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Archive for April 2nd, 2010

Day 101 was last Thursday.  I was on my way to meet up with my brother, his wife, and my cousin for dinner in Georgetown.  I got down there early and had some extra time.  I spotted Brad sitting on a bench in front of Barnes & Noble.  There was something so calm and relaxed about him that I decided to see if I could give him my $10.

Brad in Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

He was waiting for a bus but said we could talk until the bus came.  Originally from New Jersey, Brad is somewhat new to the DC area where he works as an internet strategy consultant. 

Knowing that I had potentially very little time until his bus came, I got his email and asked if I could take a picture of him.  He said sure.  While I was taking pictures, I asked him what he was going to do with the $10.  He said, “I’d like to say that I am going to donate it, but it’s probably going to get used for dinner tonight.”

Right then his bus came and we parted ways.

Barnes & Noble Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

Later that night I ended up losing my small notebook that I take notes in, but luckily got it back when I retraced my steps and discovered that it had fallen out of my backpack outside of the Barnes & Noble and somebody had turned it in to the security guard at the bookstore.  

I got home that night and thought that I would just leave the blog entry for that day as it was…I didn’t get a lot of information about Brad, but such is life right.  However, I thought that maybe I would just Google Brad and see what I found.  I am so glad I did.  Had I not, I wouldn’t have discovered a much more beautiful story underneath the surface.

Before I go any further, I should let you know that when I found out what I am about to share with you I contacted Brad and asked permission to share this with the readers of my blog.

Brad’s mother, Joan Dancy, was diagnosed in 2002 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This is a disease that I have heard of all my life but I didn’t know much about it.  Here are some facts:

  • ALS can happen to anyone
  • ALS has no known cause
  • ALS is diagnosed in 14 people everyday
  • ALS affects 30,000 people in the US at any given time
  • ALS is always fatal 

 (source: http://www.joandancyandpals.com/facts.php)

Brad’s mother battled the fatal disease until 2006 when she passed away.  Later that year her fiancé, Terry Magovern (former personal assistant to Bruce Springsteen), founded The Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation.  The PALS stands for People with ALS.  Joan and her family and loved ones discovered that despite their urban location and proximity to numerous medical centers, there was a tremendous need for resources at the local level to help people afflicted with ALS.  Before she passed away she decided that somebody needed to change this.  Terry continued the work and in 2006 her dream became a reality when he launched the foundation which is committed to improving quality of life for ALS patients and their loved ones in the ways that matter most.  Sadly, Terry passed away unexpectedly in July of 2007 and the organization is now lead by Terry’s son Sean.  As an Advisory Board member, Brad is active in the organization and heads up some of the fundraising events that they do.

I spoke to Brad about what it was like dealing with this disease.  “It’s really tough because the disease moves very fast.  The body degenerates but the person’s mind knows exactly what’s going on.”  This was the case with his mother.  I can only imagine how difficult that must have been on Brad and his family..

Because there is no cure and because this disease is so hard on the individual and their family, groups like the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation are extremely important.  According to Brad, the foundation holds support meetings once a month, about 40 people who meet to help one another improve the quality of life of those living with ALS.  

I was so touched by this story.  Maybe because I also lost my mother to a terrible disease…maybe because of the courage I felt from Brad in how he and others have managed to honor his mother so beautifully with the foundation.  I urge all of you to visit the website of this very special organization.  They survive through donations and proceeds from special events that they hold…hopefully I can make it to one of them this year so that I can personally experience the love that this group has for those living with ALS.

By the way, when I spoke to Brad this past Wednesday he said the $10 was still in his wallet!  I hope he will comment here and share with all of us how he uses the $10!

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Several of you have been nice to ask how my job search is going and I thought I would give an update.  I continue to actively look for new employment.  There are several opportunities that I am studying right now.  Most of them are very similar to roles that I have held in the past (leadership roles in IT/telecom and nonprofits focused on education), however, part of me thinks that I should really think out of the box.  What ideas do you have?  What are the most interesting / inspiring careers you have heard of?

As you might have read yesterday, I was down in Southern Virginia with my cousin Doug doing some genealogical research on our family.  On Sunday Doug and I drove to Petersburg, VA to the Blandford Church, where one of my great, great, great (about 6 more “greats” should be inserted here) grandfather, Theophilus Field, was buried.  He is the only person to be buried in the church itself. 

Gate to the area where the civil war soldiers are buried (Photo: Reed)

That’s not the only reason the church (and surrounding cemetery) is notable.  Built in 1735, it is one of six buildings in the world that every window is made of Tiffany stained glass.  The church has an interesting history which includes it’s restoration in the early 20th century.  After years of abandonment, The Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg decided to restore the church as well as retrieve thousands of bodies left scattered around the Petersburg area after the Civil war and give them a Christian burial.  What they thought would take them a year or so turned into a 15 year process where more than 30,000 soldiers’ remains were collected and buried. 

During this time, the celebrated stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany offered to help the Ladies Association and steeply discount the cost of 15 stained glass windows to be outfitted in the church.  The Ladies sought sponsorship from Confederate states and states that were sympathetic to the South.  Only one state that was asked didn’t sponsor a window, that was Kentucky.  When that happened, Tiffany himself paid for the last window. 

The windows are beautiful…my favorite was the Louisiana window that portrays St. Paul holding a sword.  Standing inside the dimly lit church the kaleidoscope of colors and the musty smell transport you back in time.  If you visit Petersburg, make sure you visit the church.

Photo: Reed

The cemetery is also interesting.  The remains of soldiers from every war that the US was involved in prior to the Gulf War can be found there.  It is the resting spot of the late actor Joseph Cotton, made famous for his work in many of Orson Wells’ films.  With more than 300 acres, it’s the second largest cemetery in VA (after Arlington Cemetery). 

So why do I know all of this…because I had a great tour guide!  Gene, originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Petersburg for a 2.5 year military assignment and ended up staying over 50 years.  Full of knowledge and energy, Gene now works for the Petersburg Tourism Department.  It is by chance that he ended up being our guide, as the person scheduled to lead our tour was running late and Gene offered to cover for her.

Gene in front of Old Blandford Church (Photo: Reed)

 

I learned some other interesting things about Gene…he used to be a school teacher – taught piano and voice, although had to stop his singing due to some throat complications he had as a result of contacting Polio when he was 10.  Another interesting tidbit about Gene is that he and I went to the same university.  Well, when Gene attended it was called Indiana State Teachers College – now it is Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  I rarely meet alumni by chance and this was extra special since he studied there before it achieved its university status.  

Gene was very hesitant to accept my $10 since I am unemployed now.  He shared that his son who lives in Florida has been unemployed for 15 months.  He finally agreed to accept the $10 and decided to donate it to the Petersburg Museum Foundation, a new organization founded in 2007 whose mission it is to ensure the long-term preservation, restoration, and interpretation of Centre Hill, the Siege Museum, and the Blandford Church.

Gene and I have already exchanged emails and I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout the year.  I am waiting to get donation details if anyone would like to send the Petersburg Museum Foundation a contribution.  They have ambitious plans but need more than a million dollars in funding.

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