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The Simple Things: Olivia’s Reflection on her Summer Internship

When I learned I had gotten the position as an intern for The Rainbow Connection this summer, I had no idea what to truly expect. I was in the midst of preparing for finals at my college, Ohio University, and wrapping up my freshman year. My friends were in the room with me when I received the call informing me that I’d gotten the internship, and they were jumping up and down with me, just as excited as I was.

 First, I’d like to make it clear that the wish kids I had the privilege of meeting in Michigan are unlike any other children I’ve ever known. When you talk to them, you feel something. They emanate hope, gratefulness, and empathy from their souls. They are kind, funny, and quick to help others. They are mature in a way some adults aren’t, in that they have seen the worst sides of life and still choose to smile.

 I imagined I would learn so many things at The Rainbow Connection—how to create files for kids, collect donations, and maybe even help grant a wish! Little did I know, those lessons would pale in comparison to the bigger, more important lesson I learned during my time here at Rainbow—the unimportance of guarantee.

 As a planner, I have always stressed (even lost sleep) over the worry that things will not go according to my plans. That all of my detailed notes about a day will be destroyed by an unexpected storm or inconvenience to deal with. What I learned from the wish children of Rainbow, however, is just how silly it is to try to plan everything. After all, the best moments are the moments we don’t expect.

 In life, we are not guaranteed anything. We are not guaranteed tomorrow or the next day. We are not guaranteed the next hour. Those of us who do not have life-threatening illnesses often live in the fantasy land that we have forever—until we are ninety or one hundred, or perhaps even one hundred and fifty if modern medicine continues its advancements. But these children find joy in the smallest of moments. Whether their lives are still endangered by their conditions or not, these kids act as if every moment they are living is a gift—of that I am confident, because it is the only explanation for the joy they radiate.

 Since my internship, I have found myself smiling at smaller moments. I see the beauty in things I did not before. I am thankful for unexpected hard rainfall because it saves me a trip to the car wash. I smile when I get to spend time alone, writing, because these quiet moments I’ve been granted are not my right, but a gift. And in everything I do, I think of the kids who completely transformed the way I see life, and redefined living life to the fullest.

 They taught me that there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be having fun every day—and I think that is the best lesson I ever could have learned.

Eastern Oil partners with TRC to make dreams come true!

Michael Zotos, Marketing Manager for Eastern Oil, reflects on volunteering with The Rainbow Connection.

I greatly enjoy volunteering my time helping the Rainbow Connection. When asked to work with their marketing team, I was honored to be able to help this dedicated group accomplish one of their organizational goals and materialize a vision. Rainbow Connection and Eastern Oil Company share a special relationship that spans many years, and many wishes along the way.

As you may know, Rainbow Connection’s mission is to make dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening medical conditions. We wanted to make sure that mission was amplified and in order to accomplish that goal we needed a digital makeover – it was time to overhaul the rainbowconnection.org website!

We determined that a clean and fresh presentation, that was mobile-friendly would allow for all users to engage, learn more about the Mission, and connect.

It’s difficult to find the words that accurately, and best describe what it feels like to work on a larger than life project. The Rainbow Connection Team is always looking for more help! If you’re interested in learning about how you can make a difference – take action by clicking here!

On behalf of Eastern Oil Company, we thank the entire Rainbow Connection family and look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Walk for Kids event scheduled on September 23rd!

 

Finding Strength and Joy in the City of Dreams

Wish Dad, Joe, reflects on his daughter Zander’s New York City wish come true and their families’ journey since her diagnosis.

Life is good. It definitely has its twists and turns, and ups and downs. It’s been a bit of a rough go for my daughter Zander and our family. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great things in life. But, there are also those things that kind of leave a sour taste in your mouth, an ache your stomach, those things that keep you awake at night, those things that you’re helpless to do anything about.

My daughter Zander, who we affectionately refer to as Z, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 2. The diagnosis was scary (still is) and we had no idea what it really meant for Zander or our family. There have been day-to-day struggles with Zander’s health, struggles and arguments over her treatments, and trying to stay positive when things feel dark. We have seen that these struggles have been even harder for Zander than they have been for us. Depression is all too eager to get involved when you’re dealing with day-to-day monotonous treatments, constant doctor visits, and the hope, or lack thereof, that things will get better.

