Wednesday March 7, 2018

Living and dying have been on my mind lately. That's the constant dichotomy of human existence. You're either living or dying, and you better do the first one before the second one happens.

Dan has two people who have been a part of his life who are in the dying stage. One I know well, the other was a friend of Dan's before I entered the picture. Two women who have fought like hell against cancer, but it's a battle they won't win. I'm sending peace and love to their families. Feel free to join me.

That's the trick of this thing called life - we don't know how long it is. Dan and I have living parents who are in the 70s and 90s. We have friends dying in their 50s. We lost a daughter at 13. How are you suppose to prepare for all the possibilities? You can't, I know. That's hard on a planner (obsesser) like me...

It's a balancing act of living and enjoying the here and now, while hoping and planning for more time ahead.

What's ahead for us is exciting. Erin is rolling through second semester of her senior year. Golf season starts in two weeks (damn the 6 inches of snow we got yesterday) and then it will be a sprint to graduation on June 9th.

And what's ahead after that? Erin has made her decision for next year - she will be attending Drexel University in Philadelphia. She's been accepted to their Health Sciences/Accelerated Physician Assistant program.

So, Erin will be living in a new city next year with new roommates and new experiences. She's excited and we're excited for her. She and I are headed out there next weekend for another look, a meeting with the PA program director and a health sciences student, taking a second look at the dorm options and meeting with financial aid. I haven't won the lottery yet, so I guess we should look at other financing options :)

I think about Erin going and meeting new people, and I think about how we've viewed things through a certain lens in the past 7 years. Erin will get to choose when she shares her life story. People will get to know her as Erin. She won't be Shannon's sister until she wants to be.

So, living and dying is on my mind. It's all connected. Reminders from the universe are everywhere. Live while you can.

"I shall pass through this life but once. Any good therefore that I can do, let me do it now for I shall never pass this way again." - Etienne de Grellet

2018 Shannon O'Hara Foundation Scholarship Winners

This weekend brought our scholarship season to a close. As I said during the presentations, raising money is hard, giving it away is definitely more fun.

When we started the foundation back in 2012, we set a goal to raise $100,000 in the hopes that we could live off the interest to give away a couple of $2,000 scholarships each year.

Six years later, the fund sits at $170,000. We are so humbled by people's generosity. I can't put into words how much it means to us that our community, family and friends help us carry on Shannon's spirit in this way.

Our board of directors chose to share the good fortune this year by awarding a record six scholarships, bringing our total in scholarships awarded to $40,000.

Congratulations to the 2018 SOF Scholarship winners:  Maddi Lutz (Mayo), Clare Brunn (Lourdes), Natalie Fink (Century), Jason Coyle (JM), Max Jones (JM) and Zach Walston (Lourdes)

Jason Coyle, Max Jones, Maddi Lutz, Clare Brunn, Natalie Fink

Zach Walston

SOF Scholarship Night - Feb. 8, 2018

Tonight is what it's all about. Honoring Shannon's spirit by giving back, making a difference. Raising money is not easy, although people like those of you reading this blog have made it possible. Being able to give it away is so much more fun.

The Shannon O'Hara Foundation started in 2012 with a goal of raising $100,000 so we could give out a couple of scholarships a year. As I write today, we are over $170K.

Tonight, thanks to your generosity, we'll give out our biggest class of scholarship winners ever. A night like tonight fills our cup for another year of fundraising.

Our presentation will take place at the end of the 1st period between the JM and Mayo boys hockey game. Game starts at 7:15 at Graham Arena. Hope you can join us and enjoy the celebration of all you have helped build.

Here's a look back at our previous scholarship winners:






Sunday Jan. 28, 2018

As I sit hear watching the Grammys with Erin, I am reminded much I love music. I can listen to just about anything and I am touched by people sharing their experience through art.

I don't have a lick of musical talent - my last great performance was squeaking my way through Edelweiss on the saxophone in 5th grade - but I do relate to sharing your experience. We got to do that again this weekend at the Shannon Cup.

