I think the most incomprehensible nightmare for any parent is a serious childhood illness — one that can lead to lifelong health issues or even death.
I have interviewed many parents in my 25 years as a journalist who have sat in this very place, and to this day, I can’t play the stoic writer when I conduct these interviews. They usually end with tears - theirs and mine - and a hug.
I too have sat in this place when my older daughter was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis as an infant back in 2000. I remember looking over the cliff of what seemed like the Grand Canyon and trying to hold on to my child for dear life as her tiny hands seemed to be slipping out of my grasp. Thanks to quick medical intervention, she thankfully survived unscathed, but I am completely aware that in many cases the outcome is not as hopeful.
I remember when my four-year-old niece had cancer, watching my bereft sleep-deprived sister and brother-in-law slogging through their lives like soldiers in the deepest darkest muddiest trench. They had the daunting task of not only caring for their sick child, but also for continuing to raise two other little girls. Somehow they pulled it off, but not without a lot of help from family, friends and many members of their community.
Enter Meg’s Smile Foundation, a volunteer organization based in Holly Springs that supports children in hospitals across North Carolina by offering them acts of kindness designed to bring them joyful moments despite their circumstances. The foundation is named after a little girl named Meg from the Triangle who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2010 at age seven.
Doctors told Meg’s family she would not live more than a year. After being treated at Duke to keep the tumor at bay, her parents decided to take her on a series of adventures so that she could live every moment to the fullest until the day she died. She traveled to Disney World, Los Angeles, New York and attended a Taylor Swift concert.
One of her adventures involved being treated to a shopping spree in Rhode Island where she was given the opportunity to brighten another patient’s day with gifts. This made Meg’s day and planted a seed for the foundation in the minds and hearts of her parents. Meg lost her battle with cancer in January 2011, but her legacy lives on with Meg’s Smile Foundation.
“Meg’s journey was one in which no child should ever have to endure. Yet, she did so all the while keeping her grace, humor and beautiful smile. She never complained or asked – why me?” her mother Terri said. “We asked ourselves – how can we honor Meg’s memory and spirit properly?”
Meg’s parents wanted to channel the generosity and energy that they had received from their relatives, neighbors and friends into putting smiles on the faces of other children with serious illness in Meg’s memory.
In honor of Meg’s Smile Foundation, students from three local schools, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael’s and Cardinal Gibbons will donate their time and talents this coming Saturday, April 12, (rain date: Sunday, April 13) at Pullen Park.
Pullen Together for Meg’s Smile Foundation will feature performances by the students on the main stage at the park from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted and prizes will be offered during a raffle. Every dollar raised goes to Meg’s Smile Foundation.
So, grab your family, a blanket or a chair and head out to Pullen Park on Saturday to support these talented young performers as they give back to their community one song, one smile at a time …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.