Tomorrow, April 10th, will be the two year anniversary of the day my life would change forever. It started off as a normal day - except for some seasonal allergy symptoms from Gavin and Brian. But by lunchtime, I would be standing in the corner of an emergency room in shock... watching a team of doctors and nurses trying to beat and breathe life into our first born son. By nightfall, Ed and I would be holding Gavin's hand in the intensive care unit willing him to live. Praying for a miracle. He would be gone four days later - declared brain dead on my 43rd birthday.
When making funeral arrangements, Ed and I agreed that we should encourage people to donate, in lieu of flowers, to three charities that meant a lot to Gavin and our family. The outpouring of donations was overwhelming. You really came through and your money was used to help so many people. The Child Life Department at the hospital where Gavin was cared for his entire life - and in his death - received truckloads of supplies and a lot of money. The Gift of Life Family House received so much money in Gavin's name that they dedicated a room to him, placed a paver in the memorial garden by a trickling, blue water fountain and hung a plaque in the entryway. The money given to the Family House ensures that organ transplant patients and their families have a place to stay (and food to eat!) during their transplant and while they're recovering. And CaringBridge, the non profit website where I got my start writing when Gavin was an infant, received donations. Those donations help keep the site running and also keep it free so patients and their loved ones can create pages like I did for Gavin.
A few months later, I created "Gavin's Trust Project" to raise money for the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Again, you came through. Boy, did you come through. You showered this underfunded organization - the same one that supported Gavin with teachers and therapists and a fantastic classroom - with so much money. They were able to open several brand new special needs classrooms and furnish them! They were also able to purchase much needed equipment and therapy aids for teachers and therapists to use in the classroom - and for children to use at home!
Last year, to mark the first anniversary of his death, I had a HUGE fundraiser to raise money for an all abilities playground at the hospital. I had never planned a fundraiser before - and truly believe I had a lot of angelic help to pull it off. Over 400 people filled a hall and people from all over the world participated over the internet - helping me to raise over $65,000 for the future playground. (I'll have an update from the hospital on the playground status soon!)
I wrote all of this out to remind you how generous you have been. Every single time I've had a fundraiser, you've donated your hard earned money in memory of Gavin. You have trusted me. I hope you will continue to trust me now...
This year, in my continued effort to make positive things come out of our family's tragedy and honor Gavin in a meaningful way, I'm writing for good.
Over the past several years - even before Gavin passed away - I have been approached to write or advertise for money. Every single time, I've said no. It just didn't feel right. But a few months ago, when I was thinking about what I would do to mark the two year anniversary, a "job offer" fell out of the sky. Well actually, it came through my email - but you get the idea. My good friends at the Just Between Friends Sale asked me to be a paid Blogging Ambassador. Basically: shop, write about my shopping, talk about the sale and what?!? They were going to pay me?!? This is something I've been doing twice a year without getting paid - just because I love this sale! I accepted the job and had so much fun - and didn't do anything that I wouldn't have done without pay! It makes me so happy that my Just Between Friends sale "family" gave me my first paid 'gig.' Gavin meant a lot to them.
The experience got me thinking and then... it hit me. What if I started to say yes - only choosing assignments or sponsored posts that made sense to our family and were not super intrusive on my page! What if I got paid (the pay is pretty nice!) and put half of every paycheck in my "charity pool!" I could deliver a check to one charity at a time once the money reaches a couple hundred bucks. And what if I put the other half in my "fun family money" pool - allowing me to contribute in a meaningful way and use the money to create some fun memories as a family!
I've given this a LOT of thought. I have no idea how it will go, what it will look like, how often I'll get offers or how I will do... but I do know that the vibe of my journal won't change very much. This is still our story, which is why I will be very choosy. I'm grateful I have the luxury to pick and choose job offers. Some pieces might appear on this blog - and others may be on other sites or in print.
My first offer already came in and it was from Parents Magazine! They asked me to be a "Parents Insider" which means I'll have the inside scoop on what the editors are working on... have the opportunity to pitch story ideas for magazines... maybe get paid for a sponsored post or even have a giveaway here and there if it's something I think you'd like!
The other day I pitched my first essay idea and it was picked for an upcoming spot on Parenting.com for Mother's Day. It's a post about how to survive Mother's Day when you've lost a child - something I know a lot about, unfortunately.
I have always loved to write, but it wasn't until I started writing every day when Gavin was a baby that it became essential. Writing is something I have to do - for me. It was by chance that I started that CaringBridge page when he was two months old and it quickly became my daily therapy. And here I am, still writing, eight years later. I have Gavin's entire life documented. Actually - I have ALL of my children's lives documented! What a gift.
Writing keeps me focused, disciplined and positive. I know it will also make me feel like I'm still working for Gavin. His entire life, I was dedicated to his care. Every single day there was something to work on - insurance issues, therapy plans, making food or making flash cards, researching alternative therapies or genetic syndromes. When he died - half of my identity seemed to die with him. I almost considered not writing anymore. I'm so grateful I didn't.
I'm very excited about the possibilities ahead of me. I feel like I have a unique point of view that I'm happy to share with a wider audience. Maybe I can inspire a few people to become organ donors through a post. Or maybe I can encourage a Mom who has had multiple miscarriages... or is living the "special needs life." And if they want to pay me to write - and that means I can help support my charities and my family - even better.
I think Gavin would be pleased with my new venture. I can honor him by using my 'voice' to help others in his memory. Basically, I'm putting myself to work so I can continue to support our charities. I hope that you will come along for the ride and support me by reading my pieces when I let you know they're published!
Thank you, as always. The amount of support and love I feel from all of you makes me even more determined to continue chasing rainbows.
I love you, Gavin.
I don't want you to feel I'm discouraging any of you from donating money in honor of Gavin! Feel free! If you would like to donate anything, whether it's to mark the two year anniversary or anytime at all, the information will always be on this blog. All donations can be mailed directly to the organizations - just be sure to mark it that it's in memory of Gavin Leong. Any amount is greatly appreciated! Here are our charities below:
Chester County Intermediate Unit
c/o Deb Hiller
455 Boot Road
Downingtown, PA 19335
Gift of Life Family House
c/o Sara Cohen
401 Callowhill Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Nemours Fund for Children's Health
"Abilities Playground" c/o Joy Zernhelt
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE 19803