Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Step One! Newark to Cinncinatti!

We arrived at Newark International Airport safe & sound, thanks to my awesome Dad! It was a bit easier this time around because we knew what to expect. As soon as we got out of the car and unloaded the bags, I let the Delta attendant know who we were. We were immediately escorted inside where another attendant was waiting with a smile!

We even got to see our escort from our trip to D.C., and he helped us through security-which took all of 5 minutes!-and down to the Delta Sky Club. We are now sitting here watching the planes take off, checking out the TV, surfing the net, and eating pretty much everything the club has to offer! LOL

The kids, I can tell, are building with excitement! I think we might see one of our Champion friends in Cinncinatti, too. We can't wait!

More later....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Orlando Here We Come!!

Well, it's certainly been a while since we last updated, but we have just been on a total whirlwind since we got back from Washington, D.C.! We've had lunches with Miss New Jersey, been to concerts with Nick Cannon, done a bunch of walks for our awesome hospital, Children's Specialized, had TONS of ice cream at various Dairy Queens, been to baseball games, met the NY's just been GREAT!

Tomorrow, we will be heading out to Orlando, Florida to be reunited with what we know are the best children, parents and staff CMN has to offer to the world. Not only that, but we'll have the honor to meet ALL of Canada's Champions as well!

This is very much a bittersweet trip for us. We lost our friend, and fellow Champion from Maryland, MacKenzie Stuck not too long ago. It will also be difficult to say goodbye to everyone on Sunday, not knowing when we will see one another again. But, through the next 5 days, I am certain we will all make the very best of this wonderful trip and truly enjoy one anothers company!

I know our family would like to take this opportunity to thank Delta, WalMart & SAMS Club, Marriott, Disney World & their staff, the CMN Staff, Newark, Cincinnati & Orlando Airports, and most especially, Children's Specialized Hospital, for nominating Mackenzie & Michael for this true honor. Without their support, love, and encouragement, all of these wonderful events would still be just dreams. Thanks so much for making everything we wished for come true!

I'll update during the week!
The New Jersey Champion Family
The Wight's

PS-Attached are some photos of what we have done since June!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Leaving Tomorrow!

Well, here I sit! 2131 here in New Jersey on June 5th, and I am sitting here in my bed, still in utter disbelief that we are leaving for a trip to Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

While I waited for more laundry to get done today, I sat and read some of my older entries that I had on our CaringBridge website. Things like being told that Michael may never wake up....he would never walk...never talk...we had to start was like someone hit the reset button on him...things about Mackenzie, like how she could barely kick a ball, she couldn't write, and didn't have any of her basic math skills...all, at this point, almost inconceivable to us.

Now, here we are, almost four years later, with a trip that could only be conjured in a dream awaiting us. I simply cannot believe that this is really happening.

I have spoken at just about every event we have been to so far, and I say the same thing. I remember almost everyone we knew in, friends, everyone...telling me that there had to be a reason for this. That there would be a light at the end of this tunnel. That, even though we couldn't fathom anything that could be so important, so valuable at the time, there was still a bigger reason for all of this horrible sadness and tragedy.

THIS is it.

By that, I don't mean the trip itself. I mean that through just the experiences we have had with Children's Miracle Network so far, I know my children and the pain and suffering they have gone through-it's HELPED another child. When I go to these Wal*Mart's, the Costco's, the Dance Marathons, and tell their story, you can see these people, and their motivation brewing inside of them to sell those balloons and help this great organization-and it's all because of MY Champions, and the other Champions out there just like them.

My mother, Sue, she was probably the most amazing person to ever walk the earth. I am sure lots of people say that about their moms, but there are also a lot that don't. My mother was special. She had a special purpose here with us. Her love was unconditional, and went further than anything you could imagine. Her death amongst all of this, no longer feels so much in vain. Why? Because she LOVED children-AND, she was a MOM! She would be so honored, so beside herself to know that through her death, and through this tragedy, something beautiful has come of it all. I know, as painful as it even is to say out loud, that deep in my heart, she is smiling above at all of this. Cheering with all the employees at Wal*Mart during the kick-off...dancing with all the college kids at the Dance Marathon....getting a good whiff of those awesome pancakes at IHOP on Pancake Day-and all for the sake of the children. My God, she would be SO HAPPY.

