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Flight Camp

Rachael, Meridith Edwards and Sam Lee

Sam Lee, Nikki Hawkins, Peyton and Will

We spent the weekend camping….urban camping, I guess, not so much the get-back-to-wilderness camping. We stayed in cabins with air conditioning and running water…about as rustic as I care to get when camping with a toddler.

Peyton and Jessica

The Children’s Cancer Center brought us out to the same campgrounds where Nathaniel and Rachael go for their church summer camp. Flight Camp is an opportunity for the families of pediatric cancer to get together and have some fun. We had a lot of it!

Peyton at the drum circle

Rachael played the drums with her forehead and the tambourine with her neck…she’s a special girl, that Rachael.

Nathaniel and Rachael split up to stay in the boys’ and girls’ cabins but both of them made their way back to us on Saturday night. Peyton, Pete and I were bunked with two other families in what I affectionately thought of as “the prison barracks”. Penny Hawkins and her crew were bunked with us and that gave us the chance to spend lots of quality time together, Peyton and Will (her 3 year old) bonded in a special way over the weekend.

Will – “Peyton, do you want to sleep with us?”
Will – “Nikki, move over, Peyton doesn’t have enough room!”
Will – “You want to go to my house? You want to come play with my toys?”

In the world of a 3 year old, they might as well be married.

Peyton and Meridith

Nathaniel and his best buddy Jared Hawkins

It was a torrential downpour Friday night, so after dinner we had to skip the bonfire and hang in the cabins, but Saturday was a nonstop activity barrage. There were arts and crafts…I think much of what we did was a glue company’s dream…swimming, canoeing, fishing, a princess makeover for the girls and moms (which Peyton and I skipped in lieu of a princess nap), a very cool drum circle, Night Stryker volleyball (in the dark with everything lit up with black lights) which was a huge hit with both kids and adults, and dancing with a DJ.

There was a lot of time to just sit and talk, to watch the kids playing and being the kind of crazy they only achieve when in large groups.

Rachael and Bella Cerchione

Peyton and Will being too cute for words

At one point, the boys cabin decided to build a haunted house in the cabin. There is a wall of cubbies where they store all of their stuff and they draped all of them with blankets so they could hide behind them and jump out at some unsuspecting soul and hopefully scare them into a seizure.

The site of the infamous cubby-gas incident

So they waited…and suddenly, someone yelled “Who farted!!!???”….then the blankets began waving as the boys searched desperately for fresh air. I thought I might just pass out from laughing.

We had such a good time that as we drove away Peyton burst into tears. “I wanted to stay for 40 more days!!!!!” Really? I’m not sure what was planned for the next 37 days, but we packed an awful lot into the 3 we were there.

“Who wrote on the window sill!??”

“Not me”
“Not me”
“ummmm……not me?”
“Try again, Rachael.”

We have the most amazing friends from the Center, we are so blessed by the staff and volunteers who give of themselves so graciously and compassionately to ease the stress and strain of our lives. I never dreamed that this would be our life, but I also never thought that we would have so much love poured on us by so many. The relationships we have made over the past 15 months are priceless and beyond words.

On a sadder note, the Center hosts a ribbon making time when a child passes. We will be gathering on Tuesday to put together ribbons to be worn at Hannah’s funeral on Wednesday. I just feel an ache in my stomach whenever I think about it. In fact, in reviewing the pictures from camping, I’d forgotten that I hadn’t downloaded my pictures from Thursday. So I was browsing goofy picture after goofy picture and then there was one of Hannah at hospice. Her beautiful little face just brought back the reality of why were all there at camp. That it goes beyond just having a chance to get out of the house, but these are the chances to brighten the lives of these kids who live with life-threatening illnesses. We pray for healing, we hope for the best, but we never really know for sure, so we embrace every precious moment.

Hannah’s funeral will be on Wednesday and I was touched by the family’s request that we all wear red or pink as those were her favorite colors. They also asked that instead of flowers, toys be donated to the Lady Bug Toy Drive that was so very important to Hannah in her last days. In case you didn’t know, Hannah decided that with the huge influx of presents, she wanted to share them with others. The Deal family decided that they would have a toy drive that would benefit the kids of hospice in Hannah’s honor and they call it the Lady Bug Toy Drive. They surpassed their goal of 1000 toys, but they continue to see an outpouring of generosity from those touched by Hannah and her huge heart. They will keep the Toy Drive going until the last of October and if you’d like to contribute a toy to honor Hannah you can do so at:

Ladybug Toy Drive, P.O. Box 4424 Seminole, FL 33775

Please continue to pray for Hannah’s family and friends as we prepare for a week to celebrate the life that Hannah shared with us and to remember the joy she brought to so many and to honor the valiant battle she waged.

This is a wonderful article that the St. Pete Times wrote about Hannah.

f.r.o.G….fully relying on God

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