Friday February 5, 2016

This first week of second semester has been anything but routine. A winter storm meant no school on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dan also stayed home this week, avoiding hazardous travel and getting a much needed office week. This is one time when working from home means you have to work when others don't!

I am still really enjoying my work. It's a great team,  it's interesting, and I feel really lucky to be doing what I'm doing. I hope this contract work lasts for a long time...

Erin is quite happy with her second semester schedule. She's got a tough morning schedule, but then she's got free time in the afternoon. This will be very helpful come golf season when they leave early for meets.

Golf season is still a ways away, so the focus for now is volleyball. Erin's 17s team has a one day tournament this weekend and then she's traveling with the 18s team to Omaha next weekend. She, like her sister, loves being on a team.

We are winding down our last week of Shannon O'Hara Foundation events. Our board of directors meeting is this weekend, and we will choose our scholarship winners. Scholarship presentations will be on Saturday, Feb. 13 at the 1pm Mayo vs. Century boys hockey game at Graham Arena.

While this will bring the fundraising events to a close for the season, another season is upon us. The spring will bring all the senior events for Shannon's classmates. The grad party invites are already showing up on Facebook.  Kids are making their decisions about where they will go to college. And yesterday, we talked with school administrators about graduation.

Shannon will be remembered. Subtly, appropriately, she will be a part of the ceremony...

I hope that we can handle these senior events with grace.

Shannon is ever present in our lives. That doesn't change. Erin was enjoying her snow day on Wednesday, watching a movie, just relaxing. I wasn't thinking anything of it until
she came upstairs and point blank said to me and Dan, "Snow days aren't as fun without a sister." Shit, that was a gut shot...

The HS girls hockey season came to an end this week for the Mayo girls. Hard not to think about how sad Shannon would be about that...

This is how it goes. Watching kids turn into graduates and go on to college. Someday there will be weddings and babies. I shouldn't let my mind go there, but it's impossible not to.

Don't get me wrong, we love our connection to Shannon's friends and classmates. We will enjoy following them in their future endeavors and we know a little piece of Shannon lives in each of them.

"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future. "- William Wordsworth

Monday February 1, 2016

The events of the past few days have been nothing short of spectacular for me and Dan. So many opportunities to talk about Shannon. Saying her name and hearing it said was so heartwarming.

Backtrack to Thursday when we had a lovely recognition dinner at the Mayo Foundation House in Rochester. Thanks to a generous major gift from Dan's sister Mary, Mayo Clinic invited us to dinner and, since Mary's gift is directed towards the lab doing research on Shannon's cells, Dr. Richard Vile was invited to join us.

The Foundation House was part of O'Hara family history, even though most of Dan's family had never been inside. See, the O'Hara kids would walk by the house every day on their way to school. They would play on the stone wall as they made their way. Someone joked that they might have actually thrown a snowball or two at the house! So, the fact that seven of the nine kids were at the dinner was very special.

Dr. Vile was delightful, sharing the story of how he came to Shannon's funeral and that inspired him to change the focus of his research. Working on pediatric cancers requires a special person and funding is incredibly sparse. Hearing him talk, we could all feel his passion and commitment.

We were also excited to hear that the research is progressing and that they've reached an important stage - the first three patients have been enrolled in a Phase 1 clinical trial at Mayo, using immunotherapy that was developed as a direct result of work done with Shannon's cells. How amazing is that?

Shannon is making a difference...

Friday meant no rest for the weary as Dan and I headed to Graham Arena for the Shannon Cup.  This past weekend was the younger group, with the U10 and U12 teams playing. While most of the Rochester teams know our story, these weekend provide the opportunity to share Shannon's story with teams from around the state. Our poster chronicling Shannon's journey always catches the attention of the moms. They can't imagine what it's like to lose a child. Dan and I take the opportunity to talk about Shannon and our foundation and how the money we raise at these events helps make Shannon's wishes come true.