20 girls hockey teams including 4 from Rochester took part in this weekend's events. We did the usual schmoozing and chatting with people as we sold our Shannon gear. The feedback and support was better than ever.

I took the time earlier in the week to go and speak with the Rochester teams at their practice. To talk a little bit about Shannon and why she's remembered fondly by her friends. Why it mattered to her that her life mean something, even after she was gone.

The Rochester girls are all in, putting lime green tape on their hockey sticks, pads, helmets - anywhere they could! But this year, the parents were all in, too.

One parent paid $2000 for a $5 coffee mug. Seriously. One team donated $1650 in addition to all the gear those kids and parents bought.

Parents from Des Moines to Mahtomedi, and Red Wing to St. Cloud supported the cause, too. Tournament t-shirts and sweatshirts play well no matter where you go to school. Parents stop to read the poster explaining Shannon's story and then they head right to the table to make a donation or buy a shirt.

People are good. So good.

We raised $7,000 this weekend for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.

So, this is one of the best weekends for us to remember Shannon. We remember the loss, always, but this is a reminder to remember what she gave us. A purpose, a cause, a way to connect with people on a deeper level. A way for life to have meaning and to inspire a new group of young girls to be kind.

The kids working the table were some of Shannon's former teammates who are now finishing up their high school careers. Another one of Shannon's teammates, her first ever line mate, Brooke, was out there reffing games in the Shannon Cup. How cool is that?

This past week offered other chances to realize how lucky we are to have these connections with something bigger than ourselves. Erin did not attend the Shannon Cup. She was on a weekend getaway, spending about 42 hours in California with her second mom, Kula and chosen big sister, Ariana. These relationship are what they are because of our journey with Shannon. Don't get me wrong, they love Erin for Erin, but we are where we are because of where we've been.

Dan had a Shannon connection last week, too. He was in Fort Lauderdale for business. While sitting on his deck, looking at the ocean, he saw a Coast Guard ship go by. Shannon's friend Paige, one of our scholarship winners, joined the Coast Guard last year after graduating. Seeing the boat made Dan think of Paige and he sent a note to her parents saying "Saw this today and it made me think of your girl."

Several hours later, while at a company dinner, Dan got a text from Paige. "Are you in Fort Lauderdale? I am too. That was my ship you saw." Paige's boat had been in Virginia for a couple of weeks and just moved to Florida... on the day that Dan was standing and looking out at the ocean at the exact time to see the boat go by...

Thirty minutes after their text exchange, Dan and Paige were eating ice cream together and Paige got to show Dan around the boat. Karma? Kismet? Shannon? I don't need an explanation, I'm just glad it happened.

So, next up is scholarship night on Feb. 8th. Time to read through the applications and meet with the foundation board to make a decision. It will be tough again this year - I think I say that every year - but these are the last class of Shannon's Rebel teammates.

So, while I'm exhausted from three days at the rink, my cup is full. And, I've got Shannon to thank for it all.

Sunday Jan. 7, 2018

I was happy to awake this morning and see that the calendar had turned to January 7th. Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of Shannon's passing. 6 years is too long without her, and we know that feeling will only grow.

Of all the anniversaries, I think Jan. 6 might be the worst. There is such finality to it. Although it's the day Shannon's suffering ended, I don't feel any peace at all about January 6th.

Yesterday, we each found our ways of coping with our emotions. Erin spent the night of the 5th at a slumber party with some of her besties. That way, she could wake up surrounded by people who love and care for her.

I chose to drag my butt to the athletic club and play tennis with my girlfriends. People who knew what day it was, and were there to lift me up. Girlfriends still make my world a better place, even 6 years down the road.

Before I returned from tennis, Erin returned home from her sleepover and she and Dan spent some time reading passages from Determined to Matter. Remembering what it was like in the days after Shannon passed. How Erin had to go back to school, go back to basketball practice and start living the rest of her life. How did she do that at 10 years old not completely fall apart?

