Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stories of Giving from Brian and Joanna Perry

We would like to nominate Amanda Balderrama for the Stories of Giving. We met Amanda after our son was given a fatal diagnosis at 11 weeks gestation. We decided to carry our son, Colin Patrick Perry to term and found Amanda and Embrace the Journey. Amanda is the director of Embrace the Journey, a perinatal comfort care program. This program assists families who chose to carry their child to term after their child was given a fatal diagnosis. Embrace the Journey is a program of Walk to Remember, Inland Empire (which Amanda co-founded). It is a non-profit organization that helps families who have lost babies through miscarriage, still birth, and infant loss. Without Amanda our journey with Colin would have been sad and hopeless. Amanda was by our side the entire pregnancy and showed us how to enjoy our limited but precious time with our son. With Amanda’s guidance we were able to make precious memories with Colin, create a personal birth plan for him, take part in a research study through Duke University, connect with One Legacy to prepare for organ donation for our son, and so much more. She created keepsakes and special momentos for us to help remember our son, things we would have never known to do without her help. The amount of time she spent with us during our pregnancy is priceless. We don’t know where she finds the time to dedicate to these families? She is also a wife, a mother to two beautiful girls and a L&D nurse on top of organizing events for these organizations and assisting families every day. All of this is done out of love as she receives no monetary compensation for her time and hard work. We will never be able to adequately express how grateful we are for the work Amanda does. Colin passed away on Oct. 24, 2012. Amanda was there at the hospital for days with us assisting in memory making and relaying our wants and needs to the doctors and staff. We had not known Amanda before our pregnancy with Colin, but she made such a huge impact on our life and loved our son so much we felt we had to honor her in some way and asked her to be his Godmother. Of course she goes above and beyond in that role as well. On the first anniversary of Colin’s birth Amanda surprised us by having a tree planted and dedicated in his name at a park near our home. The helps she gives to families who are living through a nightmare no parent should ever know is truly priceless. She is selfless, thoughtful, and dedicated in ways unimaginable. Please choose her story of giving as it is truly one that changes lives for the better. With great gratitude, Brian and Joanna Perry

Stories of Giving from Sandra Brierley

Hi, My name is Sandra Brierley an almost 49 year old, and the mother of an almost 4 year old. I am training to run my first marathon in march with team world vision an organization that works with communities in desperate need to help provide things like clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care and economic opportunity. As we all know water is life, but in many parts of the world , dirty water brings disease and in many cases even death especially in young children. The only water available is collected by these children from the same source that animals drink from and even defecate in. these conditions are horrifying. The children walk miles daily for this water and are kept from school to make these daily trips. These water trails are very dangerous and girls are often rapped or kidnapped and used for human trafficking. It is heartbreaking to know that children not much older than my own son are having to put their lives in danger to be able to provide clean water for their family. Having become aware of these conditions has changed my life. I am challenged daily, training is very difficult and injuries do and have occurred, but I keep pushing myself. At my age training is no easy task, and time away from my son and family is an even bigger sacrifice. I am committed and I am trying to raise 1,310.00. Please support me in my quest to make a change.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stories of Giving from Guadalupe Elias