Jackie, our social worker at Children’s Hospital, identified this sadness in Z and recommended the Rainbow Connection. At our first meeting with our Wish Coordinator, Kristen, she came bearing gifts for our whole family. I remember worrying about how Kristen would word certain things about life-threatening medical conditions, as we get kind of sensitive about that stuff, but I did not need to worry. I can only imagine that she deals with other families who are in similar or worse circumstances with the same grace she showed to us, each interaction leaving them feeling better than before she came. We feel very lucky and fortunate to have met her; she brought a lot of joy and good feelings into our lives.

Although several exciting options were offered for Zander’s wish, she wasn’t going for any of them. Zander isn’t your typical kid. She wanted a unique wish and a wish that was totally her initiative and decision. She and Kristen eventually agreed on a New York City trip. Zander, myself, and my two daughters, Aleisha and Adeline, all went together.

New York City was sort of what we expected, and yet totally different at the same time. The girls were totally blown away and loved it instantly. My guard was up for a little bit due to the unknown, but we had an absolute blast.

The sights were amazing with all of the mammoth skyscrapers everywhere. The people were abundant and diverse. We were able to enjoy the city with a double decker bus tour, a ferry ride around the Statue of Liberty, and more! The first night we got to New York City we saw the Phantom of the Opera in a breathtaking theater on Broadway. Chinatown was really fun and the place where we got all of our gifts and souvenirs. On the flight home, between showering us with snacks and cookies, the flight attendants gave an announcement to the whole plane about Zander and told her to keep fighting for her health, causing my eyes and heart to well up.

We will take so many memories with us from New York and cherish them forever. Memories like our regular ritual of going to the Walmart on the corner near our hotel to get snacks every night before heading to bed. We’ll never forget the crazy movie theater where we saw the new version of the movie “It”, with its crazy staircases and escalators zigzagging up multiple floors. We will remember crying together at the Phantom of the Opera at the end of the play. And I know, I’ll always remember taking pictures of each other and hugging as we walked through Central Park together.

This trip was an outpouring of love from a huge number of individuals that included the Rainbow Connection Team, Kristen, everyone involved with Rock the Rainbow & the School of Rock of Rochester, and to the individual and corporate donors who contribute to this cause. We cannot say thank you enough. My three daughters and I have all determined that we will all be returning to New York City someday. We’re all going back and to relive this awesome experience.

 

From Our Executive Director

Well my first year at The Rainbow Connection (TRC) is quickly flying by!  After completing a banner year in 2017, (we granted the most wishes ever – 172), as well as updating our website, selling out the Celebration of Dreams event, purchasing new donor software, balancing our budget and connecting with more donors, TRC remains committed to our mission of “Making Dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening medical conditions.”  Our unique and compassionate organization helps families focus on something good and positive, giving them hope and lifting their spirits. As we prove time and time again, a dream come true strengthens a family and creates memories that will be cherished long into the future.

I am blessed to work with an amazing team of dedicated employees who work tirelessly to raise money and promote our efforts to make sure ALL of our wishes each year are granted.  The TRC Board of Directors are an active part of our mission and key to our success in making dreams come true. Finally, we live in a time when people are generous and thankful and demonstrate their gratitude through financial support of worthy causes.  We have gained support through the dedication of our mission and will work hard to maintain that trust by being transparent with all that we do. That is why we hold a Four out of Four Stars rating from Charity Navigator!

Every day when I come into my office I pass the Wish Board.  This is the board where each child’s picture is placed with a description of their Wish.  Children who have yet to identify their wishes are on the left and those who have had their wish for the current year on the right. It is a reminder to me of the courage and strength each one of them possesses in order to get through a day. It is also a reminder that we still need help in raising the money that makes this all possible. With financial help from the community and individuals, this courage is rewarded with a dream come true. Will YOU help us?  Your donation, large or small, enables The Rainbow Connection to continue its mission of making dreams come true.

If you have healthy children, be thankful and hug them often.  If it’s in your heart to support those that are not, please donate today at www.rainbowconnection.org or simply returned the enclosed envelope.  Is this the time right?  WILL YOU HELP US?

Thank you and stay tuned we have lots planned for 2018.  With your help, there are many more Wishes to be granted!

With great appreciation,

George

Volunteer Spotlight – Dave LewAllen

Dave has been an active member of The Rainbow Connection Board of Directors for eight years. He was invited to become involved in supporting The Rainbow Connection by Russ Shelton, who has served as our Board President and is a long time member of our Board of Directors.

