Happy Birthday Sweet 16!

Catie prepares to blow out all 4 of her candles             Catie, it is hard to believe that you would be turning 16 this year. We are sure we would have had a wonderful celebration of you with family and friends, great food, and great music. We would have spent the time remembering and reminiscing and also looking forward, and your smile would have lit up the room. This year’s letter will try to do all of that. Celebrate you, recognize all that you have accomplished or that others have accomplished in your name, and look to the future. The mission you left us, your legacy Wish, was never more clear to us than with your last words before you began your final journey, “do all you can to support St. Jude.” We have tried to do just that in the 8 years since God welcomed you home to heaven. Where do we begin? When we told you that one day at St. Jude cost $1.4 million dollars, you simply responded; “ask people”. We have. In 2009, St. Jude sent the first letter sharing your Wish. Following that first letter, the foundation which bears your name, The Catie’s Wish Foundation, was created. Each of the past seven years we have sent an annual letter sharing our update for the foundation and our family. The daily cost of running St. Jude has increased to $2 million dollars. In your name millions of dollars have been raised for St. Jude and for the kids that have come after you.The birthday girl turns four while Mia looks on

        We share with everyone your desire to have calendars colored purple on April 23rd. Our calendars are purple each year. This year St. Columbkill’s, where you first went to school, added your logo to their church calendar on April 23rd. We ask all of Team Catie; are your calendars purple?

        It is fitting that your name would be on a church calendar as millions of prayers are counted throughout the year and the counter continues to grow as prayers are logged. Everyone is praying for a cure. Some folks have a difficult time filling out that section of the return envelope; counting prayers seems unnatural. Well maybe it is for adults but it doesn’t seem to be for kids. We have received some of the sweetest little scraps of paper with “6 prayers” scribbled on it and a huge smiley face, or “one prayer each day, minus the four days I was sick”. The prayers are making a difference. No one knows that better than you do, Catie. We will keep praying and believing, you keep taking our prayers to God!

        Candee has turned your “Happy Project” into a reality and makes sure donations are sent to the hospital and residential houses at St. Jude. School children color the postcards for the patients and the thank you cards for the staff that are sent to St. Jude each year. Each year Candee lines up a willing company to share their products with us. This year we will be “Wishing a GOOD Day” to all at St. Jude, thanks to GOOD’s chips.

        uJXNfuGPRAyIJ848Fgo20VDvJGCVcnrSV-kKZYoEIQMpX92IB[1]We began volunteering our time for St. Jude and have served on the Quality of Life Steering Council since it began in 2013. The first meeting was held on your anniversary; we felt it was a sign from you. We have shared and written stories of “how we survived” after losing you, have assisted in creating policy changes within the hospital, and have provided feedback for the designing of the patients’ rooms for children at the end of life. We have created cards for the parents after the loss of their child, and we mentor other parents, giving them someone to share their sorrows with after their child has died. We have been trained to educate nurses, doctors and fellows to help them learn to effectively and sensitively “deliver bad news”, and until there is no bad news to share, we will continue. Each year the work is so rewarding and difficult but we keep going back; because we know that your spirit lives on at St. Jude.

        We have attended St. Jude Give Thanks Walks, and St. Jude RadioThons, and countless other fundraisers both for St. Jude and for Catie’s Wish. We have created Wishes Awards honoring those who have given in your name; from the schools that do a dress down day, (some since you were sick in 2008); to Liza who runs a fitness day, to Mr. Jim’s Annual Christmas Light Show, to the St. Joseph Dance-a-Thon, to Trinity High School and other schools who send in donations and prayers. This year, Brian and Ethan ran the St. Jude Marathon in your honor. Then there are the selfless kids who offer their birthday money, or their first paycheck. Others sell their toys, or empty their piggybanks in order to help you help the kids. Each of these sacrifices allows us to feel so blessed. Together all these acts of selflessness help us to keep your Wish and memory alive. We are not alone in this; many of our St. Jude friends do all that they can to help St. Jude; from volunteering at the hospital to raising money and awareness. Another St. Jude mom runs a huge fundraiser in Baltimore and we have attended each year since 2010.

        We keep in touch with those that have touched our lives through your journey. Keeping those friendships alive is another way we keep you alive. It is one of the most amazing things about St. Jude. The families live together and draw strength from each other during a critically difficult time. I was thrilled when I reached out to Elizabeth Grace’s mom with a prayer request and learned that in addition to her two older brothers, who you knew, she also has a younger brother and this year a little baby sister who looks just like her! Another of the great blessings we have is seeing your doctors, nurses and friends that we have made in Memphis.

Catie and Elizabeth Grace

  Catie and Elizabeth Grace

       img002 Each year we add to the number of people who know your story. The most frequently asked question that we hear is “how are the other kids doing?” The answer depends on the day; today Mia was crying. She misses you. M.E. wants to go back to the hospital to help her with her memories; she was only two when you were in treatment. Each of us goes through our moments. How I cried when I realized on November 2nd that you had been in heaven longer than with me. Then I realized a month or so ago that this would have been your Sweet 16… these are not easy moments. However, they are only moments. You are safely home in heaven. That is what I believe. What more could I want for you? Maggie is doing really well at DeSales and enjoys all of her nursing classes. We went to see her on your anniversary and took her to the movies. We saw Hidden Figures; it was about the involvement of women in the space program. You would have enjoyed it. Women, just like you, doing great things! Max has been awarded the NROTC Scholarship for the Marines at the University of Pittsburgh! Mia is adjusting well to High School. She is a good student and she played basketball and now is running track. Molly is growing up (literally) and now she is taller than Mia and Maggie. She has advanced in the Science Fair; which ticked Mia off as she wanted to be the only one. Then Molly one upped her and advanced in the Faith Bee as well. Molly also plays basketball and is now running track. M.E. is still sweet and little. She is an independent student; thank goodness because we are getting tired! She enjoys both basketball and track. The family is growing up and we are running out of wall space for all the photos. We have tons of photos of all of you; digital images are another blessing!Scan

        It has taken awhile but we have organized your photos into an album, well, two. All our favorite photos of you before you were sick and the second album with the photos of you and our journey at St. Jude. When we first thought about doing an album for you it hurt so much to think there would be a final photo. HOW COULD THAT BE? When we actually looked at all of the photos we have that belong to you we realized that your album would never be done. WHY? Because you are still touching people with your Wish. These people are sharing this with us and through this you are alive as ever; we just can’t see you. We can always feel you.

       DSC_0057 We did and do all of this for you, because you asked us to, and we are not done. There is more to be done. More funds to be raised, more prayers to be offered, more families need to be supported, and more doctors and nurses need to be educated. We will keep honoring you and your Wish, until pediatric cancer has been eradicated and St. Jude has closed their doors. It is what you asked us to do, and we offer it as your birthday present. Happy Birthday Sweet 16! We love you Catie!

God is Good, All the Time!

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