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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

And now for one of the BEST stories having to do with awarding a grant to a heart family! ♥️

{My desktop when awarding grants}

You guys!
I checked in a couple of weeks ago to tell you a story about the cute heart that my new friend added to our sidewalk, and now I have just the best story about awarding a MOHF grant.

Nearly every week I am working on some sort of grant for a heart family. Our process is pretty straight forward, we find a family who needs help or they find us, they complete an application, we work with their social worker to verify the application, and sort of qualify the family and then we continue to work with that social worker to figure out how we can really help that family. Almost always, we are paying bills. We never just hand over money to a family, but instead we go through a process of collecting account information for whatever bill we plan to cover and I then get busy making calls, writing checks or moving MOHF money around somehow.

In case you are new to Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation, simply put we help families who have children with heart defects. After spending 15 months in an intensive care unit with our Oakes, we learned first hand how stressful having a critically ill child is. And we also learned that when your child is critically ill and you are desperatly praying that you kid lives another day, any kind effort to take other stresses off of your plate mean the world. Another big lessons we learned is that LOVE is the best medicine in the world. If that sick child knows they are loved and knows that someone is there fighting with them then they will fight that much harder. So our big goal is to alleviate stress for the families of heart kids so that the families can show up, love on their little ones and give that kiddo every reason in the world to fight.

So, earlier in the week I sat down to work on two different application. They both were for amazing families with really special kids, but the process of awarding one of the grants inspired and touched me deeply.

With the help of this one amazing Mom and her social worker we decided that this single Mom would really benefit from several months of rent being paid. Her son is a teenager, has been fighting a sick heart his whole life but with a recent lengthy hospitalization after a heart transplant Mom has just gotten behind on some of their big bills. To move forward with this grant I called the landlord, Maria to set up my third party payment. This is usually pretty straight forward - confirm address, amount due then mail check. I always introduced myself and talk about what MOHF does when I make these calls. Sometimes the person on the other end of the phone has questions about MOHF, or is extremely thankful, sometimes it is a quiet, "Bless you", and sometimes it is just business as usual, but this time what follwed was a first.

Maria was very sweet, and soft spoken. She was concerned and understanding about both Mom and son. She explained that they were overdue several months but that she had told Mom not to worry about it that they would figure out a payment plan when they were back at home. Sometimes when I make these calls and explain what I intend to do the person on the other end of the call is speechless, but this time I was the one who was lost for words. In five and a half years, and hundreds and hundreds of grants awarded, this was a first. I explained this to Maria. I thanked her for being so empathetic, and caring. I assured her that her kindness had to have brought so much comfort to this Mom and son. Once I found my words, I kind of went on and on at how touched I was, and then after I became quiet, Maria shared that her sister has a son with a heart defect. He nephew is close in age to her tenant. Her nephew has the same doctors as her tenant and her nephew too will likely need a transplant in his near future. Again, words escaped me as I listened to Maria. Maria shared what it has been like to be the supportive but worried sister, and aunt. She shared that she herself would give up anything to see her sister and nephew happy and healthy and she didn't even have to think about helping her tenant in the way that she had. It was the right thing to do. She had seen others help her sister so how could she not do the same.

It is always a bonus when I make these calls and I think I have impacted that landlord, or person in a call center accepting payments over the phone. It feels like icing on the cake. It's as if I can see the ripples floating away from the all of the goodness and love that my Oakes has inspired and I LOVE IT!!! But with this call what I saw was different. It was as if I was walking into someone else's ripples, or Oakes' ripples were colliding with another heart baby's ripples. It was inspiring and heart warming. I just marveled at Maria, her kindness, and that she is taking her struggle and helping someone else - how freaking cool is she!!! Which then made me think that maybe I felt what some of those call center employees feel when I share our story, and if that is the case, I need to make sure I never miss the opportunity to tell these stories and pass those inspiring, heart warming, freaking cool feelings along to everyone!

Have a wonderful day, friends! I hope you feel the ripples but also create your own!
XOXO, Becky

Thursday, February 9, 2017

BEST heart story EVER. ❤️

You guys, I have THE BEST heart story. 

The first part of the back story: In case you don't know, for about 5 years we have been selling handmade, wooden hearts which we have lovingly cut and painted by groups of mighty volunteers. The hearts have been shipped to family and friends all over the world, but there are lots of them in our little city. Click here here for the full story reported by Heidi Glaus.

The other part of the back story is that this past Fall I had a guy knock on my door and introduce himself as the guy who would be digging up our front yard. He shared with me that the sewer line that ran from our house to the city's line which lays under our street was busted at the street level and the city had contracted him to dig up our yard, fix the line and put everything back together. This guy was nice but all business. Easy to chat with about our lateral line, but no warm fuzzies. Annoyed by the idea of our yard being dug up I called the city to verify the story and dig around on my own. I learned that the plan was really a plan and was reassured that our yard would be put back together at the end of the project. A little annoyed, but whatever. 

So to back up even more, we have been in our house for 8 years and for 8 years we have talked about redoing the sad, overgrown landscaping around our house. We met with a landscape designer this past summer and shortly after hearing that our yard would be torn up by the city, we decided to pull the trigger on the redesign. So I called the guy who was going to do the all of the digging to let him know that once they replaced the line, they didn’t have to put everything back together because we would be doing some landscaping. Little reaction from him, but he got it. 

