Thursday February 25, 2016

I watched a friend coach his last game last night, right there in the gym where I played my own high school basketball. Coach Lang, you did it the right way.

I had great coaches growing up. Tennis, basketball and golf were my sports of choice. I loved them all, focusing on whatever season I was in.  Just this week, my high school golf coach passed away. He was a kind soul. Rest in peace, Mr. Wold.

I think about the coaches Erin has, and how important they are to her and her development. It's good to have someone other than your parents rooting for you once in a while. Women and men teaching you how to compete, how to persevere and how to accept winning and losing.

I think about the coaching I still do, teaching tennis to another generation of kids in Rochester. Yes, I have been teaching tennis since 1988... This week, I had the teenage son of boy I taught when he was a teenager himself. Sometimes now when I play against other adults, they are former young students of mine. I've been around the game a long time.

I'm getting excited for my other "coaching" job as the the golf season is approaching. I'll get another chance to work with the Mayo Girls Golf team on a daily basis as a volunteer.

This weekend they'll be no coaching for me, just be a spectating at Erin's volleyball tournament in the Wisconsin Dells. Should be a good time with a great group of girls and parents.

So, if your off to watch your own kid play basketball or hockey this weekend, take a moment to thank the coach. They are there giving their time to your kid. What a gift that is...

Monday Feb. 22, 2016

Where have the days gone? I haven't had a chance to blog in over a week. Honestly, I think this is the first time I've gone that long between posts in the almost 5 year history of writing this blog.

Yes, almost 5 years... and yet, there are still things to say...

The busyness in my own life is somewhat work related. My role with the Mayo Clinic News Network continues to involve new tasks. We have started recording our radio show in a new studio and this involves new graphic needs, which falls under my list of duties. I continue to feel engaged and am enjoying the work.

In some ways, I owe it all to this blog. Would I have seen myself as a writer/web editor without this venue to hone my skills? Doubtful.

So, I look at my job as another good thing to come from our terrible loss...

We had a quiet weekend around the house. This was the first "free" weekend after 6 weeks of Shannon events. Our scholarships have been awarded and another successful season is behind us. Plans are in the works to use some of the funds raised to help with brain cancer research in a specific way.  I'm excited about expanding this part of our foundation's mission. More details soon :)

Good things continue to happen, but none of it can bring back Shannon. Erin had a Shannon moment last night where she missed her so acutely it hurt. Erin said, "we could be having so much fun together". Erin has every right to feel robbed.

Yesterday Dan and I got a text from one of Shannon's friends. She is working on organizing things for her graduation party, and she found a note Shannon wrote her. Sweet of her to share the memory with us.

The biggest Shannon moment this weekend came from our neighbor who's dog passed away at age 16. Shannon and Erin use to dog sit, and they were so earnest about their responsibility. Shannon would leave hand written notes and our neighbor saved them all. She shared them with us this weekend. Seeing Shannon's writing - "I tried to feed him first, but he bolted for the door" and "he peed twice and pooped". So dear...

So while good things continue to happen in the after, it's still the after... Sometimes the loss is so
acute... it drives us to do better, to make a difference, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I feel for Erin as she navigates the world, feeling so alone sometimes.

It's a hell of a way to get stronger...

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

2016 SOF Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to Abby Marquardt and J.T. Rein from Mayo HS on being chosen as this year's scholarship recipients.

It was a great day celebrating with their families and friends. The Rochester community again showed up in force and supported our foundation.

We couldn't do it without you.

Scholarship Presentation Day

We are excited to give out the 2016 Shannon O'Hara Memorial Scholarships today. Our board of directors have chosen two deserving winners, and it should be a great day.  We'll also have our merchandise for sale, so one last chance to pick up some Shannon gear. Here are the details:

     SOF Scholarship Presentation @ Graham Arena

     Mayo vs. Century boys hockey game - 1pm

     Presentation will be between the 2nd and 3rd periods 

What better place to be on a day with -13 temps than an ice rink! Hope you can join us.

Tuesday February 9, 2016

We have reached the last week of a long stretch of Shannon O'Hara Foundation activities. Our board meeting this past Sunday included decisions on donating to brain tumor research and also choosing this year's scholarship recipients. We will hand out scholarships this Saturday afternoon during the 1pm boys hockey game between Mayo and Century at Graham Arena. Join us if you can. It is always special to see these kids and the joy this award brings them. It will be especially poignant this year as both of our scholarship winners knew Shannon personally... uff da...

I wish you could all read these essays and understand that there are a lot of kids out there who see the bigger picture. I'm always disheartened when I hear about "today's youth" or "this generation" in a negative context. Kids today are living with constant input and having to navigate a world filled with trouble. Reading the scholarship essays these kids write restores my faith each and every year it seems. Lots of good people in the world, and some of them are under the age of 18...

Life just keeps rolling along. Erin will be heading to Omaha this weekend with the U18 volleyball team for a tournament. Three nights in the hotel with her friends and some elite volleyball competition... what's not to like?

Erin's schedule hasn't allowed her to be a part of all our SOF events this winter. Volleyball tournaments fell on the Shannon Cup weekends, finals week fell during the Sports Commission banquet and now volleyball again falls on our scholarship presentation day.

While we love to have her with us, Dan and I are thrilled that Erin is busy, involved, and thriving. We'd never make her give up her own activities to be at an event to honor Shannon. Erin is doing exactly what she is suppose to be doing and we wouldn't want it any other way. Erin carries Shannon in her soul, always, and honors her by living her own life with joy and compassion.

Dan and I are lucky to have two pretty cool kids.

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.