Dan, Erin and I had wonderful messages and texts from family and friends who remember. People who get it. I had one friend remind me what a gift Shannon was. What a nice way to think about her life.

January 6th just brings the pain of knowing the rest of our lives are not what we envisioned. It doesn't mean we don't feel happiness and enjoy our days. We do. But it's different than we'd like it to be. We just have to take it day by day and do the best we can. That's true for all of us, though, isn't it?

January is a busy month for the foundation as we are receiving scholarship applications and gearing up for the Shannon Cup youth tournaments as well. This is the good we can do in Shannon's memory.  Her cells are still being used for research at Mayo Clinic. That's the good Shannon chose to do. This is what she wanted. To make a difference.

And so, 2018 has begun. The calendar has turned. Living the rest of our lives... that's what we're doing...

Saturday Dec. 23, 2017

Winter break has arrived and all three of us are in need of some down time. A nasty head cold has gotten all of us, so sleeping in and napping during the day are in order. I'm ok with that.

It has been a busy stretch of school activities for Erin. The Mayo HS student body does a holiday fundraiser for the local women's shelter and Dorothy Day House each year. This year, they raised over $60,000. So amazing and I love seeing the joy that these kids get from giving back to the community. It was a great way to end the 2017 school year.

Dan and I had a fundraising opportunity this week as well. The Lourdes Girls Hockey team held a Shannon O'Hara Foundation night on Thursday. We were presented with a donation of more than $1500 which included $500 from the local Potbelly's franchise which had an SOF day and donated 25% of the proceeds.

It is truly humbling to see the generosity and feel the support for what we are doing. What Shannon's death - and life - has allowed us to do. I need to remember the why.

So, the holidays are here again. It's always bittersweet. There is always something missing. 5 Christmases without Shannon.

But, there is joy. I love the shopping and trappings of the holiday. So does Erin. Today we will bake some holiday treats and listen to cheesy Christmas music. Same as it ever was. But different.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday. Enjoy the time with those you love. In the end, that's all that matters.

Friday Dec. 8, 2017

The cold temps, a dusting of snow and the decorations on our street have brought the holidays to the forefront in a hurry. We've been so busy that we have a Christmas tree, but no decorations on it yet. This is way late for me and my anxiety over getting things done on time is kicking in to high gear! I haven't bought a single present or sent out Christmas cards yet. Erin tells me she'll have time after school today to help string the lights and hang the ornaments, so that will be a step in the right direction.

We're a little behind schedule since we've been traveling. After returning from our Thanksgiving vacation, we worked for three days and then headed out again to do college visits in New Jersey and Philadelphia. A bonus was staying with my aunt and uncle, who are great hosts and even better company.

Erin has now applied to 10 schools, visited 8, been accepted to 4, and awaits decisions from the other 6. She's got a definite first choice, but we're not talking about it until an acceptance letter comes!

Touring college campuses is fun. I am all in on this process... Dan and Erin might say I'm over the top... I just like to be prepared with facts, figures, looking at the map, etc. Yes, I realize I am not the one who is going to school...

So while we wait for acceptance decisions, it's time to turn our focus to the holidays. It's always an interesting time of year. Joy and excitement, but also a layer of sadness for us with each Christmas that passes without Shannon. She was here so long ago.

The holidays are a tough time for people who have lost loved ones. Not that we don't miss our loved ones every day, but it's more acute in times of celebration, when we are taking stock of all the good in our lives. And there is plenty of good. But something is always missing. And, I think, the idea of Erin growing up and moving on to college is making me think even more about Shannon.

We've in the midst of our holiday giving campaign again for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, and it makes going to the mailbox a joy each day. Those who are willing to give in memory of Shannon are a reminder that she was here, she mattered, and her spirit carries on.

"It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty." - Goethe