I write this with tears in my eyes and pride in my heart. In November of 2000, at the age of 23, my daughter, Madelyn Elias, a recent graduate from UC Riverside on a career path as a district sale manager, was sideswiped when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia. Over a course of two years, she received chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Madelyn did suffer numerous complications, beside always nauseous, she had seizures, left-side deficit. She was not able to walk without the use of a walker for six months. Yet, she never complained, she was so determined to get well. She decided that when the chemotherapy wasn’t making her ill she could be a substitute teacher. During this time, she realized her true calling - being a teacher. She always stated there was a reason for everything – the reason for her illness was the realization that she needed to be a teacher. In September of 2003, Madelyn was so excited to obtain a full-time elementary teaching position at Azusa Unified School District. Madelyn wanted her classroom to be a place of energy, excitement and creativity. In other words, Madelyn’s classroom was a training ground for the real world, where she inspired these young students to conquer challenges, become intellectually curious and grow to their God given potential. She was always the last teacher to leave the campus. It became a custom for the night custodian to walk her to her car at 9:30 p.m., after stating that he needed to lock-up the school campus. In June of 2005, after 4 1/2 years of remission, she relapsed – the leukemia was back. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant. With great sadness, we were told that her siblings were not a match. At that time, bone marrow drives were conducted at the Azusa Unified School District and her church. After an extensive search, a minor mismatch donor was found, it was the only hope. After the transplant, she lived at UCLA Medical Center for three months with daily platelet transfusions. Her body continued to fight the donor’s bone marrow. This is called Graft versus Host disease. This disease affected her skin, eyes, mouth, kidneys, liver and other organs. One of Madelyn’s proudest achievements - and surely her greatest challenge at times – was being a teacher, Madelyn did return to teaching after pleading with to her doctors. She was the happiest in front of her classroom but returning to work did have consequences. She always had sores in her mouth, causing severe pain when she spoke or ate. Also, she had sores on the bottom of her feet, so every step she took was agonizing. But nothing, would stop her from teaching. She loved her students so much, she only wanted the best for them. Her students also learned from their teacher – compassion. Her students would reach out to help her. They were always there for her just as Madelyn was always there for her students. Madelyn was constantly trying creative and innovative ideas to engage her students. She was passionate about making a difference in the lives of her students. Madelyn was one of a kind, a singular, dominant person in these young students’ lives. She had an enormous influence on the children and other teachers she came to know. In era in which it is popular to determine a teacher’s self-worth by a simple score, Madelyn showed just how much of an art the process of teaching and mentoring really is. Madelyn would state “It‘s a human experience, not a numbers game.” You could count on her being in her classroom, checking papers, doing lesson plans, preparing students lessons and homework packets or purchasing classroom supplies. Madelyn would work late into the evening and on weekends until exhaustion would take over. She was happy and honored to attend her student’s family celebrations, she become a part of her student’s life. She was generous and gracious to those who worked with her, treating colleagues as members of an extended family. For Madelyn, being in her classroom was more than just being a student; it was a life-long bond. Madelyn would always tell stories about her kids and before long we were laughing with tears in our eyes. I realized that after hearing Madelyn tell these stories. Madelyn became a teacher because she was a lifelong learner herself. Madelyn endured multiple years of medical treatment, never giving up and always had a smile and a positive outlook. She learned a long time ago that life is not fair – you simply forge ahead. She was never angry or not once did she ever question, “why me”. She simply had the attitude that “it is what it is.” She never once thought she was not going to conquer this disease. To those who know Madelyn, you understood she set a very high bar. She maintained a generosity of spirit and no self-pity in the face of unimaginable pain and suffering. Her compassion for others and fortitude of spirit will continue to be a source of inspiration to many of us. On May 22, 2012, at the age of 34, she lost her long and courageous battle against leukemia. While Madelyn will be missed as a teacher; she will also be missed as a mentor and friend. We find comfort in knowing that her accomplishments, her students, and her intellect are enduring and will continue to exemplify the best in teaching. The way Madelyn lived challenged us to cope with our trials to put away self-pity and work for a greater good. Madelyn would not want to be remembered as somebody who simply had cancer. She would want to be remembered as the person who touched so many lives. There is no way to know, why this beautiful, brave, young lady had to suffer so much pain in her short life. In honor of Madelyn’s love of learning, a scholarship fund has been established in her name. This award is to be used to further educational or vocational goals of a high school student who has shown courage in overcoming life’s obstacles. It recognizes courage and determination over physical and/or learning disabilities, illness of self or parent, financial difficulties, the death of a loved one and unusually difficult circumstances at home. The first annual scholarship of $1000.00 was given to a well deserving future college student who continued to exceed in her studies while battling an illness. The goal is to continue to honor well-deserving students in Madelyn Elias’ memory each year. This is a story of unselfish giving. A gift to the Madelyn Elias Memorial Scholarship Fund would be an honor to her and greatly appreciated by her family.

Stories of Giving from Riley Wells

Below is my story of giving with Holt International. “The babies in the orphanage don’t cry because they've learned that no one will come to comfort them”. This eye opening comment, this fact that children in the orphanages around the world had given up hope, is one of the most sorrow filled realizations I know of. This is how I was first introduced to Holt International Children’s Services( In the mid-1950's Harry and Bertha Holt saw a film about children in Korean orphanages who were desperately in need of help. Harry and Bertha sent money and clothes, but that didn't feel like enough. Then they came to an inspired realization – those children needed families. Harry and Bertha decided to adopt eight Korean children, but soon learned it would be impossible…unless they could get both Houses of Congress to pass a special law. “Then that’s what we’ll do,” Bertha said, and she moved ahead on faith. The Holts’ adoption was revolutionary. Their example showed that a family’s love can transcend the barriers of race and nationality. At a time when adoption was regarded as something to be kept secret, they adopted children who were obviously not their birth children. Through their deep Christian faith and fierce determination, they showed the world that adoption is a banner of love, not a badge of shame. By upholding Harry and Bertha’s ethics, up-front and honest practices and continue finding many more homes for children who need them. In Bertha’s words, “All children are beautiful when they’re loved.” Aside from sponsoring a child with Holt, I have had the honor of being able to help serve with this organization. One of their largest and most impactful events in the Inland Empire is their sponsorship of Winter Jam Christian Concert ( that took place at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Friday November 8, 2013. During the concert I was there to volunteer to help answer questions about and to help inspire people to sponsor children in need at the concert. What a wonderful opportunity to see our community turn out to open their hearts and positively impact a vulnerable child's life forever. As Emily Dickinson once said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” I cannot think of anything more rewarding than the people of our community coming together to give hope to a child. Riley Wells

