Thanksgiving is a particularly poignant holiday this year. On a world-wide spectrum, and especially here in the U.S., it has been a year of heartbreak, frustration and soul-searching. Between natural disasters, the political climate, shootings, nuclear threats, discriminatory behaviors, and our own family struggles, many of us have found ourselves in a place of hopelessness, fear and anger. We look at the world around us and wonder what the future will bring, not only for ourselves, but for our children. In this climate, it can be difficult to find things to be thankful for, which is exactly why it is so important to do so. Even in this unsettled world, there is so much good to be found, and it is often lost in this era of sensationalistic doom. In the darkest moments, if you look hard enough, slivers of light serve as the guide back to a place of love and gratitude. It's up to us to look for that light, and teach our children to do so as well.

Last year I reflected on the struggle I have had with finding true gratitude, and it seems particularly appropriate today...

"Before McKenna's diagnosis, I was a different person. It wasn't that we hadn't had struggles in the years leading up to her illness, but I was acutely aware that more good things than bad surrounded our lives. I was thankful for the blessings of our home, our jobs, our families, and friends. I was grateful for the fact that we had two beautiful, healthy children - and in fact always had a kind of mantra running through my head as I counted those blessings - "Happy and Healthy". That's all I wanted in my world, was for the people I cared about most to be happy and healthy.

And then McKenna got sick, and everything changed.

Even in the darkest of days during McKenna's illness, there was beauty and love. The people who surrounded us brought light into our world. They organized dinners, surrounded not only McKenna but Jordan with love and distraction, carried Dave and I when we didn't think we could go on. We were grateful beyond measure, but I'm not sure that we were ever able to fully communicate how much it all meant to us. All I know is that we could not have made it through that time without our families, friends, and even the complete strangers who found it in their hearts to carry part of that extremely heavy burden when it didn't have to be theirs to carry.

And then came the days after. The people, the love, the support was still there, and we were still grateful for all of it, but something else came along with McKenna's death.

Grief. Indescribable heartache. The questions of "Why her?" and "Why us?"

And then the guilt. And the much anger. At the powers that be, at the world in general for not caring enough to find a cure.
And the anger has grown as time has progressed, as I have watched child after child die a horrific death. And this has evolved into a feeling of helpessness, of ineffectiveness, of a greater despair. Of great doubt about the meaning of this life.

And all of this has served to deaden the person I once was. To harden my heart and muffle the voice inside that could list the blessings in my life and truly feel grateful.

Please don't get me wrong, Dave and I are thankful every day that we were chosen to be Jordan's and McKenna's parents, And thankful for the love that has been showered on our family. For our own families who have had to bear their own grief, yet have stood steadfastly by our sides. For those who have become Jordan's second families so that she could find peace and joy in other places when she couldn't find it at home. For the friends, old and new, who carry McKenna in their hearts and speak her name so that she may continue to live among us.

And we are grateful for the beauty that McKenna's life, and death, has brought into ours. For the children and families we have met who have fought the same battles, who are a source of inspiriation and have become a part of a bigger family. For the strangers who have become friends. For those who knew McKenna and continue to fight for a cure. And those that never knew her and feel just as passionately about her life and this cause.

Cognitivley, I am always thankful for it all. But my heart has been in that dark place for a long time, and I have had trouble FEELING grateful for this life. And I know it's wrong, because I have seen friends and family who have suffered so much more than we have.

So as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, it is my intent, my hope, that this year I can truly feel grateful again. To allow a crack in the hard shell that has served to protect my heart and, though it will always remain broken, let it feel again.

And as a favor to those of us who have lost the ones we love, as you approach your Thanksgiving table, be truly grateful for the blessings in your life. There may be times in your life that those blessings are less evident than others, but there will always be something to be thankful for if you look hard enough.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you spend it in the company of family and friends, and if that is not possible, may you spend the time remembering fondly those holidays that you could.

Thank you to our sponsors and players who came out to Saturday's Poker At The Beach at the Pasea. A beautiful sunset turned into an energetic night of friendly competition raising over $20,000 for pediatric brain cancer research.

Congratulations to our champion, Ken Carr, who fended off 2nd place winner Betsy Tucci at the final table to win the grand prize of a weekend stay at the Pasea.

"Grow A Community" has been a cornerstone of the McKenna Claire Foundation from the very beginning, finding its origins in the huge outpouring of support our community provided when McKenna was diagnosed. We are so happy to be able to give back by working with local schools who become part of our ball drop fundraiser associated with the golf tournament. These amazing programs not only helped raise money for research, but raised over $20,000 for their own programs as well. Thank you to two of our school partners - Sowers Music Program and Edison CIBACS - for helping us shine a light on pediatric brain cancer. As always, we are #bettertogether ...

Powerful words and pictures from our friend and advocate Jo Enoughoftherare Bishop:

"I hate childhood cancer, I hate Dipg, but most of all I hate the fact that our politicians, those in charge of funding, do nothing to help our children. I don't care that dipg is statistically rare, I care that our children are dying in huge numbers because very little is being done apart from the wonderful, but grieving dipg families, who start foundations to try and change things, to raise money for research and a cure.

I made this collage of 'angels' for someone to use at an event; I made it specifically with as many decades, countries, ethnic groups and ages as I could. These 192 children and young people are just a representation of the thousands who have died since 1960. This collage begins in the sixties with the death of Karen 'Muffy' Armstrong in 1962, the daughter of the astronaut Neil Armstrong. Muffy was given radiation in 1961, the same palliative treatment that a child diagnosed with dipg gets today, there have been no changes in protocol since then. A child diagnosed with dipg has the same chance of survival as Muffy did when she was given this new treatment fifty three years ago. It's ironic that a few years later, her father would walk on the moon, in 1969 we had that technology, that intellect and scientific ability, but we still can't find safe and effective cures for children diagnosed with dipg or children diagnosed with any childhood cancer.

We must continue to share these children and their stories, we must be the voices for those who are too young to have an effective one of their own. Please share and please tell someone new, how thousands of children have died, are dying because we have no cure. Don't help because it's your child, help because it's a child.
Research is creating new knowledge. Neil Armstrong

#Dipg #DefeatDipg #Enoughoftherare

Please watch and share. Jadyn is a friend through MaxLove and is truly a "Super Girl" who has run out of treatment options. Help her realize her dream of going on Ellen and spreading awareness of childhood cancer. ...

PLEASE SHARE!! My apologies for the lack of updates. Sweet SuperGirl is now fighting Ependymoma for the 9th time. After many chemo trials, 8 major brain surgeries, 123 rounds of radiation, gamma knife surgery and countless other procedures we currently have no treatment options available. Jadyn has a wish! Please share this video of SuperGirl and her 2 phenomenal BFF's to make her wish come true! Jadyn has raised over $50,000.00 for childhood cancer research and is the epitome of strength and goodness! 💛🎗💛