Of course, the selfish side of me wishes more than anything that my mom could be HERE with us right now, to experience all of this happiness with hug us and the kids and hold us and wish us well on our trip. But, it is okay for now. It is okay because someday, when it's my time, I am going to get the biggest hug ever from her, and I KNOW that we have made her proud. Even further, we have honored her memory in the way that she would want it to be...with LOVE.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Almost ready to go!

Well, this is it! The last few days before our big trip to Washington, D.C. to meet all the other Champions we have for 2010, and do some amazing things for Children's Miracle Network. The anticipation is driving our whole family insane. The kids are so excited they barely get to sleep at night!

I am still awaiting the pins from am praying they get here by tomorrow! Otherwise, I am going to have to have my father fedex them to use at our hotel! :(

The kids had a super busy morning today, as we went to a Walmart Grand Re-Opening in Toms River, and the kids were given HUGE bags full of stuff for summer! Beach towels, water sprayers and water guns, waterproof cameras, and more! We were late, but we made it, and I was relieved-I am sure Dawn at Walmart was, too! LOL

Mackenzie & Michael have been in quite a few news stories as of late. This one aired last Friday on the 11 o'clock news on Channel 9. You can check it out here:

We cannot even wait until Sunday!!

Walk N Roll, Piscataway, NJ

What a fantastic way to celebrate Michael's 8th birthday! On May 22nd, the day before Michael turned 8, we attended the Children's Specialized Hospital Walk N' Roll in Piscataway. This walk is sponsored by Kohl's and directly benefits OUR hospital that we represent as NJ Ambassadors.

We got there early, and had SO much food, played games, and danced to some great music. Our dear friends, the Clutter's & Riccio's were also in attendance, and it was a great way to spend a Saturday!

Mackenzie was even able to check out the video camera that one of the TV reporters had! It totally made her day, being that she is an aspiring film maker! It was my proudest moment of the day to see her so happy!

Hackensack, NJ Costco

On May 24th, we were asked to help the Costco in Hackensack, NJ sell some balloons and tell Mackenzie & Michael's story to the employees and customers. Apparently, this was the first time that any NJ Champions have been to this location, and of course, we were happy to oblige!

This particular Costco went above and beyond! They had a stand set up right in their lobby, where they had cotton candy, Italian ice, drinks, face painting-and EMPANADAS! All for free when you made a donation to CMN!

We had a great grand tour of the place, which was very clean and organized. We were also given a free one year membership to any Costco, a tetherball set, Michael was given the new Super Mario Galaxy game, and Mackenzie was allowed to pick out any DVD from their store. They were so super generous!!!

All in all it was a fabulous day! We were so happy to be there!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walmart Kick-Off Party!!

Yesterday, we attended the kick-off party at the North Bergen Walmart Supercenter. It was totally amazing!
The kids were put into one of the Walmart rigs, with a really wonderful driver named, Bob. Bob drove the kids around to the front of the store, and I helped them prepare for their grand entrance.
Among our guests were TV crews, reporters, and 11 different Walmart stores were represented. Jerry, the DM for Walmart, and Phil, from Children's Specialized were there, too. Of course, no CMN event for us would have been complete without our lovely Miss NJ, Ashley!!

When the kids came into the garden center, everyone was clapping and cheering. Music was playing and everyone was taking video and pictures. It was so overwhelming.

We all sat down, and listened to the great guest speakers. Everyone had wonderful things to say about Mackenzie & Michael. They talked about how strong they are, and how inspirational. It was absolutely amazing.

Miss NJ then gave Mackenzie a tiara and Michael a ribbon, and then one of the people from the Corporate Walmart gave each of the kids a $500 gift card for shopping before their trip!

There were 4 cakes for the kids, and they even sang Happy Birthday to Michael! We ate tons of great food, had a tour of the store, and did some shopping before heading home.

