How would you give back if you had an extra life?

When my son Joey was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctors encouraged us to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. They did not expect him to live through the summer.

To say that it was devastating is an understatement.

But live he did, for a year after his initial diagnosis. He received treatment at our local Children's Hospital and received therapy for issues related to the treatment. 

That time was a gift for us. A gift that not everyone who has an ill family member gets to experience. 

I was constantly marveling at all of the things that he was able to do  - go to school, go on vacations and outings with the family, and continually delight us with his humor and wit. 


The time after his death was really hard on me. There eventually came a time that I realized that we were still living despite Joey's absence. As amazing as our local medical communities, wish-granting organizations, and support groups were to us, I knew that I had to find some small ways to give back no matter how hard it was for me. 

There are many children surviving cancer thanks to medical technology, and they and their families need our help. My family and I frequently give money to the organizations that made it possible for us to take a dream trip so that other families might have that same experience. 

We have taken gift cards and toys to our local Children's Hospital to make children's and families' stays there easier and less painful. 

We have plans someday to volunteer at the village that hosted us (run entirely by volunteers) during our dream trip. 

What we can do to help is never far from our minds. Just recently, a young girl who is connected to our family received the devastating news that she had a brain tumor. Thankfully, the doctors were able to remove it, and she is in therapy hoping to live a long and happy life. 

For some people, it can be overwhelming or intimidating to hear about ambitious charity work or foundation projects around the world. I know that it is still overwhelming for me to think about. I recently learned about a group of people, recipients of The Medtronic Foundation-Bakken Invitation Award, who know that everyone has something they can contribute to their community, and there’s no better time than now to make it happen. 

The Bakken Invitation Award recognizes outstanding contributions of service, volunteerism, and leadership. Each year, selected Honorees earn a $20,000 grant from Medtronic Foundation Philanthropy to direct to a charity of their choice.

All of the honorees are amazing, but one who really inspires me is Sheila Vasconcellos, who is 45 like me. Like many people in my extended family, she has diabetes. After living most of her life with no complications, she began recently using an insulin pump to manage some symptoms she was having. 

Because she feels like she can live another 45 years now, she is giving back to her community in Rio de Janiero, Brazil by working with children undergoing cancer treatment and treatment for blood disorders. She has been active in fund raising and even began a "Beauty Day" event geared toward mothers and caretakers so they can forget about their sadness and stress for awhile and take care of themselves. I love that idea!

Sheila believes that love is a powerful remedy that everyone can share. She states:

" . . . love for ourselves and our neighbors is what saves and
heals us. Even those receiving treatment or care can 
still find time to help others. There is always someone 
nearby who needs strength, bravery and support."

You can read about the other 2015 Medtronic Foundation-Bakken honorees here. Most have given back in such simple, heartfelt ways. Nothing you do will ever be too small. You never know how it could help someone #liveon and #giveon. 

Please enter to win$100 Visa Gift Card that you can share with your community.  Leave a blog post comment telling me both how you’d share the funds, and which Honoree inspires you this year. You must be 18 years old and a US resident to win. I will pick one winner at random, and the gift card will be sent to you the week after the contest ends on March 18th. 

Do you live with medical technology that has changed your life? Share in the comments. 
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