Less than a week till Christmas, and I got a very late start on this week’s episode whilst trying to put myself in the proper frame of mind. It’s nay impossible for yours truly to find his Christmas spirit unless it rhymes with eighty proof. On the plus side, I had much help from fellow bloggers Dale and Frank on three . . count em three! . . of my stories, so I literally could’ve fallen out of bed and finished this one up. Tis? Meet the season!
And now our Heroes . . .
Aleem Chaudhry is being good for goodness sake. The San Antonio, Texas deli owner bought a small, decorative Christmas mailbox last year that he planned to put up as a decoration in his home. “But my wife was like, take it to the store,”
They received over four hundred letters last year. Kids ask for electronic gadgets and toys, but many keep it simple; asking that their parents spend more time at home with them. In addition to lists, the kids ask questions like “Do your reindeers like cookies too?”, and “Why do you come down the chimney when you can just use the door?” The youngest kids just draw pictures, and their parents fill out address sheets.
Because get this . . . Chaudhry writes back to the kids. Every single one of them. He and his wife have received over five hundred letters so far this year and he estimates it might reach a thousand. They’ve ditched holiday parties in order to reply to every last letter, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
When LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy last weekend in New York City, it capped a magical season for the senior. And whatever happens in next month’s College Football Playoffs, the kid’s already a champion in our book.
During his acceptance speech last Saturday, the Ohio native made mention of his hometown of Athens.
“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very, very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average,” Burrow said. “There are so many people there that don’t have a lot, and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”
The mention inspired an online fundraising campaign for the Athens County Food Pantry. Donations have poured in from all across the country to the tune of almost 500,000 dollars thus far. Joe Cool took the Golden Rule . . to school. (Thank you to Frank for the 411 on this story).
The next two stories are a double dose of my pal Dale, who delivered up not one, but two stories for this Heroes episode. I don’t care what they say, those Canadians are pretty friendly peeps.
I’d never heard the term ‘busker’ until I checked this piece out, and all I can say is . . what a way to learn the word. Buskers are street performers, like Mo Guzman of Toronto, who do their thing while depending on the kindness of passersby. And recently, those kindnesses were delivered in bunches when a “Cash Mob” tossed hundreds of dollars in his guitar case. The mob was orchestrated by a Toronto marketing company called Zulu Alpha Kilo, who got their employees to pose as regular strap hangers.
The timing couldn’t have been better, since Guzman is the proud papa of a three month old baby girl. “I feel like years of working on the subway and making people smile is starting to pay off in its own way,” Guzman said in the video. “I feel so fortunate.”
To paraphrase Ernest L. Thayer, it was looking rather bleak for the St. Stephen Spartans five after losing their goaltender to injury prior to a home game against the Southern Victoria High School Vikings. Senior defense man Davan Cloney gamely volunteered to sub for his goalie. No small task considering the position is one of the toughest in sports. If you don’t believe me, try standing on your window sill . . whilst attempting to block a vulcanized rubber disk hurtling towards your body at speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour.
Vikings goalie T.J. Sullivan gets it, in more ways than the one. Which is why he skated down to meet with Davan at the end of the first period. He gave his opponent some pointers on how to tend goal and told him to hang in there. From that point on, every time Cloney made a save, Sullivan slapped his stick against the ice in celebration.
The final score had the Vikings winning handily, but something tells me the box score isn’t going to be the story those kids will be talking about when they look back on this game.
It was June of 2018 when Shawn Cress’s whole world fell apart.
His twelve year old daughter Chloe needed some physical therapy for a limp, or so they all thought. The limp became a back pain and then a fever, after which lab tests revealed something much more serious. The Kingsport, Tennessee family was then referred to a children’s hospital forty five minutes away where Chloe underwent a CT scan.
Doctors found a giant tumor near her heart. It had spread to her esophagus and into some of her vertebrae. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer- alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which is cancer in the skeletal muscles. From there she was flown to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where the family would spend the next eighteen months as their daughter would fight for her life.
“You just break down,” Shawn said. “It just scares the life out of you . . . you just think, ‘I’m gonna lose my kid.’ And it’s really helpless, because there’s nothing you can do.”
Through it all, Chloe was selfless. She worried what her sickness would mean to her family; if it would lead to money problems since they had to uproot their home base eight hours from Kingsport and were spending more than fourteen hours a day by her side. She missed her dogs, Buu and Rollie, who she calls her “emotional link”.
Eighteen months is a lifetime when a parent is forced to consider the mortality of a child; it’s the kind of reality that runs counter to everything we believe. But inside that new reality, belief remained. The belief that Chloe would fight, and that she would walk out of St Jude one day with her family. Together.
On Tuesday, doctors informed the family that Chloe’s cancer was in remission. On December 21st, they will be heading home for the first time in eighteen months. She’ll have followup appointments every three months and she will most likely be bedridden for the rest of the school year. But all that’s on Chloe’s mind right now is being home with Buu and Rollie. And maybe adopting another dog, that too. And life as they knew it before that fateful June day, will never be the same again.
It will be better.