It’s hard to believe that one whole month has passed since our October fundraising blitz. Originally, we didn’t intend to have three large events on back-to back-to-BACK weekends but now that all is said and done, I can say that I wouldn’t have wanted things to unfold any other way! It's taken some time for me to find the words to reflect back on all that happened but now that the dust has settled, I think I've found enough of them to put this together!
First up, our time spent hosting a vendor booth at the 2018 Bala Cranberry Festival was so special. Not only did I have the chance to return home to my Muskoka roots to share our journey with the Bala community, but I was also able to see and reconnect with many friends and loved ones while we were there, too. Amidst selling our wares and discussing our SDR initiative, I kept tearing up (happily) because this weekend often felt more like a surprise reunion rather than a fundraiser! In the end, I was grateful it could be both.
Our booth for the weekend came together beautifully. Everything had been handmade from scratch by family and friends, spanning from Utterson to Orillia, Owen Sound to Wasaga Beach, and from Stirling to Niagara, too. I was touched and so grateful for each person who chose to lend their talents to this project because months of work and love and time had gone into creating each of the items that were there.
Our collection consisted of stunning paintings, birdhouses, porch decor, fall wreaths, unique necklaces, bookmarks, bracelets, leather crafted artwork, centrepieces, gorgeous macrame plant hangers, dream-catchers, hand-knit scarves, wildlife-inspired painted rocks...and more. One of the festival participants who stopped by our booth even remarked that it was “as though Martha Stewart and Hallmark had come together to drop off all their treasures”, which made us smile and laugh. It seemed a fitting description!
A highlight on the weekend too, was also meeting the other vendors who were stationed with us in the Community Centre. These people were lovely and so encouraging of our mission to get to St. Louis. In particular, I was most happy to have JP and So Young from Samsara Fields as our 'neighbours' for the weekend! It was a privilege and a joy to learn about their life story - which has been one of service to others while they also endeavour to travel and experience the world around them. They are two of the kindest, most humble, adventurous, happy and inspiring souls I have ever met and I’m grateful that I could connect with them while on this journey.
In all, we had a heart-warming, successful time in Bala, and it was a great way to kick off the mission for the month!
As soon as I returned home to the city, it was then time to put the final touches on our Trivia Night fundraiser. This event was hosted by the team at Niagara Health & Rehab Centre and once again, I was humbled and in awe of how everything came together! The NHRC community is a special one near and dear to my heart, so seeing the hall full of so many people who wanted to be part of our journey... seeing the overwhelming support from local businesses who had contributed raffle prizes on the night...and knowing how one special lady in particular was the driving force behind making all of this happen in the first place...well, it simply blew me away. Many times I found myself just looking around the room in happy disbelief because I realized that just 5 years ago, I didn’t know ANY of these people...yet now, I truly couldn’t imagine my life without them.
I also loved that for this evening - in Thorold of all places! - my circles could blend together. It was neat to have our Niagara friends meet my cousins, a dear highschool friend (who I had not seen in 18 years) a cherished friend from my University days, and my St. Louis SDR sister Nydia!
It was also never far from my mind that a special family from Germany was there in spirit with us too, having thoughtfully shipped some amazing raffle prizes across the ocean for us to add to our collection (even while they are also in the midst of fundraising for their own daughter Pia to get to St. Louis, in 2019).
In all, it’s hard to find the words to explain how meaningful our Trivia Night event was to me. What I will say though is that we had blast, the kindness and generosity in that space was palpable, and... for those fun-filled Friday night hours that flew by too fast, the world felt wonderfully and magically small. This amazing evening was one of the most memorable parts of the journey for me to-date, and I was so grateful for everyone who came out to be part of it!
And then, October kept on rolling.
Just 5 days later, I found myself making the trek back to Muskoka for our fundraising event at the Algonquin Theatre - which was organized by Rob and Jeremy Alldred-Hughes. This trip home was incredibly special, and one I had been looking forward to for months.
To back-track for a moment, I first met Rob when I entered Grade 9. For the sake of not writing a novel, I'll be brief in telling you that he was a rock for me during my high school years. Back then, we had virtually all of our classes together and shared many of the same friends, while ultimately finding our niche in the Sears Drama club at school, too. In fact, some of my most cherished teenage memories centre around the hours we would spend with our troupe at rehearsal. It was through this club that I started to find my voice, my courage to use it and my sense of self beyond just being the awkward kid who had CP. For these reasons - and many others - the theatre will forever and always be a meaningful gathering place that lights up my heart!
And so this fundraiser - and the opportunity to spend the weekend together with Rob, his family and their friends back in Huntsville - felt like my own personal equivalent of Christmas morning that had come really, really early! It was also the perfect time and space for me to just pause, unwind and be present after such a whirlwind year of fundraising. Our visit was wonderful and I am so very thankful that we could have this time together!
As for the event itself - it was truly magical. The cast & crew of “On a First Name Basis” did a wonderful job, keeping the audience entertained, laughing and curious throughout the play. Beyond the performance, the rest of the evening simply felt like I was in a dream. It was as though the Universe had purposefully gathered cherished people from each significant stage of my life and put them all together in one place for the night, so that I could hug, thank, and visit with them in person. It’s rare to have experiences like this in life, and I made sure to take it all in as fully as I could in the short time we all had together.
Meaningful too, was the opportunity to see some of my friends from the Ontario SDR community who came out to show their love and support. I had the joy of meeting the grandparents of my little hero Evie and I also finally had the chance to thank a family from Port Sydney who helped me early on, to believe that it really was possible to fundraise - because they had done so a few years prior! These families see every day how life-changing SDR in St. Louis has been, and it meant so much to me that they chose to take time out of their busy lives to encourage me on my way.
We wrapped up the event by raffling off some stunning prizes to our very happy audience members and before I knew it, the last hugs were being given on the night. Soon after, we walked out of the theatre and into the first pretty snowfall of the season in Muskoka - which seemed to be the perfect way to cap an unforgettable night. In that moment, I wished dearly that I could somehow find a way to rewind the time, so we could do it all over again. But in the end, I am certain that the memories we made will always stay in my heart. I won’t ever be able to adequately thank Rob and Jeremy for creating this once-in-a-lifetime evening, or to explain just how grateful I am for every. single. person. who was part of making it so special. But, if you are out there reading this, please know that your presence there - and your love - meant the world to me.
And so... that was our past month. It was wild and fast-paced and sometimes stressful, but also oh-so-full of magic.
If someone would’ve told me a year ago that this is how we would eventually foreshadow the conclusion of our fundraising - I simply wouldn’t have believed it. Looking back now though, I can say for sure, that: