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    Celebrating Life at Journeys!

    On November 4, we will gather once again to celebrate the lives of all the teens and young adults with cancer that we have been privileged to know and love over the years. This will be the 16th Journeys, our Annual Celebration of Living!

    If you’ve been to Journeys, you know how special this night is. If you’ve never been, I hope this will be the year you will join us because Journeys is unlike any other charity gala. In fact, we don’t call it a gala because there is no formal dress, the special themed centerpieces are fashioned on my dining room table, and there are only a few, short speeches! We call it a Celebration because that’s what we do.

    We celebrate all the kids who have inspired us to be the best we can be and to give as much as we’re able.

    Past 13thirty members, whose bonds of friendship were forged years ago, reunite as if no time or space has separated them. Present members welcome potential new members in friendship. Our families share stories with common themes and guests who have not been touched by adolescent and young adult cancer are forever changed by the energy in the room.

    During the cocktail hour, student groups provide the music, enthusiastic volunteers sell raffle tickets and corks for the wine pull, while delicious appetizers are passed by the wonderful staff of Creative Caterers. After dinner, the program starts with our time-honored, candle lighting ceremony, during which we remember our friends who — though gone — continue to warm our hearts with their light. We recognize special folks who have helped us. This year’s “Corporate Sponsor Salute” goes to ValPak of Rochester and Dr. Barbara Asselin will receive the “Make a Difference Award.”

    And then, it’s time for the highlight of the night: The kids’ performance!

    Each year, we have a theme around which the “kids” of 13thirty Cancer Connect craft a presentation that will give our guests an authentic view of what it’s like to be a teen or young adult with cancer. As you might gather from our invitation, this year’s theme is “Bridges” —  but I’m not going to say any more. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself what we’ve put together for you! We are thrilled to be working with Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle from Airigami (airigami.com) this year. Here’s a clue – there are balloons involved. Lots of them! Local poets, Charlie Cote and Danielle Shied, helped the kids put feelings to words and our friend Dan Roach, as always, makes us sound and look great!

    It’s going to be an amazing night and I hope you will be there because if you are, you will see what keeps me going every day.

    When Melissa died, our hearts were forever shattered but I knew we were strong enough to carry on, to continue living, to somehow put one foot in front of the other. What I didn’t know was just how much better I could be, how much more I could love, how much joy I would find in the young people I work with every day. They are the beacons of hope in this (sometimes) dark world. They rise above the small things and keep focus on what’s important. They truly live and love life and I am so very proud of them all.

    I promise you, Journeys is a night you don’t want to miss! You can RSVP online until Oct. 26 at www.roc.13thirty.org.

    See you on November 4th!


    About the Author

    lauren-spiker-1Lauren Spiker is our founder, executive director, and chief visionary with a pulse on what’s happening in the world of AYA oncology. Her dreams are big and bold!

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    The Secret Sound

    We sat in the middle of the lake, the water smooth as glass. The echo of Rick’s Mongolian flute playing the Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts, reverberated against the hills and in our hearts. In the quiet stillness, I read aloud a poem by Kabir.

    If you want the truth,
    I’ll tell you the truth
    Listen to the secret sound,
    The real sound
    Which is inside of you.

    As the night fell, clouds hid the stars but the warmth of friendship and shared experience radiated brightly. Each in our own way had been touched by cancer. Some through personal diagnosis, others by association. All keenly aware of its presence. Though often hidden, like the stars, the shadow of cancer is always there, a constant reminder of the fragility of life. But on this night, we were strong and cancer was the thread that held us all tightly together in faith and friendship.

    As we floated in tethered canoes, we ate strawberry shortcake under the darkening sky. We talked about being present in the moment, about our lives and those around us. We listened to stories about cultures different from our own where the words “please” and “thank-you” are unnecessary because kindness is just a way of life, not something to ask for and acknowledge.

    Together in silence, we listened for that secret sound inside ourselves. That sound that all too often gets lost amidst the noise and bruising clatter. That real sound that beats deep within our souls, refusing to be drowned out by the boisterous blather that permeates our lives. That sound inside each of us that guides our course when skies are dark and we can’t see the stars.

    Before returning to shore, the sweet sounds of Amazing Grace bounced off the water and the now, pitch-black sky. For me, this night was a powerful reminder to quell the noise that sometimes threatens to distract, distorting the sounds that really matter. What if we all listened to those sounds more often?

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