‘Tis the Season
”Tis the season.’ This saying is something most of us have probably heard on repeat since we were young children. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or do not participate in a traditional holiday celebration, there is something about the twinkling lights, the chilly weather and the desire to hunker down, spending quiet time with family and friends that signifies the season of giving and receiving.
It is important to us to instill the act of kindness and charity within the children. It helps build a sense of empathy, kindness, and compassion. For the past 7 years, we have held a Food and Toy drive for Ryan’s House. Ryan’s House is near and dear to our hearts. When I tell people about Ryan’s House, I often explain it as one of the saddest and the most beautiful places I have seen. Ryan’s House provides hospice and respite care for children 0 to 18 years old. It is a small center in Phoenix built to replicate a home. It has a large communal area with books, comfy couches, television, and toys. It has a room for music therapy, art therapy, swimming and a large sensorial outdoor environment built for any child with any level of capability. They are equipped with a fully functioning kitchen and apartment like rooms for families who will have an extended stay. They have a beautiful and calm sanctuary for quiet time, reflection, prayer, and peace.
For the families newer to TMS, we discovered Ryan’s House in 2013 when one of our Nido students, Parker and her family needed Ryan’s House and their services.
I met Parker during my first year in the classroom. She was the youngest baby in the room at just 2 ½ months old. Mrs. Odet looked at me and said, “what are we going to do with such a little one?” I said, “We are going to keep her safe from the older babies.” Parker held her own. Parker was a joyful baby who always had a smile on her face and a song in her heart. She was content exploring the materials in the classroom, climbing up and down the stair and ramp with ease, taking in the afternoon sun and loved rice. She and I would sing Adele all afternoon until her mom or dad (Jen and Jason) would come pick her up at the end of the day. She was affectionately called Birdie by all those who loved her so. Parker brought joy and laughter to all who knew her grand smile. Around 12 months old, Parker was diagnosed with a genetic disease called Krabbe Leukodystrophy. This genetic disease would not have been known about unless it was part of a routine screening. As we donate to Ryan’s House each year, we also want to bring awareness to this rare genetic disease in order to have more research done to make life saving advances in its field.
In Parker’s brief time, her life was full, and she is celebrated. When Parker got her wings, I had a parent check in and ask how we were doing, I told her, “This was my first-year teaching, I don’t know how not to love them with my whole heart.” It is important to me to keep Parker’s memory and love of life and joy very much alive. We found several ways to do things in honor of her. We Run for Ryan’s house in their annual race and we donate to Ryan’s House in honor of Parker Gerlitz, this year and every year. Her brother Rafe, who attends TMS in the Primary Program and I often talk about his sister Parker. Parker taught me to enjoy the small things, to lift your face up to the sky to enjoy the warm sun on your face and be grateful. I often think of a quote by Oliver Herford, ” I heard a bird sing in the dark of December . A magical thing and sweet to remember.”
When I look at the abundance of donations, my heart is full. Parker’s story and her legacy will always be with us, words cannot express our gratitude to the Parents and children who know her story and to our newer families who are not familiar with it. Your acts of kindness and graciousness in donating brings out the true meaning of this Holiday Season.
“Giving is the greatest act of grace.”
Our TMS community is so very compassionate, giving, caring and rise to the occasion every year with out fail.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for all you do!
Ms. Lauren and the TMS team
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