A note from my friend, Magno Relojo…
A 90 yr old lady who happens to love dancing and dressing up, inspires us with her enthusiasm for learning and memorizing her dance routines. At this age these can be difficult tasks to do but it is so amazing to see her mobility in dancing and in her everyday life. We love to tell her story and by chance it might inspire others to be positive about life.
She told me that when she dances it is just pure joy that she feels especially during competitions when there are lots of people watching…she seems to like that. I would too especially when you look good, feel good and are happy about life…you want to show everyone so they feel happy too.
By the way, this lady is my mother-in-law, Dr. Aurora Lira.
She wants everyone to Smile and be Happy
(Aurora and her professional partner are at the Millennium Dancesport Championships in Orlando, Florida – one of the largest events in the world) where they have already won some first places, a gold medal in a senior gold rhythm championship, and some money in a gold rhythm scholarship.)
If you follow my blog, you may remember my post about Aurora several years ago. You can read it here.
Danielle Jones was working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center when we first met. I remember us walking through the hallways, into the waiting rooms, and even further into the patient rooms where young, innocent girls and boys were resting nervously with their families before or after procedures.
One thing that strikes you when you visit that mammoth, internationally acclaimed medical facility where parents travel across continents and states to spend days, weeks and months, is how, despite the seriousness of their, the hospital team goes to great lengths to uplift spirits through imagery, therapy dogs, entertainers, and volunteers.
What I remember most about Danielle from those days is her smile. She always made us feel welcome. She put the families of patients at ease. She was someone, I recalled thinking, who clearly enjoyed life.
And so, when I learned of her own personal story – the one she shares with her husband Chris, it did not surprise me that theirs – despite deep tragedies, challenges, and life tests – is a story of love, fortitude, courage, and generosity.
Remember those wedding vows? The ones that include for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer? Yes, they came to know the meaning of those vows sooner rather than later.
Within the first few years of marriage, they came face-to-face with the unemployment, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a cancer scare, the loss of a loved one, and the devastating loss of their newborn son. Through it all they were steadfast in their love and their faith, and made a decision to create good from the bad.
They tell their story in a book, “As Sure as Tomorrow Comes”, that benefits the Angel Baby Network which they founded to help other parents.
Please learn more below.
Lisa: Please tell us a little about your love story.
Danielle and Chris: We met in 2006 working on our church’s first and only single’s conference. Chris was the only male on the planning committee and he was the only single male in the church in my age range. We started off by flirting with each other and we ended up deciding to hang out one weekend. The weekend after that we had our first date and we never stopped going out with each other. We knew we were meant to be together because we always had fun together and we enjoyed each other’s company.
Lisa: What are the greatest strengths you see in each other?
Danielle: The greatest strengths that I see in Chris are his ability to always be true to himself others. Chris is unapologetically himself, which means he’s always honest and he’ll always tell you what he thinks about something or someone. I also admire his perseverance. He never gives up and he always bounces back from whatever life throws at him.
Chris: Danielle has great writing skills. She was able to recall most of the events that happened in our lives like they’d happened just yesterday when she was writing our book. She also has great people skills and can get along with anyone. I admire Danielle’s tenacity and her ability to smile even when we are going through hard times.
Lisa: Unemployment. A car accident. A terrifying medical diagnosis. The loss of a loved one. The death of your 10-day-old son, Junior. Any one of those life circumstances would be a lot for someone to process and live through. What lessons have those experiences taught you about your own strength, and about life?
Danielle: Our experiences have taught us that with our faith in God and with our love for each other we can make it through anything. Chris always says that at some point in life, everyone is going to get rained on, but they get to decide how they are going to go through it and I always say that life is 10 percent of what happens to you and the other 90 percent is how you respond to it. We’ve made a decision to keep on going, no matter how hard life has gotten. And we’ve decided to help other people along the way.
Lisa: Please tell us about the Angel Baby Network and how it has touched other parents.
