Five years. A minor milestone kind of year. Not usually worthy of a class reunion but to a five-year old kid, the fifth birthday is a biggie. I still remember mine.
A few days after Charlotte Jennie’s death on January 7, 2010 from a Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), we received a letter in the mail from the State Corporation Commission notifying us that CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation had been officially and legally incorporated.
The date of official incorporation was January 6, 2010. The day before Charlotte died.
I HATE that CJSTUF exists. I HATE that CJSTUF HAS to exist. I HATE the reason we started down this path in the first place. If I think about how much I hate all that for too long, that’s when my steering wheel begins to take a beating.
But without CJSTUF, all that support that was directed at us would have drifted away after Charlotte died. The 180 grants we’ve sent out would not have helped our families at VCU and UVA Health Systems in their times of need. We wouldn’t have served 10,000+ meals to the families and caregivers on the 7th floor of Children’s Hospital of Richmond and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond. We wouldn’t have been able to offer volunteer opportunities to children and adults alike.
We wouldn’t have been able to make a few unbearable situations just a little more bearable.
On top of all that, we wouldn’t have been able to meet the legion of amazing people who have come into our lives: Our continuously energetic Board Of Directors, the other families with whom we have commiserated and from whom we’ve received such love, and the people–friend, family, and stranger alike–who have entrusted us with their hard-earned resources so that we may be able to continue the forward momentum of this great coping mechanism that we call “CJSTUF.”
At the risk of embarrassing her, we must hold high upon a pedestal our Managing Director, Michelle Alford, and her wonderful family. When we put out the call for applications to fill the newly created position of “Foundation Facilitator,” we had no earthly idea that out of the many talented and highly qualified applicants, we’d be introduced to the amazing Michelle Alford and her family. Not only did she become an indispensable employee (who totally kicks heiney at what she does) but her entire family is now on the short list of who we call “close and trusted friends.” And what with the impending adoption of our Kiddo, it’s so nice to have a “best friend” for her in the form of their eldest daughter.
Michelle has been a huge part of the growth and success of the Foundation and we hope she will choose to continue her journey with us for the foreseeable future.
Now, none of this will bring Charlotte Jennie back to us and this week is understandably one of great pain and heartache, but we really do find comfort in the fact that we are able to continue her legacy in the form of CJSTUF and that so many people seem to be rooting for us.
We are very thankful for all of those who will be lighting luminaries in Charlotte’s memory on January 7. Let those lights continue to blaze in your hearts whenever the night seems darkest.
CJSTUF Director of Programs