Monday, November 22, 2010

A few more last minute donations

I had a few late straggler donations to my George Mark Fundraiser that are both touching and wonderful and I thought I'd add them to the list of donations and to the grand total anyway. I was given two checks, one for $50 and another for $185, which is huge! That brings the grand total to $935.90 raised by everyone. $1357.90 was raised between Ukiah's piggy bank and your fund raising efforts. But there's still more that can be done. Right now until The end of December, George Mark is involved in a dollar for dollar challenge (see the sidebar to learn more). Any money they are donated up to 250,000 is doubled. That means for every dollar you donate, you give another to George Mark free! The $235 I was just handed gives Georg Mark House $470!!! Please, consider donating a couple more bucks to George Mark if you have it!  

Monday, November 15, 2010

George Mark Tile Day

I’ve touted the awesomeness of George Mark House on this very website numerous times. My love for them and the services they provide is far reaching.  But I have yet another story about George Mark House that I want to share.

Every six months, George Mark House hosts a Tiles and Tales Day. This day gives families who have lost a child at George Mark House an opportunity to make a Tile commemorating the loved one they lost. As with a lot of things that George Mark House does, it’s a simple gesture, but for some families, like mine, that simple gesture goes a long way.

Chris and I weren’t sure we were ready for the tile day, but we signed up for it anyway, for Ukiah, as a way of honoring him. We had talked about the tile a little leading up to the big day but we hadn’t come up with any great ideas. We knew we wanted to incorporate his big blue dinosaur in some way, we just weren’t sure how.

When the big day arrived, we spent most of the morning trying to drum up ideas. Just this simple process drummed up so many emotions in us. How does one make a drawing that more or less encompasses a life, especially a life as unique and amazing as Ukiah’s? It was an utterly daunting task and it was breaking our hearts all over again (as if that doesn’t happen on a daily basis anyhow).

Finally, miraculously, we came up with an idea for the tile, one that we thought told a beautiful story that Ukiah would love.

Then we went to George Mark House. We arrived a little early and were told by a helpful volunteer that we could walk around a little bit while they set up for the event. There were a few places that we were asked to steer clear of. George Mark House had reopened their doors and since they had patients, we respected their privacy and stayed away from the patient rooms. Instead, we walked the grounds, their beautiful luscious grounds. We walked out to the court yard around the Gazebo, around the front of the building to the rock fountain and then to the walkway that had the tiles other families had created for their loved ones.

All the tiles were very different and unique, some artfully drawn and rendered, some with nice words or sayings. But they were all variations on the same theme; someone loved the child for which the tile was created very much.  And we were no different.

We then walked up near the chapel entrance, the chapel where we held Ukiah’s Memorial service. We decided not to go in but instead went to the little fountain next to the entrance of the Chapel.  The fountain itself is a huge red vase with water bubbling over its sides, towering over a pile of small rocks at the bottom. I remember being told that this fountain was set up for the staff and crew, so that they could have their own little way to remember the children who passed away there. I didn’t know if Ukiah’s name would be etched on a rock yet. And yet there it was, right in front of us. I sobbed big gasping sobs. I leaned on Chris and let the tears fall. Chris did the same. It’s hard to put into words what that little rock meant. Actually, I don’t even think that’s possible. It was touching and heartbreaking simultaneously. That’s all I feel I can say about that moment.

Finally, we walked back into the front entrance and went to the kitchen. I had brought the idea we sketched as well as a framed picture of Ukiah for inspiration to help the process along. The Art for Life folks who help put on the Tile day, were very wonderful about giving us tips and pointers for our 6X6 inch tile, from sizing the drawing, to paint colors. I wanted to match his little blue and orange dinosaur and they were more than happy to oblige. They took their time explaining the process but also gave us time and freedom to figure it out ourselves.

Along the way we got to see some familiar faces, members of the staff who had returned to George Mark since its reopening. It was all bittersweet, but beautiful in its own way. One of the familiar faces said that we should make this as quiet and cathartic for ourselves as possible, so we kept the chitchat to a minimum.

Once Chris etched the sketch onto the tile, he and I took turns painting various parts of the tile. Everything on the tile, from the objects on it to every color we selected was symbolic. It told a story and encompassed the little life that had meant so much to us as best as a 6X6 tile could. It was a thing of beauty that turned out better than Chris and I could’ve ever imagined. For the opportunity to this I am so grateful for George Mark House. I’m so grateful for them for a great many things, for the month we spent there when Ukiah was sick, to the wonderful service they provided, opening their doors to us so that we could hold Ukiah’s viewing and memorial service, even though they were closed, to this, giving us an outlet, a cathartic release for some of our pent up grief.

While I was there, I overheard a conversation that they still can’t afford to work at full staff. They’ve opened their doors, but money is still tight and they can use all the help and support they can get. If you still haven’t, please consider donating a few bucks. I know I’m not running my fundraiser right now, but consider donating just to donate. It’s not just about maintaining their services, but ensuring that the whole heart of George Mark that provides wonderful activities like this can afford to keep ticking.
I’m thinking about starting an Etsy store for George Mark next year. I’ll put up some of my jewelry and other fun stuff for sale, with all the proceeds helping this wonderful place keep its doors open, so keep your eyes peeled for that.  Above all else, keep getting the word out. The more people that know about this wonderful place, the more likely people are to donate, increasing George Mark House’s chances of keeping its doors open.