It was December 2002 and my sister was volunteering with Edmarc Hospice for Children through her church and asked my Dad and myself if we wanted to join.
I had just moved back to the area, after leaving a television station in Raleigh, NC to start my own marketing firm. We met in what is now Town Center and a group of about fifty of us piled into several Virginia Beach trolleys. From there we were off to deliver Christmas gifts to the families of Edmarc that year. We arrived with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Christmas carols and of course presents! I’ll never forget the first families I met that year and how truly excited and sincerely grateful they were to have us bring a little light into what is otherwise a very dark time in their lives.
You see, Edmarc Hospice for Children believes in a community in which no child or family is denied pediatric hospice services and a society that wholeheartedly accepts and supports pediatric care.
They understand the overwhelming challenges that families face when a child is sick. All of their services, home healthcare, hospice care and bereavement support – are designed to alleviate a child and parent’s pain, anxiety and fear.
It is now 13 years later and my sister and I are still delivering Christmas gifts to the families of Edmarc.It’s actually become a family tradition. Each year we bring in a new friend or two so they too can see the impact Edmarc has. We visit homes from Virginia Beach to Yorktown annually and try to ease the stress of the holidays by allowing the Edmarc families to focus on making memories and spending as much time with their children as possible. Even if for just a little while, all of the pain and illness is forgotten while sitting on Santa’s lap and opening gifts from their wish list.
Over the years we have visited countless families but there are always families that make a lasting impression. I clearly remember one year in particular, a family who had just lost their treasured little girl… and yet this family were so overjoyed to have us there. They welcomed us in with open arms, sang along with our carols, baked us cookies and even shared some of their favorite memories of past Christmases with Edmarc. With beautiful pictures of her everywhere, the hardest part of that afternoon was fighting back the tears, but along came my smiles for what an amazing family they were.
There was another family that I think about often because they were a large family living in a very small home. They were facing the terrifying reality of dealing with a terminally ill child. With all of their obstacles I envied them because they had so much love and admiration for each other. They were so appreciative to have one another that it took me a moment to remember the challenges they were actually facing. It’s that part that makes me thankful for everything Edmarc does. It’s often difficult to tell who the sick child is and who the siblings are because they all are treated equally. In my opinion, that is one of the greatest gifts Edmarc gives: embracing the entire family.
Last month my third nephew was born, which has led me think back to another family that remains in my heart because even as their newborn baby girl was covered in tubes, they still did everything they could to make her room feel like a newborn nursery with stuffed animals, quotes, animal drawings and pictures everywhere.
I am so grateful that I can volunteer for such an incredible organization that gives so much back to not only their families but also the community as a whole; it’s been a life changing experience. I have always loved children and growing up I babysat to make extra money, so when it came time for me to choose what to study in college I had always wanted to be a teacher and planned to major in Elementary Education. Although I ended up choosing a different major and career path, my love for helping children has never changed.
It’s horrifying to think about any child being sick and unless you’re in the medical field it’s hard to feel like you can do anything to help. But through my volunteer work with Edmarc I believe, in a small way, I am actually helping to make a difference.
If you would like to volunteer too, this year’s Santa Run will fall on Sunday, December 13, 2015. You can also help with the 3rdAnnual Hope Gala…The Magic of Caring by contacting 757-967-9251.
This year I am on Edmarc’s Hope Gala committee and it feels great to be able to do something additional. It’s allowed me to really get out there and talk about the many facets of this organization and I love talking about all the good they do. For more information about our upcoming Hope Gala, please visit here.