon beach time was canceled. By dinner the sun had come out. Ladies enjoyed being pampered by a Mary Kay representative. After pedicures and a lip treatment the women felt well taken care of. The men and kids played games outside while the women were getting pretty inside. It brought kids out of their shells and brought them closer together while involving the parents.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Photographs and Paddling

This morning Evan Scott donated his time to take professional photographs of each family. Everyone showed up looking their best and excited to have the photos taken. Families went straight to kayaking and stand up paddle boarding where four men from Odysea eagerly taught everyone how to paddle board. The kids who were big dancers last night continued their dancing on the paddle boards. One kid even did some break dancing and a hand stand. Wednesday night is date night so while the kids stayed at the pool and ate pizza with the volunstars, the couples spent a nice dinner alone at Michael's Seafood and the single women had a special evening bonding with each other a couple lucky volunstars. The kids had another night of ghost crab hunting that started immediately after their parents picked them up. This time all of the kids got involved and the night became known as the Crab-a-thon Craze.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From Boogie Boards to Boogieing On A Boat

This morning consisted of competitive games of disc golf, basketball and tennis. The kids divided themselves in teams and made new rules for games of basketball. After their picnic lunches most of the families spent their chill time on the beach soaking up the sun and relaxing. Everyone met at the pancake house for a wonderful donated dinner of baked ziti and salad. Later tonight everyone went on a party cruise and the kids had such a good time dancing. The younger boys were break dancing and doing the robot to the applause of those around them. All the kids and adults had the opportunity to let loose and have fun after a long day in the sun. Everyone is having an amazing time getting to know each other and forming new relationships in Carolina Beach.

A Day of Little Pink Firsts

All five families met on the beach today for a morning full of messy fun. The kids loved boogie boarding and swimming in the ocean. It was the first time in the ocean for all of the younger kids, but they all jumped in quickly like they had done it a bunch of times before. Everyone came together for the egg toss and a shaving cream fight. It was a great morning for the families to get to know each other and relax in the sun. After an afternoon of free time everyone came together at the volunstar house for dinner and fishing. One of the boys caught the first fish on a Little Pink retreat. There were fiddler crabs right off the dock that the kids chased and caught. The twins worked on a crab containment center to try to keep all of the crabs in one place. Most of them got away. They caught two hermit crabs that they affectionately named Hermie and Herman before letting them go. Melissa caught a stingray to the excitement of everyone watching. After everyone left a group of kids went hunting for sand crabs on the beach outside of a family's condo. Prepared with large bowls and flashlights, they screamed with excitement as they caught and carried eight crabs down the beach.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome to Carolina Beach

Five families arrived in Carolina Beach, North Carolina today for the third Little Pink retreat week. The volunstars were busy all morning cleaning the houses, making beds and getting everything ready for all of our wonderful families. All of the families arrived in time for a dinner generously donated by a community member. Northern families were welcomed to North Carolina with a Southern meal of barbecued pork, baked beans, coleslaw and hush puppies. After dinner the kids played with a frisbee outside and got to know each other while the adults went over the schedule for the week. Everyone is so excited to get to know each other and have a week away from the stress of normal life full of fun activities.