Well, you’ve probably already read Melissa’s and Darcy’s accounts of the VLC here in San Diego. Do you mind if I share my experience too?
First of all, THANK YOU JAMES, for including me. When I got the phone call asking me if I wanted to attend, I nearly fell out of my chair. I am “just a mom” to a preemie, “just” a member of SHARE. Who knew that would mean so much? Like the other four that attended with me, I truly thought we were going to be there to learn, to listen, maybe play a minor part in the grand scheme of things. Within the first hour, that perspective was wiped away. After sharing SHARE with the volunteers and staff, and other parents in attendance, hearts were opened, minds were opened, tears were shed. I had never met Michele, Melissa, Karri, and Darcy face to face prior to last Thursday. I knew them as soon as I saw them, and the transition from computer screen to live person was invisible. I had read Melissa’s post of her journey with Alex and shed tears at my computer. Hearing her speak it, struggle to speak it, I truly felt her emotion. The five of us left the room for a needed group hug, and to compose ourselves. That set the tone for the rest of the conference. For me, it was such an emotional experience. I have not cried (nor have I laughed) so much in such a short time span in years, probably since Ryley was born and we got on the NICU rollercoaster. My emotions were completely at the surface the entire time. It was healing in so many ways, and such a joy in so many others.
I knew March of Dimes before. It is their funding of research that helped save my son. I kept wanting to thank every staff person and every volunteer that would listen. Thank you for my son. I don’t know who I would be without him. Now, though, I KNOW March of Dimes. Before, I was happy to be on SHARE, happy to have my Family Team, and looking forward to doing more. Now, I am on a mission……a mission for life, for the lives of preemies, and babies with birth defects. My heart aches for parents who have lost their children to prematurity and birth defects. No one should have to suffer that pain. No one should have to make the choice of taking their baby off of support and hold him/her in their arms as the last breath is taken. No one should have to suffer through weeks, months, years of wondering what will happen next, what is the next diagnosis/treatment, when will the next shoe drop for their child.
It was an exhausting three days. I would do it again today. I learned so much. I met friends face to face and they became more a part of me. I made new friends. I learned a new appreciation for staff and volunteers of MOD. I met some incredible people I had only read or heard about (Liza, Lindsay, Marla, Melanie). I laughed til I cried and cried til I laughed. The hugs were awesome. The speakers inspiring. A fire has been lit in me for this mission, and it will continue to burn.
There is so much to say about the actual events, seminars, and sessions. I LOVED meeting other families, and I was blown away by many of them. The quad parents who raised money by telling 10 friends to each raise $1000 by telling 10 friends to each raise $100 by telling 10 friends to each raise $10; Melanie Sweeney, Family Team extraordinaire; Ben’s Team who managed to do so much in one small town. I was touched by the caring of the staff and volunteers and their desire to hear our individual stories, and their responses to our individual stories. I was encouraged by all the inspired ideas that were shared to take MOD – including Mission Families, WalkAmerica, and SHARE – into the future. I wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the open sessions, or the history of MOD, or the lunch to award the most successful Family Teams, Individual Walkers, and Corporate Teams. Boy was I suprised! All of the sudden I wanted to be everywhere and hear everything. I don’t remember looking at my watch during anything other than to say, “You mean we’re out of time?” It was simply awesome. No other words truly fit. Just a