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!