We were featured on a local news program as well, the link is here:

All in all, it was just a fantastic day, and the kids conked out early. Tomorrow we have the Walk N Roll to benefit the hospital, and then Sunday is Michael's 8th birthday. Only about one and a half more weeks and we have our big trip to Washington, D.C. to meet all the other Champions & the PRESIDENT!!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Well, today we helped to kick off the Costco Balloon Campaign in TWO locations in New Jersey today!

Our first stop was in Brick, NJ, where many of my friends go often. We met Lorraine, from CMN, there, and helped set up.

The staff was incredible, they had already put up hundreds and hundreds of balloons to form a beautiful mural and tribute to CMN. They gave all of us free smoothies, which were DELISH, and Mackenzie & Michael were given honorary employee badges that had their names and "2010 Champion" on it! We brought Mackenzie's good friend, Jessie, and they made her one, too! It said "2010 Champion Friend"--I thought that was so sweet!

The kids got right to work, too! Michael sat at the table for a while, encouraging people to buy balloons with his sweet face and kind demeanor. He shouted "Would you like to buy a balloon today?" in his adorable voice, it was nearly impossible for people to say no to him! ;)

The girls were busy selling balloons to customers that were coming off the check out lines, sitting and eating or coming into the store. They also brought kids over to our table to enter in the coloring contest. It was a great time!

From there, we headed to the Manahawkin Costco, where they had two HUGE cakes ready to be cut up and distributed to patrons in exchange for a donation to CMN. One of the employees there, Rose, just went above and beyond! She and her two daughters had knit stress balls, scarves and hats to give for donations. They also had popcorn, single roses for Mother's Day, mousepads and keychains. The girls were right in front of the store, and they were wonderful to us!

After we were filled with pizza and cake, we packed it up and headed home. The kids relaxed and we watched a movie together as a family. This whole experience just gets more and more wonderful the longer we continue. Now, we look forward to the Walk In the Parks Kick Off on the 13th in New Brunswick!!! EXCITING!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

LakeWood Blueclaws & Our Sams Club Announcement

Our Wal*Mart announcement has been postponed until May 20th, but that has not meant that we were any less busy this week!!

On Monday, the wonderful owners and staff at Brick, NJ IHOP, invited us to attend a Lakewood Blueclaws Game...what they did not tell us-at least not until our arrival-was that the kids were going to be throwing out the first pitch! It was incredible!

You can check out Mackenzie's video of it here:

They filled us up with food and goodies and we had a WONDEFUL time with our friends, the Clutter's. They were the NJ Champion Family for 2009 and have really taken us under their wing to show us the ropes of this whole, wonderful ride!

Today, we had our formal announcement at our local Sams Club. Sams Club is one of the largest sponsors that Children's Miracle Network has, and, in fact, they sponsor the trips for ALL the Champion Children to go to D.C. and Orlando. They have raised over $500 million dollars to help CMN, and for that WE are grateful!

I had the opportunity to say a few words, and I was happy to do it. I find it is really important to let people know how much our family appreciates these things, as well as let them know exactly where their money is going. It was a great morning! Sam's Club even presented the kids with gifts-BRAND NEW DIGITAL CAMERAS for their trip to D.C.!!!! This was such perfect timing, as my camera BROKE at the Dance Marathon!! LOL!! I could not thank them enough!

See video of our Sam's Announcement here:

TOMORROW, we hit 2 Costco locations to tell our story and help raise money for CMN! We can't wait!!!!! Mackenzie's friend, Jessie is going to tag a long with us...Kenzie wants to share some of her happiness with her close friends!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Ramapo College Dance Marathon

Well, last Friday, the 23rd of April, we participated in our first ever Dance Marathon, held at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. Sponsored by Mr. Cupcakes, Panda Buffet, and many others, this marathon was organized by the students at the college to help benefit the patients of Children's Specialized Hospital, a Children's Miracle Network affiliate.

Mackenzie & Michael were in school all day long, and we left as soon as they got off the bus for the long ride up to Mahwah. I wish I could express how truly grateful I am for Nicole Fulmino, she always takes the very best care of us! She is our CMN Representative, and she made sure to tell us that there was going to be PLENTY of food for the kids, and she hooked us up with a room and free breakfast at the local Courtyard Marriott in Mahwah so we didn't have to drive home in the middle of the night. We'd be a mess without her!

