A few months after Grace was diagnosed we started meeting with a therapist to help her deal with all the struggles, anxieties, and fears she was experiencing. The sessions went well and we started to see some progress. Our therapist warned us it could take time for all of Grace's emotions to come to the surface-like a lot of time. When she was ready to talk, Stephanie counseled us, we had to be ready to listen.
It's been almost one year since the diagnosis. At dinner 2 weeks ago, unprompted, Grace began talking about her time in the hospital and it all just kept spilling out. I put my fork down and started to panic. This was it. Here it all comes. What do I do? Is there an answer in a book? Who can I call? Of course you don't have time to do anything but listen so I did. Grace said she was scared in the hospital-really scared. Luke chimed in he was scared too. He didn't know what was wrong. I was watching the two of them hash out this conversation and felt overwhelmed but relieved it was coming out. Grace continued: "I felt so scared and alone. And I missed my friends. And I didn't know if anyone would like me anymore. I was just so sad." I'll give you a second to grab some tissues.
What came next practically knocked me out of my seat. I was prepared to rush to her side, hug her, squeeze her, whisper "I know." But that didn't happen. Instead, it went like this, "Hey mom-wouldn't it be awesome if I could give kids a bear when they first go into the hospital so they wouldn't be scared and they would already have a friend just like them!" Luke, "I want a bear!" She didn't stop there. She barely came up for air. "Hey mom-we can have a lemonade stand and sell cookies and drinks to raise money! Or we could buy an ice cream truck and you could drive it while I sold ice cream!" Luke, "Can I have an ice cream?"
And there it was: Grace's plan for healing is to help other kids on their path to healing. Just to be clear-Grace is not some ethereal presence sent to live amongst us. She's a normal kid. She annoys her brother, rolls her eyes at me, trashes her room, and is a flat out disgusting eater. If she asks to use your bathroom, say no, lock the doors, and tell her to go home. That being said, her sense of selflessness continues to knock me over.
I sat on the idea for a few days and Grace kept bugging me about it. I contacted our social worker to see if this was even possible. JDRF has a "Bag of Hope" program and, if you sign up for it, you can receive a "Rufus Bear" who is lots of fun because he has patches where he can receive insulin. We love Rufus but Grace was adamant kids needed a Brave Bear in their hands the second they are admitted. She wants it to be something they can squeeze, something they can hold with no insulin patch sites. We heard back within a few days that the idea had been approved and everyone at CHOP is over the moon about the project. The "Brave Bears" program is off to a good start. Our social worker is working on getting us the numbers of kids admitted each year. Once we have that number, we can come up with a fundraising strategy and move forward. Grace wants each kid to receive a bear with a note from her. She's been working on some drafts which include messages like, "Diabetes doesn't change who you are. You are brave. You are not alone." I hope you still have those tissues handy. Every time I see her working away on this project it makes me so, so proud (even if she is a totally gross eater).
So many of you have already responded with awesome ideas to raise funds: silicone bracelets, Biking for Bears, Beer for Bears, Beef and Bears-it's fun to kick around these ideas. So stay tuned. We'll be calling on everyone's help to get this project off the ground!