Friday, December 30, 2016

"Let Your Fears Take Flight" by Morgan Bredde

As the ambassador for Children’s Hospice International, I have been blessed to be a part of an organization that celebrates and uplifts children in all stages of life despite diagnosis or prognosis. In early December, I conquered a deep-rooted fear of mine and boarded a plane by myself and headed to Washington DC to participate in Fantasy Flight. Taking place at Dulles Airport, Fantasy Flight is an annual event hosted in partnership with United Airlines. While 13 airports now host Fantasy Flight annually for different causes, Dulles Airport always saves their event for children with terminal conditions. They set up bright and early and check in families and assign them their airplane tickets to take them to their anticipated destination—the North Pole. Now if you know me, you know I am terrified of flying. I like to be in 1000% control of my life, and apparently, I have to have a pilot’s license to fly a plane. SO silly. You can imagine my sigh of relief when I found out we wouldn’t really be flying, but that we would be using reindeer magic to fly supersonically fast to the North Pole. Perfect. I met so many people while waiting at the gate. Parents with huge tears in their eyes as their little ones got glittery tattoos and watched Ronald McDonald perform magic tricks. Some explained to me that they wait for this every year, as it is their Christmas. No hospital, no beige walls, no restrictions. Just pure joy. It wasn’t until I boarded the jumbo jet that the head flight attendant told me a heartbreaking truth that I wasn’t even thinking of- some of these children seated on this plane will not make it to Christmas. Our job is to make sure that this day is the best day of their lives.

After everyone had boarded and the doors were shut, we proceeded to the runway for “takeoff”. Flight attendants checked our seatbelts and passed out stickers and maps, and with that, we were speeding down the runway for liftoff. I was amazed by the lengths they went to to simulate this flight. Complete with exhilarating hydraulics and turbulence! After hitting a rather rough spot of fake turbulence, my gut told me to look out the window (the blinds were shut so that the reindeer could do their job…). I ever so slightly peeked out of the window and my stomach hit the ground. CLOUDS. Nothing but clouds. We were really flying! As Casper-White as I must’ve turned, I pledged to live a year without fear during my reign and honestly, I would do it one thousand times over again just to hear the squeals of delight from the children. Most of whom had never been on a plane. When we finally landed (Praise God!), we were greeted with the greatest cheer and holiday joy. The normal drab tunnel leading to the airport was filled with tinsel, songs, and chatter. Upon exiting the tunnel, absolutely nothing prepared me for the thunderous celebration awaiting every child and family. Dancing characters, waving princesses, singing elves, and cheering attendants welcomed each of us to the North Pole. I was instantly brought to a place of wonderment as I had no idea how overwhelming this must be for the children in awe of the North Pole, and the sobbing parents in gratitude for the love of strangers.


I was elated to finally meet Ann Armstrong-Daley and C.K. Steele in person, as they run every detail and facet of CHI, and granted me this incredible opportunity.

Now when I say this place was magical, you might understand HOW magical when I tell you there were tables and tables of CHICKEN BISCUITS from CHICK Fil A, and cupcakes and every other food my childhood self would have flipped for. I grabbed a cupcake and hid behind a Christmas tree to quickly eat it before meeting with the families who were still pouring off of the plane. But when I got tapped on the shoulder by a volunteer who was hysterically laughing as she foiled my plan of secrecy, I laughed with her and ate my cupcake and cheered on the children walking in. The most amazing part was seeing the sacks of toys brought by Santa for each and every child. Watching him spend so much time and taking so much care for every child was indescribable. I could write forever about the littles I met, the moms I hugged, the staff that I was able to educate and inspire with my words and knowledge of pediatric palliative and hospice care, but these moments I will forever hold in my heart and thank God that I was trusted with them.

As I headed back to catch my flight home after Fantasy Flight, I couldn’t stop taking deep breaths. Even now as I write this, my heart shatters for the beautiful faces that won’t light up opening Christmas presents this year. For the families gathered around a hospital bed watching a sleeping child rest. We are so fortunate. One of my greatest fears is flying but that is nothing compared to the immense fear of losing a child. It was undetectable amongst these parents who know that fear is an impending reality. Let that be a lesson for you as much as it has been for me. Fear is what you make it. Let it control you, or let it motivate you. Whether that fear is flying, competing, or so much more—let it be known that when faced with the greatest fear of all, these families were able to celebrate with grateful hearts. This Christmas, I hope you do the same.



