Nathan was chosen to be the 2014 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for the state of Florida. It was an incredible honor to merely be nominated by our local Children's Hospital, and it was quite humbling knowing that in this role, he would serve as the ambassador for all pediatric patients who visit the numerous CMN Hospitals in our state. I have to admit, we had a lot of fun traveling around Florida this year attending fundraisers, telling Nate's story, and showing our gratitude to the many organizations who support the cause that is so dear to our hearts!
We are not the same people we were before going on the Champions trip. It literally changed our life in many ways.
Due to the astounding sponsorship of Delta Airlines, Marriott International, and Chico's FAS, a Children's Miracle Network Champion from every state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico were given a week of lifetime experiences, celebrity greetings, and a whole lot of fun. These little warriors, accompanied through the week by their National Goodwill Ambassador, Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev, stayed in the beautiful JW Marriott in the heart of Washington, DC, met First Lady Michelle Obama and pet the first dogs, had lunch in the Dirksen Senate Hearing Room and explored the Capitol Building and other National Monuments. One night, they were treated to a preview showing of "How to Train Your Dragon" before it was released to DVD, complete with stuffed "Toothless Dragons" and DVDs for each child and a complete movie theater experience! These Champions paid their respects at Arlington National Cemetery by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a solemn and extremely touching service, and they later boarded a beautifully decorated Delta Charter flight with the absolute friendliest pilots and flight attendants as we all flew together in high spirits to Orlando, FL for the second half of the trip.
So, when you read the above paragraphs, you can totally understand why I say that it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But what makes it a "life changing" trip?
Well, that would be the people who accompanied us on every step of every day. These families from each state...I simply can't write about our moments and memories with them without tearing up. These children are the definition of "Champion" in every sense. Each and every one of them. They have defied odds, proven medical odds wrong, and fought through treatments, trials, heartache, pain and pure exhaustion with every fiber of their being. They have each done so with grace, resilience, and an incredible positive attitude that inspires every person who is privileged to cross their path. And what do they want to do in their free time? Help other kids in need by bringing the much needed awareness and funds to our Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. All of this is what makes each one of them the epitome of a Champion.
But in the midst of the struggled that lay deep in the eyes of our new friends, we saw the pain overshadowed by the intense joy they felt each time they were able to hug their child. We saw elation in watching them experience so many amazing opportunities in the span of a week. We saw the overwhelming love and emotion well up in each parent as they sat back and watched 54 children who have met various challenges throughout their lives all meet, connect, and instantly become best friends...for life...for ever. All because of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.