Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Changing people's lives

Close your eyes and imagine you are eight years old. Life’s pretty cool. You’ve got loads of friends, fall football is about to start, you’re the star running back and the ‘cool kid’ but then, one morning, it starts. At first, you just feel funny, a bit dizzy with flu-like symptoms but also a cough that just will not go away and you are so very tired…really, really tired! Before you know it, you’re surrounded by doctors and your family. Everyone looks serious and they start to tell you, “You’re going to be in hospital for a while… You’re going to lose your hair… Life’s going to be a little different for a while.”

For the first few weeks, it’s actually pretty fun in an odd sort of way. You get loads of cards, lots of visitors, your friends make fun of the tubes coming out of you and when you push a button, nurses come running. After a few more weeks things are a little different. Your friends are playing games with each other but you’re not well enough to join in, everyone you see is old (your parents were always old but now everyone else is even older). Worst of all, it’s pretty obvious there’s no football for you this fall. Then one day, your parents tell you that you’re going to be on a team…but it’s not football, it’s baseball which is really strange! You like baseball but you’re not much good at it. Who would want you and, honestly, who would want you now?

Apparently there’s going to be a “Draft Day” but you’ll meet your new team mates before that. It all sounds a bit strange but, hey, it’s better than lying in bed all day! When you were told it was the Lynchburg College baseball team, you actually didn’t realize that your parents really did mean a college team but now, three weeks later, you’ve met the Coach (who seems a really nice guy) and a few of the team (and they are really cool ..and big). Now it’s “Draft Day” and you’re standing in a corridor while the Coach and lots of student-athletes are in the gym next door and you hear the Coach saying “ ..and with the last pick of the 2013 draft, we select eight year old Kyle James!” Mom pushes you into the room, the coach shakes your hand, gives you your jersey in your size and with your name on the back and then you look around. Students from every sport are standing up applauding and cheering and, you know what? It’s you they are applauding and cheering. By the time it’s all over, every one of them has stopped by and ‘high-fived’ you. You really are part of a team! But it’s not just you. You look around and your little sister, who has been so quiet for so long, is up there ‘high-fiving’ people like you’ve never seen her before. At first, you think it should just be you but then you realize… This makes it even cooler!

For the next season, you go to practice, to games, you have your own locker, you email your best friends on the team and they come to see you after that nasty bone-marrow biopsy. Heck! They even visit you and hang out at your home. These are your new friends. Your mom doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when you won’t hold her hand at the field “doesn’t she know that I’m cool now?” you think. And that’s exactly what you are and your friends at school know it too; you’re not the ‘sick kid’ anymore!

It’s still tough when you have to miss a championship game because you have to undergo treatment but the 20 messages you get from your new friends as they travel down on the bus make it a little better. At the end of the season, they organize a surprise for you. You’re going with them to Yankee Stadium and are going to meet the players. When you get there, you can’t wait to say what you have said for the last six months, “I’m on the baseball team, you know.” One of the Yankees players asks, “What, Little League?” You look insulted, puff out your chest and say, “No! The Lynchburg College baseball team,” because you are and you will be next year as well!

Now’s it’s a year later and you and two other children are standing on stage telling your stories at the annual “Game Day Gala.” You look out in the crowd and see your teammates, your friends, your family…and even your college mascot. Everyone is quiet, everyone is listening and, at the end, every one of those 600 adults stands up and applauds for five minutes and you know , one more time, that you really are part of something very special.

This story could have been told from the perspective of the parents, the coaches, the medical staff or the student athletes…the impact is just as powerful. This is what Team IMPACT does every day. We match children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses with college sports teams and, in so doing, change peoples’ lives.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

At the moment this blog is a secret between me and Jumpstart staff but that will soon change and before you know it will become a worldwide phenomenon provoking questions like “Who’s Paul” “Why would you continue that?” “Why would you start in the first place” and “Does this mean more competitions?”
As regards the last question I am now not only unemployed (or will be as of Friday) but also a non-profit worker who is unemployed so the likelihood of more prizes is not imminent. The more observant and aware of you may question “how come then you can talk about buying a racehorse?” That’s a very good question* and the answer is simple: it is a business investment that will pay back many times over (well that’s what I have told Kim and now I am almost starting to believe it myself)

* I once worked with someone who said “That’s a very good question” after virtually every question. It was a clear sign that he no idea how to answer and was just playing for time; it was our clue (the rest of the Executive) to come in and rescue him from his discomfort. I can say, with hand on heart, that no one has ever used this technique at Jumpstart. I wish they had because some of the crazy answers I’ve had to listen to could easily have been avoided …but I digress

I was expecting someone to suggest that I give a prize for the best spray tan as that seems close to my heart. That is a very cruel and unnecessary comment but I have to confess that, as the summer is here (well..sort of), I am keeping up a regular tanning regimen. I have decided that the world needs to see my legs on the weekend and the glare from the pasty white version of the winter would only serve to blind half the population of Boston. In addition, as there is no sun block strong enough to protect my skin after chemo, I am obliged to have a spray tan. However, I also believe in not doing things at half measure so it isn’t just a case of turning up. Oh no..there is the little matter of exfoliation to contend with.

I spent the vast part of my life having no idea what it was or how to do it. Initially, the idea of rubbing liquid sand into my skin seemed very strange but as the weeks have gone on I am starting to get used to it. My technique is as follows:

Get into the walk-in shower and turn on – quick rinse

Move shower head to one side, apply sand over body taking care not to pull a muscle in my back,contort my legs in multiple
directions and attempt not to fall over.

Rinse sand off body, express amazement at how soft my skin is and then get out of shower

What I failed to notice on Sunday is that, during my various contortions, I had kicked the shower door open and that the shower head was pointed directly at the opening. As I stepped onto the sodden mat outside the shower I sort of sensed that this was not going to be good – it wasn’t! 100 sheets of super strong absorbent kitchen towels later (those commercials lie, by the way) the bathroom was starting to dry out. Kim was out at the gym so I had 30 minutes to dry the mats (there were 2) and so I put them in the tumble dryer. Apparently things can be too wet to be dried and so it proved; I was forced to wash them and then any idea of getting away with this was totally gone. Luckily Kim saw the funny side and my day after my birthday day was saved!

People new to this blog may well be wondering why I am telling you all of this; people who are avid readers will wonder why it took me until Thursday to tell them. That’s the point; it’s whatever happens or what’s on my mind and there really are no rules – just be honest and take the embarrassment and finger pointing in my stride!

Anyway let’s get back to something much more interesting: the choices of the two winners who got to design and order their own shoes. If you recall from the Corps Supports meeting (please don’t ask – non-Jumpstart readers)the winners were Alex Aja from UC Berkeley and Leslie Randall from Charlestown (and the Boston office). Their designs are at the top and all I will say is that Leslie must like heels!!

Finally, I have been speaking and writing to people all week to say goodbye (I have left all the Jumpstart staff until the last couple of days). I received the following response:
“Dear Paul,
My apologies for forwarding the e-mails between Claire and me. I suppose that it is not the worst thing for you to discover that I think you are an interesting guy! Nonetheless, please forgive my carelessness.

The problem is: I never received any forwarded emails.What could she have said? I am almost tempted to give a prize for the best guesses!!

I hope you will continue to follow the blog and I look forward to a lot of fun going forward.