As our outgoing President, Dave has been instrumental over the last several years in helping The Rainbow Connection grow to meet the increasing need for our services. In addition to being actively involved on our Board, Dave is also a member of our Development and Marketing Committees. In fact, he was the inspiration behind our newly launched “Pennies for Wishes” program which highlights how even pennies can make dreams come true!  You can click on the video to learn more about this program.

Dave shared that what he enjoys most about being involved with The Rainbow Connection is “making a difference… and, over the years, making a huge impact in the lives of thousands of wish children and their families.  The smiles on the faces of the kids during their wish experience makes us happy as Board Members and volunteers.” His favorite experience with The Rainbow Connection is “no question… the kids! Whether it be at our Walk for Kids, the Dobson golf event or Celebration of Dreams–that’s number one!”  He also enjoys working with the dedicated staff and other volunteers who care so deeply about the mission. Dave’s advice for anyone thinking about volunteering is “definitely do it… the reward is priceless!  We help make memories for wish kids and their families during difficult and challenging times that otherwise would not happen… and those smiles!”

Thank you, Dave, for your leadership and inspiration to continue making dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening medical conditions!  We are grateful for your unwavering dedication and commitment to The Rainbow Connection!

TRC Receives Sixth Consecutive 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator, the largest independent charity evaluator has named The Rainbow Connection (TRC) as a top-rated charity once again for 2017. TRC’s fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it the highest award, a 4-star rating for the sixth consecutive year, an honor only 6% of all charities rated achieve.

After Charity Navigator’s review, TRC earned 91.23 points out of 100 overall; 87.61 for financial management and 100 for accountability and transparency. As the non-profit marketplace becomes more competitive, there is an increased demand from donors for greater accountability and quantifiable results from the charities they choose to support.

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I Wished, I Hoped, I Accomplished

22 year old Daryl is a student of Oakland University. His goal is to give back just like his community gave to him during his time of need.

At age eight, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball and was immediately admitted to Children’s Hospital of Michigan. I quickly learned that a family filled with fear is nothing compared to a family filled with hope.

In the midst of my diagnosis, I received a wish that would bring happiness to me and my family during our time of need. My wish was to go to Disney World and have fun like everyone else. Thanks to Rainbow Connection my wish became a reality. In 2003, I remember being out of the hospital and only having to go back for chemotherapy once a week. One week was different as instead of going to chemo I was going to Disney! A limousine pulled up in front of my house and picked up my family and I to take us to the airport. Once we arrived there was a driver with a sign that said, “Give Kids the World Village Welcomes Daryl”.

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9 Things You Might Not Know About The Rainbow Connection

The Rainbow Connection (TRC) has been making dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses since 1985.

Check out these 9 facts you might not know about TRC and the magic of making a dream come true.

1.) It’s more than a wish. In addition to making dreams come true, TRC provides an umbrella of support services for all families served. People forget that when a child becomes seriously ill, life is suddenly turned upside down for all family members. The Special Response and Enhancement Program provide families with support and fun activities as they continue to experience hardships. College Scholarships are available for wish kids who go to college too!

2.) We grant wishes throughout the state of Michigan. TRC provides services to children throughout the 83 counties in the state of Michigan. In 2016, 39% of wishes were granted for Wayne County children, but wish families come from Traverse City, Marquette and cities all over Michigan

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Justin’s Wish makes a “Giant” Impact

Wish Child Justin reflects on his wish to meet the San Francisco Giants and his journey since his diagnosis.

Each summer, my family and I take a trip to a different baseball stadium. So when I was approached by the social worker at my clinic and she said The Rainbow Connection would grant my wish, I immediately thought of the team whose hat is on my head 100% of the time: the San Francisco Giants.

Getting to meet the San Francisco Giants was a once in a lifetime experience and a memory that I will never forget. The whole trip was so exciting just to be out in California and see all the sights there. Not only did I get to do and see amazing things around the city such as the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, and a cable car ride, but I got to see two different ballparks when we went to an Oakland A’s game in addition to a Giants game. The Giants organization gave me a tour of the stadium, let me stand on the field for batting practice, and gave me an opportunity to meet and spend time with four Giants players which was the best part of the whole trip! It was a very pleasant surprise that all the players mentioned they were expecting me and held conversations with my family and I before the game.

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