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stories of Giving from Susan Aleman

Hey Everyone, this is an Organization that I give to every year..... A give to needy families who not only are struggling financially but have a child with terminal cancer. Below is the story of the child that we helped this Christmas... Its through Eva Longoria, Padres Contra El Cancer (parents against cancer.) Adopt-A-Family Information Luis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July and is currently receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Luis is autistic and enjoys video games and playing with his toys. His dad is employed sporadically in the field of construction. Mom stays home and watches over her kids. Family has limited resources and the family could use some Christmas Cheer! Patient Information: Luis Sanchez, Age 6 Hospital: Loma Linda

Stories of Giving from Jeanette Hertzler

My story is short and sweet. In 2012 my sister mentioned “Maria” was short money for her Christmas in the Classroom and would not be able to provide all the gifts she needed in 2012 – I asked how much she needed she told me the amount. When my sister told her boss what I did my sister’s boss double the amount I donated – giving Maria enough money to buy gifts for all the kids and have some left over for 2013. This year I donated again and my sister and her boyfriend wrapped thousands of the gifts for You can view “Maria’s” efforts on her web site. My sister said Maria would donate much of her time and own money. Early in 2013 the company she worked for closed their doors and she found herself unemployed. But she continues to supply gifts for many children at Christmas time.

Stories of Giving from Michelle Garcia

We would like to tell you about Chantel Lopez and her non-profit organization Athletic Dreams. We believe that Mrs. Lopez’ selfless efforts to create and coach our daughters special needs cheer team makes her deserving of this recognition. Mrs. Lopez has continuously demonstrated her willingness to go above and beyond to benefit our children. Mrs. Lopez was driven by her passion for special needs children to create a competitive cheer team and organization that previously did not exist in our community. Mrs. Lopez has embraced what all children with disabilities deserve and has created this amazing cheer program for children with Autism. We are a small group of parents that just want to provide our children (who have many challenges) with the same opportunities that other children have. Mrs. Lopez has offered that to our girls. In addition to all the hours she puts in at the gym, Mrs. Lopez is the mother of four. Her three youngest children have challenges of their own. She has extended her personal experiences into the community to help others. By definition, autistic children experience a delay in social skills compared to their peers. Social skills are the foundation for a child to be able to function independently in school, work or maintain meaningful relationships with others. Social skills therapies for special needs children are not routinely provided by school or by health plans. For all of these reasons, as parents of special needs children, we recognize the importance of having our girls participate in numerous social skills groups and sport related activities. It is quite ingenious how Mrs. Lopez has combined her success in using applied behavioral analysis with her own children and her coaching abilities to provide this wonderful opportunity for our girls to experience being part of a team. She is patient, kind, caring and understanding to each of the girl’s needs and challenges and works with them accordingly. She has the ability to look beyond ones individual disability and identify the individuals’ strengths. She then collectively brings the strengths together creating a cohesive team environment. We admire Mrs. Lopez’ ability to see past the disabilities and challenges by having each team member do something we as parents would never have dreamed of them doing. She believes in them, treats them with respect. She gives of her own time every practice, regardless if there are one or five girls in attendance. Her time is spent making them achieve their goals. Her devotion to making our girls part of a “bigger picture” and “accepted by all” is seen each time we gather to practice. The world becomes a better place due to simple acts of compassion. Mrs. Lopez brings this to a whole other level. Her compassion directly impacts the special needs team. She teaches the typical cheerleaders tolerance for children with special needs. She has recruited these cheerleaders to volunteer their time to serve as role models and facilitate teaching our girls the cheer routines. Mrs. Lopez instills in them a sense of fulfillment by helping coach our girls to become part of their unique team. She’s utilizing the volunteer cheerleaders’ skills and talents to help others. While providing valuable opportunities to teach acceptance, compassion and build character for all who volunteer. Coach Chantel and these young women give from their hearts when working with our girls. The experience of participating in this program has given our daughters huge physical and personal growth. Each team member has gained confidence, friendships and the sense of “belonging”. These are all important areas that are often lacking for children with Autism and various other conditions. Mrs. Lopez has gone above and beyond to bring an inclusive competitive cheer program to our area that is making a difference in the lives of children with Autism and other special needs. She goes above and beyond by looking past individual limitations. Instead, she see’s their possibilities are limitless! There are no words for how much we appreciate what Mrs. Lopez has done to benefit our children who have so many challenges. Mrs. Lopez deserves recognition for her dedication and determination to make these children with disabilities gleam with pride at their own accomplishments. It is with enormous appreciation for her dedication to special needs children that we share Mrs. Lopez Story of Giving. Sincerely, Michelle Garcia, Nan Doyle, Sandra Zaragoza-Kaneki, Deanne Bialy, and Jodi Crutchfield Parents of the Shining Stars Team