Making the minutes count,



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

" My motto is Don’t Shop—ADOPT " by Ava Ernst

Sam joins Toots as the second basset hound member of our family!
I’d like you to officially “meet” Sam, the newest addition to our family!  He is a handsome, sweet, 7-year-old basset hound who we found through the Animal Humane Society.  Since Bear passed away back in June, we had been keeping our eyes out for another “senior” dog, but first we had to figure out a way to get my dad on board (when my mom adopted Bear, my dad was on a fishing trip—my mom said she couldn’t pull that off a second time, LOL). It was my mom’s birthday last week and we were out for dinner.  I was playing around on my phone and for some reason, I decided to do a search on the Animal Humane Society website and came across Sam.  The next day, my dad had to go to Chicago for a trade show, so my mom and I went up to AHS in Coon Rapids to meet Sam to see if he might be a good fit.  However, when we arrived we were unable to spend one-on-one time with Sam because someone else had put a deposit on him (which meant that they had until 7:30 the next day to come and adopt him).  We were still able to meet him back in the “jail” area (where the cages are—but I call it “jail”) but unable to actually pet him and spend time with him.  When we walked up to him, he was barking away and “telling” us all about his time there.  Bassets are very vocal and he was no exception, LOL!  But his tail was wagging the entire time.  Anyone who knows our current basset hound Toots knows how much they “talk.”  And then when we started walking away, he started moaning and whining.  I was sad to leave him but my mom said that we should be happy that he got adopted and that we had to get Dad on board anyway.  She said if it was meant to be, that he would find his way to us and things would all work out. 

Giving Sam some much needed snuggle time after spending all that time in the shelter

Well, the people at AHS said that if the people didn’t follow through, then Sam would be put back up for adoption and back on the website by 8:00 the next day.  I was thinking about him all day.  That evening, I kept refreshing the website to see if he had gotten adopted or not.  By 8:02, I found him—he was available after all!  I couldn’t believe it!  So my mom and I had to figure out a plan to get my dad up to the Coon Rapids Animal Humane Society to meet Sam.

Sam's new bed is his favorite place in the house

My dad got home from his Chicago trip on Friday afternoon, so my mom and I told him that we were going to go to a surprise restaurant for dinner.  He fell for it and off we went.  As we started driving to Coon Rapids, he could NOT figure out where we were going (AHS is about 30 min from our house).  He finally saw the sign and said, “OMG you tricksters, I know where we are going!”  Luckily he was laughing about it…and he agreed to go in!  We told the lady at the front desk that we were there to meet Sam.  She was going to bring him out to meet us but my mom said she thought it was important for my dad to see the “jail” (cage) area.  So we walked up to Sam and he was just like the day before—barking/telling us all about his plight.  The AHS lady brought him back to see us and he was so sweet.  Smart too, because he immediately put his paws on my dad and was whining and looking into my dad’s eyes trying to hypnotize him, LOL.  My dad is a big softie and was like, “Well, you had better find out what his story is” and that’s when I knew we had him.  We asked all sorts of questions and learned more about Sam.

Here is Sam snuggled up in front of the fireplace on his first night!

We found out that Sam came from a shelter in Oklahoma that lacked the resources to care for him.  I am not sure how long he was at that shelter, but he had been at the Coon Rapids shelter for a month.  He had a dog “sister” (a border collie named Daisy) who was surrendered at the same time as Sam (we found out she had already been adopted).  He was raised with children and it made me sad to think that something really bad must have happened that a family would give up their two dogs.  But I am glad we were there to help give Sam a second chance.


We filled out the paperwork, paid the fee, and Sam was officially ours!  I was so excited.  We finally DID take my dad to that “surprise” restaurant, which was Chik-Fil-A!  Ha ha!  I was just so happy that my dad let us get another dog that I would have agree to go to pretty much any restaurant!

Sam and Toots looking spiffy after a trip to the dog groomer

On the first night, Sam met our existing basset hound Toots (who is 8). They look like they could be brother and sister.  Sam walked into our house like he had lived here forever and made himself right at home.  He snuggled up by the fireplace and that is still his favorite spot in the house.  He and Toots are so cute together and I think he is going to be a GREAT fit.  Today my mom took them to the dog groomer (he was pretty stinky after all that time in the shelter but he smells like roses now)!  The dog groomer said he LOVED having a bath and was such a good boy!  I am so proud of him.  He is so cute and loving!

Sam was a model patient during his first trip to our local vet office. So brave!

If you are EVER thinking of getting a dog, please consider a shelter dog first.  There are so many dogs looking for a warm, loving home and you truly have the ability to change their lives.  And I know they will bring so much to yours in return.  My motto is Don’t Shop—ADOPT and I believe that with all my heart and soul.  It is the right thing to do and you will not regret it!