Monday, June 11, 2012

Benefiting From a Benefit

If you ask my kids where they are from, they'll answer, Farmington. Ironically, my dad, uncles and aunt all grew up in the exact same house and their answer to the same question is Yates City.

Technically, because our mail comes from Farmington and our kids go to school, play ball, hang out, etc. in Farmington, we consider ourselves from there. But, the closest burg to us is Yates City, population, less than 700...and I'm related to about 650 of them (or so it seems).

Anyway, our little town is unassuming. You would drive through it and note the lovely library, the nice park, the bank, and new community center, but probably notice that there aren't a lot of fancy, schmancy houses. The school has long since been left empty since the new one was built in Farmington. It's a town where some people live, some people just pass through to get to somewhere, and many may consider it nothing particularly spectacular.

However, it is.

It is a place that on Saturday, and every first Saturday in June for 10 years, becomes a place of overwhelming generosity, giving spirit and community pride.

You see, our little town, thanks to the generosity and gumption of the owner of the local bar and grill and, unfortunately, a cancer diagnoses (and thankfully remission) of a local child ten years ago, raised over 80,000 dollars that night to donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

$80,000, as in ...well, 80,000 smackers!!!

Isn't that amazing?

The community comes out in full force on that Saturday, but I know that there's a lot of work 364 days prior to the event. However, the event is the culmination of all that hard work. It starts early in the day and lasts all day into the wee hours with events that cover all interests, from little kids to runners to bikers to party-ers to old fogies to just generous folks. My Place Bar and Grill puts its best foot forward, and it is not is truly all for the kids at St. Jude.

We are new to this community, and hadn't really gotten involved with this cause until this year, but I will tell you if you ever want to feel a part of something bigger, part of a community, part of something that's doing something great in the midst of tragedy, this event is exemplary. The auction is indicative of the community in which we live. Folks gathered around to bid on everything from John Deere pedal tractors to Cardinals tickets to pies from Aunt Nancy, enjoying the fun of auctioning off seeing the bar owner's husband in a dress, and then re-auctioning his street clothes after he made his cross-dressing appearance. The semi-load of beans from a local farmer got great applause, a donation that made our farming roots around here apparent.

The generosity of the community was outstanding. The volunteerism was something to behold.

These people get it. They know that cancer doesn't discriminate, and that we can do a little bit all together to make a lot of difference.

As a young adult, I had the opportunity to visit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a runner for the Memphis to Peoria team. I still remember the faces of the children, bald headed and smiling, as they rode hot wheels attached to their IV drips. They were so happy, despite being so ill. However, the memory I have in my mind most clearly was the look of the parents behind these happy kids. The look of desperation, exhaustion and fear shown all over their faces. I felt sad, but now that I have four cherubs myself, I really get it. I don't know what I would do if I had to be in their shoes.

So, I give. I will volunteer next year. I will do more than run the 5K in the morning and enjoy a beverage with friends in the evening.

We are so blessed with our lovely children, and know that we are lucky. Since the inception of this benefit, four other local children have been through St. Jude. We have a local farmer who has only welcomed Joe into the farming fold with respect and kindness who has a grandson currently fighting cancer, benefiting from all that St. Jude has to offer. Seeing Jerry there, surrounded by his family, laughing and enjoying the day, makes us appreciate our kids and know that in a blink of an eye, we could be in the same boat. The community support surrounding his family is amazing, and truly a bright spot in an otherwise challenging situation. We are so awed at this, and even though we were having a great time, kid free and surrounded by friends, we couldn't help but step back every now and then during the evening and remember why we were truly there.

Thank you, My Place for donating time, talents and funds to this cause, however, thanks the most for allowing me to benefit from this benefit. Thanks for allowing me to take a minute to appreciate my healthy kids, rejoicing in their noise and mess and stickiness (for now!! Ha!). Thanks for showing that even though a little town may seem like a place someone might miss if they blink, it can make a big impact.

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