The kids want to hear Shannon stories, and they also want to buy some Shannon gear! We had a new hockey lace hoodie that was flying of the shelves. The weekend total that was raised for the foundation was over $6000. Truly amazing.

So, we've got two more weeks of Shannon events ahead of us. Next weekend our SOF Board of Directors will meet to choose our 2016 scholarship recipients. Then, on Saturday afternoon, February 13th, we will present our scholarships during the Mayo vs. Century boys game.

Another season of spreading Shannon's message is almost over. A new group of girls has heard us talk about how Shannon was a good teammate and a good friend. Shannon wanted her life to matter, and it does.

Tuesday January 26, 2016

Eight days have passed since I last had a chance to blog... So much activity in our lives during this month of January!

The last week has brought us senior day at the Mayo Girls Hockey game, a 90th birthday party for Dan's mother and a speaking engagement at last night's Rochester Amateur Sports Commission's annual banquet. In between all that, preparations for this weekend's Shannon Cup, Erin prepping for finals, and Dan with a busy travel schedule. Nothing like speaking to a room of 600 people last night, and then jumping on a plane at 5:30am for Detroit...

The Mayo Girl's hockey program has been so kind to us this season. They invited us to participate in their senior day, where each senior and their parents were recognized. Erin was willing to stand in for Shannon. We were grateful to be included.

Tess O'Hara's 90th birthday party was a happy occasion with her surrounded by her nine children.  Oh, the sheer volume that is created when they are all together... I can't even describe it. It rivals and rock concert you've ever been to, but only if all the band members were singing at once. This picture is not a good representation of the event:


All kidding aside, the room was quiet as Tess gave a little speech about the things that have brought her family together. First was the cabin. Lake Hubert has been a part of the family legacy since Ed starting going there as a child and Tess has so many good memories of her own children at the lake.

Then she talked about her kids finding spouses and starting families. Kids became couples and couples became families. She's lived to see three great grandchildren be born, and another three are on the way!

Finally, Tess spoke about the loss of Shannon. Family in a time of tragedy can rise to the occasion or fall apart. I'm grateful the O'Haras were - and still are - up to the task. Tess talks to her angel Shannon and feels she is with her in spirit. Amen.

I'm lucky to have my family along on this journey, too. My brother drove down last night to be a part of the banquet and to hear us speak. My friend, Kula, was there, too, along with our other board members. We couldn't do it all without their support.

So, we've reached the end of January. Many Shannon events behind us now, but still three weeks to go: Shannon Cup, SOF Board of Directors meeting and finally, Scholarship Day on February 13th.

I think I can, I think I can...

Monday January 18, 2016

Happy Martin Luther King day. MLK always makes me remember our time in Memphis and visiting the Lorraine Motel where MLK was killed. Our friends the Olsons had come to visit Shannon at St. Jude's, and we took a field trip with Shannon in a wheelchair, being pushed by her buddy, Anna. So long ago already...

While that's a sad Shannon memory, we had the opportunity this weekend to share some good Shannon memories, too. It was the first weekend of the Shannon Cup, and we spent part of each day at Graham Arena meeting the teams and watching the girls play.

We had teams from far and wide this year - Omaha to Aberdeen to Winnipeg. We enjoyed sharing our story, and we're happy to say that some SOF product went home with those teams! Someone in Winnipeg is probably wearing a Shannon shirt right now...

It is interesting to see people read the poster chronicling Shannon's story and then turn to us to try and make sense of it all. It hits these people right were they are - their daughters are 13 and 14 year old girls, playing hockey, living life. We try and tell them to enjoy every minute of it and don't sweat the small stuff.

A big thanks to the Century Girls Hockey team for working at our merchandise table all day long during the event. (Also, to sis-in-law Connie who did a stint as well :) We feel really good about where the foundation is at, and our fundraising at these events continues to be a success.

We're happy to report that the U15A Rochester girls won the championship 3-2 against Centennial. Now, I know that would make Shannon happy as Centennial always got under her skin! 

