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The story goes like this; I met Hunter at The Ronald McDonald house in Seattle. My mom's company sponsored a dinner there, and like a good mom would, invited me to volunteer and help serve. How can a kid say no?
I brought my guitar with me, thinking that some of the kids would enjoy my sub-par skills, or at least laugh at them, but it seemed like they were uninterested. Nonetheless I felt my spirit lift from being there and helping out. We finished dinner, cleaned the dining room and got ready to leave. I was on my way out when I saw him.
I hadn't seen this one all night. Where had he been hiding? His mother and him were in a separate dining room, cooking up some Spaghettio's. He saw that I had a guitar, and instantly approached me. "Can you play me a song?" He asked, in the sweetest most genuine, little five year old voice. I attempted to play some songs for him, terribly. He saw the humor in it and laughed with me, telling me that I was "pretty bad." His honesty and personality were so contagious, I had to agree with him. We talked for a little while longer, while his mother kept watch from the kitchen. He told me that he was in quarantine and couldn't be around a lot of people, which is why he wasn't at dinner. My heart broke a little, and a little more when his mom came and introduced the two of them. She explained Hunter's rare disease to me; Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. A very rare disease in children. It had taken over him and wasn't showing signs of stopping. I had seen sick kids all day who were crying or angry or too shy to talk, but Hunter was different. We resonated with each other instantly. There was something empowering about this kid. I was hooked.
After a while of talking together with his mother and him, he invited me to check out his room. His mom was a little reluctant to even have us be around each other, but there was a connection that was undeniable. I followed them to their room, learning more about his condition and him. I was so amazed that somebody at the age of five could be going through more than I have ever gone through in my entire life. And with a huge smile on his face, nonetheless! I had to stay in touch with this little guy. His mother and I exchanged info and off I went.
Fast forward a few months and a bunch of Children's Hospital visits later. I am being asked by Hunter and Heather Schroeder themselves if I will become a part of their family and act as Hunter's adopted brother! I had never been more proud of myself for being asked such an honoring question. I had spent several months trying to get involved in "The Big Brother" program before meeting Hunter and unfortunately it was proving to be really difficult. This brotherhood was so much more to me. I didn't have to fill out an application or get screenings from different psychiatrists. I just gave all the love I had to a boy who needed it. In return, the outcome was the most rewarding relationship I would ever have.
The Ronald McDonald House offers so many incredible volunteer opportunities for anybody willing to give back. One of the most fulfilling experiences in life is making someone smile. Take advantage of your freedoms and go lend a hand. Remind yourself about what's really important.
Do yourself the favor...
Click here to get involved.
Through countless tests, diagnostics, pains and uncomfortable months of living out of that hospital, Hunter displayed the most inspiring amount of bravery, will power, strength and personality I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. A little over a year after he was diagnosed, it was confirmed that he was in remission! He beat it!
Fortunately for me, I never had to know the strength it took to hold onto my life, but I did learn that the love, kindness and positivity I was capable of giving was the most powerful remedy I had to offer to somebody who did. Hunter has taught me so many life lessons. I am forever indebted to him for the perspective he put on my life. I think the key is to stay happy. Laugh more often. Don't be afraid to fight back when the battle seems like it's impossible. Persevere. Don't settle. We all reserve the right of choice. So choose love. You never know who's life you might change. You never know who might change yours. I didn't...