We seemed to have a good plan about digging then landscaping but shortly after we had a schedule for this big project we scratched that whole thing and bought a new house on the other side of our little municipality. Super excited about the house, but dreading the yard work now. Cringing I called digging guy again. I shared that we had changed our plans and we in fact did want him to put our yard back together after all of the digging happened. Little reaction over the phone, but we were on the schedule. Digging would happen, then they would put everything back, lay grass seed and pour a new walkway after they removed the old one. Great, moving on.

So we waited for our turn. And waited some more. It was late Fall at this point and I kept thinking the ground would freeze soon and the job would never be completed, but finally the digging guy showed up one morning with his guys and their diggers. They pulled out a walkway, some plants, lots of grass. They dug a 4’ square in our yard that was also about 4’ deep. They fixed the pipe and by the end of the day they were finished. I walked past the whole operation maybe 4 times that day. The digging crew was made up of some friendly guys. They smiled, said hello, let Esme and Isla and I look into their muddy trench. But the crew was made up of some beefy guys who wore dirt covered overalls. Dirt covered their gloves and was splattered on their hats. They had beards and looked scruffy. And like the original guy, they were all business. 

So when they left there was a huge, white PVC pipe sticking maybe 3’ out of the ground and a massive heap of dirt piled up where the trench used to be. I was told they would be back once the soil settled. I believed they would be back but imagined it would happen in like, June. Slightly annoyed. 

Next, that PVC pipe that was sticking out of the ground, right next to our driveway got hit by a car. Someone who will remain unnamed backed right into it and it was pushed back into the ground. I had my eyes closed as I explained to the digging guy over the phone what had happened. He didn’t have much of a reaction over the phone but since he is always in the area he said he’d swing by to check it out. He visited the next day and with his eyebrows raised he explained that the entire job needed to be redone and it would now cost us a couple thousand dollars, and being mid-January the weather would certainly slow everything up even more. With my hands pressed to my face, I groaned and told him to just do whatever he needed to do to finish the job. I could have made it up, but I’m pretty sure digging guy walked away shaking his head like I was the craziest homeowner he had ever dealt with. But really, at this point I felt crazy. Our on again, off again plans, and the waiting, and the two different busted pipes had dragged on forever, and we were working on all sorts of little projects around our house to get it listed for sale. I was thinking for sure we would have to go ahead a list the house with a dirt pile in our front yard. “Dear God, please send us potential buyers who won’t be scared of a 4’ hole in our front yard and heap of soil sitting next to it!” I would say at night. 

Finally, a few weeks ago the diggers came by. They dug a new hole, fixed the busted pipe and refiled the trench with all of the loose soil they had just dug out. They put up stakes and wrapped the whole area off with neon ribbon. Thanks, diggers. Before they left there was a knock on my door. My all business digger guy was standing there will a little smile on his face. He told me they were finished for the day and would return when the soil settled to pour concrete. He pointed out the neon ribbon, and then mentioned the big heart on our porch. He told me that he has always noticed the hearts everywhere in our town and has always wondered what they were about. He mentioned that he saw my interview with Heidi Glaus and was really touched by our story. He apologized for our loss, but said something like he thought it was great what we were doing with all of the hearts. He absolutely caught me off guard. He wasn’t just digger guy anymore, he was really sweet and thoughtful and I had warm fuzzies all of the sudden. Now I was smiling. It would have been really easy for him to stay in business mode and say nothing to me, but instead he went out of his way to be kind. But it didn’t end there. 

Last week, at 7:55am I walk out of the door to walk Isla to school and there was the digging crew getting into their trucks. They had come really early in the morning, poured the concrete to our walkway, cleaned up all around the area and put down grass seed and straw where the grass used to be. By the time we walked to the end of the driveway they were pulling away. All those bearded guys, with their dirty overalls and jackets just smiled and waved. All of them. two trucks worth. It was sweet but I wondered if I looked super crazy as I shuffled Isla to school. Why were they all so cheery?Instinctively I turned around right to look at the new sidewalk and I just froze. By the time I turned back around those big trucks full of kind, gentle diggers were gone. 

And look at what they left us. ❤️ 
We didn’t ask them to do this, and they didn’t ask us about doing it.
Digger guy, Jason, got our story. He saw us, he saw me, he saw Oakes. Something clicked. 

First, I LOVE this ceramic heart that was placed in my new sidewalk with all of my heart. I love that someone went out of their way to cut and lay it in the concrete. I love imaging Jason, showing his crew the heart and explaining that they were going to lay it in out sidewalk. I love imagining Jason retelling our story to his crew. I love thinking of how good they must have felt as they smiled and drove away from our house. 

What I also love are the big, amazing and gorgeous ripples in life that still come from Oakes. That cutie was born. He touched our hearts. He was an example of love and patience and hope. Of perseverance and health and beating the odds. He had our focused attention when he was here, but now that he is , what we call, “gone” his story lives on, it still touches lives, it still fills our hearts and the hearts of our friends and neighbors with love and hope and all of the good stuff that we search for, but….OH! What I really love. What this grieving Mom clings to is undeniable fact that Oakes is definitely not “gone”. I can’t see him. I can’t hold him. But as I wipe tears from my face I assure you I can feel him, and I have evidence that others feel him too. 

Thank you Jason Jerome, and Bi-State Utilities for the quality work your company provides, but thank you even more for being so compassionate. Thank you for the enormously, kind gesture. Thank you for perfect little red heart. Thank you for helping us tell Oakes' story, and for sharing the love.