Thank you to the kids who wear their Shannon gear and support our cause, and thanks to the parents who take the time to talk with us and learn about our foundation. Hard to believe, but in just a few years, these girls will be our SOF scholarship applicants. 

Time has a way of flying by... 


I'm feeling a little bit emotionally exhausted today. But it's well earned, and it's well worth it.

Last night was Shannon night at Graham Arena as all the Rochester high school girls teams played. Century sported lime green tape, JM/Lourdes had lime green skate laces and Mayo wore lime green ribbons.

The teams each donated $500 to the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. That $1500 put us over the $100,000 mark. In the four years since Shannon passed, this community, this hockey community has helped us raise this money. I am feeling so humbled this morning by the support we received again last night.

Shannon's friends from each team spoke about her during the on ice presentation. In the stands, there were kids of all ages in Shannon sweatshirts. The U12A team was there, wearing their team gear which sport the Shannon logo. Even the U10 girls were there, wearing their white RYHA jerseys with a winged #9.

Our friends showed up, and Erin's friends showed up, too. We were surrounded by love and support and people who remembered Shannon for her spunk, her wit and her smile.

The best part of the night, the part that finally put me over the edge, was the Mayo HS starting line up. As they announced each position, they saved left wing for last. The PA announcer said, "starting at left wing, the angel among us, Shannon the Cannon".  Mayo started the game with just four skaters on the ice, leaving Shannon's position vacant, honoring her absence.

That brought so many tears for me... it's bringing me tears right now just writing about it.

Mayo promptly went down and scored a goal, going on to win the game. A victory on Shannon night for the Mayo Spartans was only fitting.

Thank you to all who were in attendance last night and those who have supported us along the way. Shannon is with us all, always.

SOF Night at HS Girls Hockey - Jan 14, 2016

Come join us tonight at Graham Arena for Shannon O'Hara Foundation night. All three Rochester girls HS hockey teams will be playing, and SOF merchandise will be for sale.

First game is JM/Lourdes vs. Century at 5:30pm, followed by Mayo vs. Albert Lea at 7:30pm. We will have an on-ice presentation in between games and a chuck-a-puck fundraiser, too.

This is Shannon's senior class... hope to see you all there!

Saturday January 9, 2016

Our first blast of arctic air has arrived... 9 degrees in Roch this morning and the temp is headed even lower tomorrow. Just in time for an outdoor playoff football game for our Vikings. I will be watching from the warm comfort of my basement!

Today, I was all set to sit on my ass and drink coffee in my pajamas all morning when a text came from Kula asking if I wanted to walk around the track indoors for some exercise. I immediately said no, I just wanted to rest. But, with a little cajoling from my husband I got off my ass and went to walk. Good decision. If Kula asks, I should be there...

Kula shaved her head yesterday. Her hair was falling out quickly, and she was ready. Dan and I visited with her in the afternoon before she shaved it, and we checked out her various hats, scarves and her wig. Then, once her hairdresser worked her magic, Kula sent us a picture of her smiling with her beautiful, bald head. She looks good.

This is a whole new normal for her and for me to figure out how to support her. When the supporter becomes the supportee and vice versa, it takes a bit to find our bearings. I hope to be there to walk with her when she's up to it, and to sit by her side when she's not.

Don't get me wrong, Kula is doing great and tolerating her treatment well to this point. She's a healthy lady... except for that cancer thing... It's a marathon, not a sprint and I'll do my best to be a friend over the long haul.

It's strange to walk and talk about treatments and insurance and side effects. I found there was an odd comfort in it today. Kula is in the stage of "doing something" about her cancer. I remember those as good days - we were battling, Shannon was smiling her way through it. Doctors and nurses and technicians rooting you on at every turn.

We now enter our month of Shannon events, starting this Thursday with HS girls hockey and then Friday and Saturday at the first Shannon Cup weekend. We've also been receiving the Shannon Scholarship applications in the mail. The process begins again, the rhythm of our journey repeating itself.

There is comfort in that, too. We are doing something.

"Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most." - Buddha