“Once your inner barriers come down, your Hope can reignite the spark of Hope in someone else.” - Deepak Chopra
I have a confession.
Around this time last year, I was ready to end Joy to the Kids.
I had a lot of excuses that I thought others would understand – and in fact, the inner circle of people that I talked to about my struggles really did understand – but I didn’t tell them the whole truth. I claimed burn-out (watching children suffer DOES take its toll), I did not have a support system to help me run things (all my volunteers moved at the same time and I was doing EVERYTHING on my own), and I was putting so much volunteer time into the charity and was not on a payroll (I’m still not), so how would I ever make a living? The list went on and on of my excuses. But I didn’t admit what was really going on, deep down inside my heart. The raw truth.
I did not think I was worthy of bringing joy to the kids.
I was constantly comparing my little non-profit organization to the other amazing ones in my area – look what they do! They pay mortgages for families that can’t afford to pay due to medical expenses, and send whole families on the trips of their dreams, and feed children and build homes and save animals and pay for the MUCH needed research to provide better treatment for pediatric cancer and how, how, HOW can I ask someone to donate to Joy to the Kids when they should be donating to them?
So I took some time off. I stopped saying yes to events, and cut back my visits to the hospital. I stopped asking for donations and our accounts suffered. And then I got sick with a cold that lasted for weeks, and I NEVER get sick. It was a dark time. I had hit my “rock bottom.” And I prayed.
One day, mustering up all the energy I had to go to the hospital after my cold had finally subsided, I went as Princess Joy, thinking to myself ‘who wants to see a silly Princess character that I made up, anyway… I bet these kids would rather have Elsa.’ (Oh, yes – this was a grand pity party I was caught up in.)
I started on the oncology floor and with a big sigh, I walked into my first room, singing softly. And there, nestled in her mother’s arms in her hospital bed, was a precious little girl that looked up at me and burst into a grin from ear to ear.
“That’s the first smile I’ve seen all day,” said her mother. Then, with tears taking over her voice, she managed to whisper two very simple words that will stay with me forever: “Thank you.”
Everything started to shift from that moment on. My whole mindset was transformed. This isn’t about me at all! This is about lifting the spirits of children who need it, AND their parents. This is about something so much BIGGER than me!
That day was one of the most memorable hospital visits I’ve had. I sang to patients with a newfound JOY (pardon the pun) that I had not known before. I had a caregiver in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit tell me how much she missed me, since my visits were “one of the ONLY options for the children to experience a break” in her unit, otherwise the children in the PICU did “not see visitors – and it’s not like they are able to participate in the other planned activities – do you know how important your interactions are for them?” Whoa.
Then it hit me: the only thing keeping these kids from the gifts that Joy to the Kids has to offer is me.
Once I began breaking down the barriers I had created and got out of my own way, magic started to happen. New, crazy-awesome-sauce-volunteers literally danced into my life, costumes and all, eager to share their talents. A person I barely knew offered to help throw a fundraiser that brought in much-needed donations. The accountants for the organization discounted their rates so that I could balance the books without financial strain. The list of blessings goes on and on.
As a result, we have not only been able to persevere, but I can honestly say that Joy to the Kids has experienced a sort of re-birth and our future is brighter than ever! We have plans to spread our wings and fly; this summer, Joy to the Kids has accepted an invitation to travel to Boston, officially becoming a national cause!
On Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, Joy to the Kids is participating for the third year in a row in a one-day crowd-funding campaign called “Give Choose.” In the last two years, this campaign has brought in enough to meet our budget needs for the year to continue our program in the hospital and outreach to the local community for special events – which was approximately $5000. Now our goal is to double this amount, to $10,000! I set this intention at the beginning of the year, not having a clue how it would be possible, but it didn’t matter. I now had an awareness of the very gift that Joy to the Kids offers to everyone we interact with, a gift that is truly priceless: the gift of Hope. And with Hope, comes Faith and the Joy that everything will work out perfectly, in its own time.
Low and behold, a blessing greater than I could have imagined has now come our way – last week, we received a generous offer by a donor to match $5000 in donations!
I am not sharing this to ask you to donate. I am sharing this very personal story of my journey to inspire you. If you feel inspired to donate to our cause, then accept my deepest gratitude. But it is not MY gratitude for you that matters. All that matters is how we can help the children and their parents. So on behalf of them, allow me to say two very simple words that changed my life: “Thank you.”
Early Giving for Give Choose has already started. Please visit www.GiveChoose.org/Joytothekids