Our travel was hectic, beginning at 4:30 a.m when we woke up later than we wanted. We left the house at 4:53 and had a 30-minute drive and a 6:00 a.m. flight. If you travel much, you're blood pressure is probably going up as you do the math! We flew to Charlotte and had 36 minutes to get to our next gate. Getting from gate to gate is much different when you have two girls with you. Once we got to Charlottesville we had 1 hour and 18 minutes to drive 1 hour and 20 minutes to a conference where I was supposed to be speaking... without my cell phone that was sitting in the seat of my car at the airport apparently. For the first time since we bought it, I was glad my 10-year old daughter had a cell phone. I invoked eminent domain and loaded all of my work email and contacts on her phone. Needless to say, 10-year olds use their phones differently than I do. It was hard writing emails for work when the phone is receiving, on average, 10 texts/kiks/instagrams/etc... every minute (not an exaggeration). The work meeting went well and then we headed up to Harrisonburg with about 10 minutes to spare. We got our first food of the day at 4:40 p.m. right before we went to our meeting at James Madison University (someone in our family will not appreciate that once they find out).
We met Jessica Spiegler, the organizer for all of this, and she was elated to meet the girls. Jessica is the Philanthropy Chair at JMU for Tri Delta and will one day be one of the best fundraisers on staff at ALSAC! She is so passionate about St. Jude and has fallen in love with Madison, Lindsey, and Ingram. She took us to the room where we were meeting with the chapter, a large classroom that looked more like a movie theater sans velvet curtains. We had no idea what to expect when we planned this trip; but, I was immediately overwhelmed when we walked through the doors. There were girls from the top of the classroom to the bottom. There were easily 150 girls, maybe more. We walked down the stairs to the bottom of the room where there was a display that looked like a shrine to Elvis – except that it was to Madison, Lindsey, and Ingram. There were posters, t-shirts, water bottles, notepads, more shirts, and a whole lot of candy. These girls don’t just raise money for a distant hospital, they embrace its mission and empathize with its patients. They had learned as much about Ingram as we had learned about their sorority. We talked for about 45 minutes about St. Jude and Ingram. Madison and Lindsey were all-stars. As I sometimes am, I was in awe at some of their answers to the questions the girls had. One of them was when Madison answered the question of what it was like to have a brother with cancer. She said it was scary but that she wanted the way she handled it to glorify God. That’s one of the things that we pray every night with them. Lindsey said that she didn’t want us to be a family of 5, and that was her greatest fear. I didn’t understand it until she told me that Beau counted as one of the six in our family. I think there is some deeper psychoanalysis that can be drawn from how she views the risks. She doesn’t want our family to not include Ingram, and all of the love and joy that comes with him. I teared up (I do this a lot nowadays) when Madison finished talking about St. Jude and then looked up at all the girls and said, “Now I want to tell you why you all are our heroes…” She went on to tell them all about how much money Tri Delta has raised and how that was giving thousands of kids a better chance. It was clutch (I had to explain to Madison what clutch means). For those of you who didn’t grow up in Tulsa in the early 90s, it means the perfect response at the perfect time.
After we talked, an a capella group from JMU named The Madison Project came and sang a song to Madison and Lindsey, Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up. It was emotional for all of us. I was struck by the compassion these girls and guys had for my children. As a father, I greatly appreciate that. After they sang, the guys presented a royal blue hoodie to the girls to give to Ingram. It is the hoodie they get when they are chosen to become brothers in the group. They officially asked Ingram to be a brother. They also gave the girls CDs which we have now listened to at least 10 times through.
After that, we stuck around and talked to the girls for a while, including one young lady who’s sister had beaten childhood cancer. Later we went to dinner and then to visit the sorority house. All of the girls were so sweet to Madison and Lindsey. I had trouble getting the girls back in the car, they wanted to stay and are now firmly committed to being Tri Deltas at JMU. I am so thankful for the compassion these ladies had for my daughters and their drive to help in the fight against childhood cancer.
We went to meet with the girls at the University of Virginia on Friday. I felt bad for Annie, UVA’s philanthropy chair, because we were coming on a Friday evening, on Homecoming Weekend, and on a day that the weather was absolutely perfect. There were probably 15 girls who came to the meeting and we went through a similar presentation. They were all very sweet and talked to us for quite a while afterwards. The most exciting part for Madison and Lindsey was that two of the girls offered to walk from the classroom to the sorority house with them. It was very cute because both girls really thought they were hot stuff this week. That sorority girls were spending time with them was really cool. They both wore their Tri Delta buttons and t-shirts everywhere. After they toured the sorority house, we went to the UVA soccer game which was too cold and a 3-1 loss. If I hadn’t been sitting on a hill with both of my precious daughters in my lap trying to stay warm, it wouldn’t have been much fun. About the time we got back to the hotel, one of the girls from the chapter, Brittni Register, called and wanted to take the girls to get ice cream. Assuming that Brittni didn’t know what she was getting into, I told her I would go with them. As soon as I hung up, Madison said that she would rather me not go! She just wanted the girls to hang out. Once she picked them up, I called Ashley to tell her and I was immediately scolded (in a joking but serious sort of way). The girls were gone for a long time, and they had a blast. When they all got back to the hotel, it was great because I could tell that the girls had loved it. They were hugging all over Brittni and sitting in her lap. They didn’t want her to leave, and we sat in the lobby talking until way past bedtime! The girls felt so special.
I came home Saturday with two little girls sporting Tri Delta gear saying “I’m a Delta” over and over. They had so much fun and were made to feel very special. I thought we were going to Virginia to help encourage some girls who are doing great things in the fight against Childhood Cancer. Instead, I think we were the ones who were so encouraged. If there is one thing I take away from this week, it is seeing the capacity of individuals to affect others. My daughters were surrounded this week by people who empathized with them and then had compassion on them. They made them feel special in a way that neither Ashley nor I could do.
|Madison, Lindsey, and Miss Jessica|
|Lindsey Explaining Why She Loves St. Jude|
|Here Comes The Madison Project|
|They Knocked It Out!|
|Being Serenaded by College Guys, Sitting in a Tri Delta's Lap... What Could Be Better for a 10-Year Old Girl?|
|Learning the Secret Signs|
|Part of the "Tribe," As Madison Described a Chapter to Lindsey|
|But Girls... Have You Thought about Doing It This Way??!!|
|Katie (Philanthropy Chair - 2011), Jessica (Philanthropy Chair - 2012), Madison (Philanthropy Chair - 2021-2024), Lindsey (Intramural Chair - 2025, Social Chair - 2026), Stacey (President - 2012).|
|The Girls with Miss Brittni... They Felt So Special|
|Daddy's Not Nearly As Cool As All of These Girls, But We Had a Blast Nonetheless!|
|Ingram Loves His New Sweatshirt, although It May Be a Few Years before It Fits Perfectly!|