Danielle: A few months after our son passed away, I started Angel Baby Network as a way to help other families who had also lost children. I remember feeling like I was all alone. I knew that other families had to be feeling the same way and I wanted to do something to help them. Angel Baby Network gives bereaved parents a way to get together and be around other families who are just like them. We give them an opportunity to share their grief with each other and we empower each other to keep the memories of our children alive.
“Thoughts from my quiet time before work…. Although I don’t deal with physical life-threatening issues, I work with mentally life-threatening issues. Being a Psych nurse… Patients here are suicidal, homicidal, schizophrenic, psychotic, bipolar, and so many other illnesses. Just because someone is not physically ill does not mean they are not ill. Some nurses think psych is “easier” … But let me tell you it isn’t. We have security with us when we have to go into some patients’ rooms because of violent history… Our patients can be very volatile… You must always be on guard because things can flip on a dime. I have cried going home more times then I can say. We work with addicts who we know are going to detox and use again when they leave. We pray with and for our patients. But…I can’t imagine working anywhere else. There is not much better than seeing a patient who came in totally delusional walk out so much healthier… That goes for every aspect of nursing.”
– Jennifer Okoniewski
I can’t imagine the daily stress you endure with every day of your work. It is a compassionate soul who is so willing and eager to devote her life to being there for people during their intense emotions and struggles. Thank you for caring. Thank you for giving. And thank you for not giving up.
Today I want to introduce you to a couple I got to know through my work on the ReelAbilities Film Festival. Jenny McCloy co-chaired the 2017 ReelAbilities, and the more I get to know about her and her husband, Bill, the more impressed I become. Jenny and Bill were recently honored by the Community Foundation West Chester/Liberty with its Patricia F. Alderson Philanthropist of the Year Award. It is a befitting award for two people whose passion is making a difference for so many.
Quietly, without need or want of recognition they give generously with their time and their resources to causes close to their hearts. Jenny is president of the board of Melodic Connections, a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that brings out creative expression in people with disabilities. It is a place where their 22 year old son, Sam, who has Down syndrome and is mostly nonverbal has found a voice. Bill has been very involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, having served on its Board and as chairman of its golf outing for many years, a role he continues. He is also vice president of the Board of the Ken Anderson Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to building live, work, and play options for adults with disabilities.
The McCloys have four children. Sam is their second. “One of the things Sam does for us is that he brings to the forefront the importance of supporting those in need. We both have come from very humble beginnings and lived paycheck to paycheck until 1998. We have been very fortunate to be able to do all that we do for others,” Bill told me.
When it comes to giving, Bill was very clear, they do what they do not for any kind of recognition, in fact, they would prefer to keep everything they do between themselves and the organizations and lives they touch. While they are very appreciative, accepting this award was not something that came easy for them or something they took lightly but they realized that their example may impact the decisions of others.
“We have never used the word philanthropist (to define themselves) but we knew we had a responsibility to give back and to influence our children and others. If our giving encourages one other person to give then it is worth putting our name out there,” Bill said.
Bill’s advice to others? “Give in any way, shape and form you can and it will come back many fold.”
When I first heard about the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, it brought me back to my earliest experience of learning about people whose cultures are different from my own. (You can read about it here.) What an important cause, now more than ever.
As an adult, if you are looking for an opportunity to get to know and understand people from other countries, getting involved with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is a great way to start. The nonprofit organization builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas.
Awarded the 2012 Best of the City Award from Cincinnati Magazine, its more than 1,600 supporters include individuals, corporate, civic and academic members, and community volunteers who host visitors in their homes. It has welcomed visitors to our Greater Cincinnati region from over 100 countries; about 300 visitors annually. And about 9000 students have increased their global skills through its programs. It is affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please click here.
“Just” Dinner with international guests through the US Department of State premier exchange program, The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) with Greater Cincinnati volunteer host family. It is a wonderful two-way exchange of politics, similarities and differences, culture, family, professions, & more! Hosting is one of the most beneficial ways for Americans and visitors to put a true face to countries.