Volunteers celebrating at – where else – The Cheesecake Factory after our first and hugely successful cheese day (left to right):
Christine (Rachel’s mom), Natalee’s (friend of Rachel, Haley and Samantha), Suzanne (Natalee’s mom and administrator of Natalee’s Song), Matthew (Rachel’s brother), Samantha, Haley, Joe and Cheryl (blogger). Not pictured because they had to leave early are Curtis and Al, Natalee’s brother and dad. Also not pictured are the Art Therapy staff at CNMC.
Turnout was unbelievable, better than anyone expected (or planned for)! I think all of the clinic patients (and their parents) attended the cheese day. We had been told to expect 6 or so, or on the rarest of occasions maybe 10 inpatients. There are 36 inpatient rooms, 6 of which are occupied by transplant patients who cannot leave their rooms. We had all 30 inpatients who were able to leave their rooms! And for those who couldn’t, the Art Therapy staff visited them after the event with self-contained packages of cheese treats and jokes. We had another group of visitors as well, staff! They showed up en masse, it must have been all of them! We just went with the flow, which was a little hard to keep up with at times, but we found out later that staff are rarely included in these kinds of activities so they were delighted to join us. And considering how they dedicate their lives to helping these kids, they certainly deserve a little cheese now and then!
Haley and Cheryl staffed the Say Cheese photo station. As you saw from Haley’s tab, she is quite the photographer, and she really knocked this task out of the park. Everyone loved the photographs! Cheryl printed them, and at times we were so backed up that I had to ask people to come back in half an hour.
Samantha and Joe prepared the balloons, staffed the cheese jokes table, and enjoyed the chance to talk with patients, parents, and staff. Samantha also helped Natalee administer the cheese quiz, and Joe helped to decorate the photo frames.
More details to come…
There was no such thing as a Mitzvah Project when my generation participated in this spiritual right of passage, and I (as the blogger and mom of the B’not Mitzvah) have never done anything like this before. I have no clue how to organize a project like this, so the best I could offer as guidance to Haley and Samantha is a guess. Natalee’s Song, on the other hand, does this kind of thing on a regular basis. And boy are they impressive to watch in action! Working with them was a highly educational process. Your donations paid for the food, but because Natalee’s Song masterfully negotiated a 50% discount (after I tried and failed 4 times), your donations also paid for balloons, supplies, and additional giveaways. Natalee’s Song provided the T-shirts and the crowns (like the ones in the photo) and other hats and costumes. Our dear friend Laurie even wrote a cheese song for the children to the tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad”!
For Haley and Samantha to be able to take on a hands-on project, and see the smiles they put on peoples’ faces, is priceless. I can’t say once in a lifetime because we’re hoping this will become a yearly event! Putting a check in the mail to help fund research is an important thing to do, but now they will always be able to recall the faces of the people whose lives are impacted by those donations. And in the process, they were able to bring their friend’s wish to fruition.