When I write, I feel like I am not doing my emotions or thoughts proper justice. This event was no exception. I have been mulling it over in my mind, trying to come up with the right words to say to fully express what this day meant to our family. I am failing. So, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel for this post, I am simply going to share what I emailed to the Children's Cancer Center and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Additionally, I have shared pictures at the end from the event. Please enjoy.
Dear Tampa Bay Lightning & Children's Cancer Center,
This past Sunday our family was honored to be a part of the Holiday Party held in conjunction with both of your organizations. I am not certain that I will be able to properly express our gratitude, but I am going to try anyway. I hope by the end of this email you will all realize how much you have blessed our family.
My husband and I both grew up in Tampa. Before this year, we had heard of the CCC and the work that the Lightning did for the community. I can honestly say though, we never thought that we would be on the receiving end of your generosity.
We have three daughters, and our youngest, Ellie, was diagnosed with Leukemia in April of this year. Although her prognosis is extremely favorable, this year has proved to be the most difficult one yet. Perhaps one of the hardest parts, that we were completely unprepared for, was how deeply it would affect our older two girls. Cancer really does impact the entire family. While this year has been hard beyond words, there have been a few bright spots, most recently through your two organizations.
If I am being completely honest, we were so honored and excited when our family was chosen to be a part of this event. However, it also felt a little uncomfortable. When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it is one of the worst days in your life. Slowly, you are able to focus again, and even after a while, be willing to accept help. This is a difficult process.
An event like this can make you feel like your being put on display. We are the "cancer family" now. While we want to be a part of these events, it can be hard because it brings you back to the reality of your situation. But, anything that can get us out of the house together as a family is a welcome distraction. So, although feeling somewhat reserved, we joyfully attended this event, not knowing exactly what to expect.
I am humbled to say that everything far exceeded even our best expectations! This was a first class event. I cannot begin to imagine the logistics that went into planning an event like this. I assure you, no detail went unnoticed by our family. To everyone that worked so tirelessly, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Perhaps what made this event so memorable though, were our hosts, Anton & Johanna Stralman. I don't know how you did it, but you could not have made a better match. From the moment we shook hands, they put us at ease. Both Anton and Johanna were immediately likable and easy to talk to. Their children were delightful and our girls thoroughly enjoyed playing with them. Anton and Johanna did everything right to put us at ease and make our afternoon fun and enjoyable. We never felt like we were putting them out, and they genuinely seemed interested in our family. And not just, Ellie, but all of us. They made us feel more than welcome; for that afternoon we felt like a part of their family. Honestly, I could go on and on about this remarkable family, but in the interest of trying to wrap up this email, I will say this: The Tampa Bay Lightning is made better organization for having Anton Stralman.
Thanks to Anton and his family, the Lightning Organization and the Children's Cancer Center, our family had an amazing afternoon! Along our journey, there have been a few moments that I know our family will never forget. This is one of them. Anton and the Lightning have gained 5 lifelong fans! We will never forget the kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity that you have shown our family.
From the bottom of our very full hearts, thank you.
Jaclyn York (along with Mike, Eva, Nora and Ellie)