As I said, we had never been to a Dance Marathon before, so we were not sure what to expect. We arrived and ate dinner with the college kids, walked around a bit to see what was what, and then things started to pick up! Our MC, Kristina, started us off and showed our nomination video to the participants. I got up and said just a few words, truly just expressing my thanks to everyone for all they were doing for our kids and others like them. You could tell by looking at the expressions on their faces as they watched our video how much it really brought it home for them.

We did a choreographed dance, there was a tug-o-war, group Twister, a Guitar Hero competition, and a Dance-Off that was judged by our wonderful Miss New Jersey, Ashley Schaffer. One of the Westpoint Cadets even grabbed up Michael in his wheelchair and they started a Conga Line! When I say that these kids were out of this world, I mean it!

Not only did we have a ton of fun playing games and dancing the night away, but we also got to hang out with the 2009 NJ Champion Family, the Clutters. They have been so kind to us, and have really showed us the ropes and been a great support to us at all the events. It means a lot to Mackenzie to have Caitlin there, too.

We also met the Riccio family, a wonderful Children's Specialized Family that has endured so much, and has really come out above it all! I think everyone became fast friends!

I will have a photo uploaded later today, but for now, enjoy the video that MACKENZIE created (with a little extra taping done by her mom! :) Mackenzie has created a YouTube account to document her adventures as a Champion Child! Check it out and pass it on!

Our next event is our big KICK-OFF! Yes, finally, we will be going to the North Bergen Wal*Mart for Mackenzie & Michael's formal announcement of their year as the Champions Across American for New Jersey. That will be May 6th! May 7th, we have a Meet & Greet Breakfast at SAMS Club in Freehold, and May 8th, we will be at two Costco's for Meet & Greets, one in Brick and the other in Manahawkin....all of this leads up to more mid-May events, and our big trip to WASHINGTON, D.C.!!! The kids are starting to get really excited and are counting the days. Michael is so siked to meet Obama, while Mackenzie is excited to meet all the other kids! It's going to be fabulous, we can't even wait!

Hope this blog finds you all well! See you soon!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Early Show on CBS

Yesterday, we had the fabulous opportunity to be on The Early Show on CBS. We were asked by Children's Miracle Network, a little over a week ago, if we wanted to appear to help support Dairy Queen, one of the largest sponsors that CMN has. Dairy Queen was promoting the 25th Birthday of the Blizzard, while traveling to 25 different cities in the US & Canada to give away free Blizzard treats and create awareness for Children's Miracle Network. The tour leads up to August 5th, which is Miracle Treat Day, a day where with a donation to CMN, you get a free Blizzard! It is the largest fundraiser that Dairy Queen has for CMN.

We all went to sleep as early as possible here in NJ on Thursday night, because we knew that we were going to have to get up VERY early for the ride to NYC. My father was nice enough to drive us there, as I am not too good about driving in the city.

At about 4am, my husband got the kids out of bed, and Michael jumped up and shouted "ICE CREAM!". He knew that today was DQ day! We dressed our sleepy heads and headed out into the dark of the early morning for what proved to be an easy ride to New York.

Of course, with our luck being what it is, we wound up being in the city on the ONLY day of the week where there was rain! But, we all smiled anyway, because we knew we were there for a good cause!

The show starts at 7am, but the first pan of the crowd does not happen until 7:30am. The great thing was, at exactly 7:31am, the rain stopped! We were all so happy! It was only a bit chilly, and we hung in there! We were surrounded by some Dairy Queen Franchise Owners, who were the greatest people. We met, Chad, the driver of the Blizzardmobile, who told us his stories of life in L.A. We spoke to Maria, who was one of the P.R. people for Dairy Queen, and she really made things happen.

Mackenzie wound up being on TV for most of the time that they took video outside with the crowd. She was in a great spot. When Dave Price, the weatherman and reporter for CBS & The Early Show came out and directed the news to the local weather, they zoomed right in on Michael and we got a great shot. It was a fantastic experience for them and for me & my Dad. Dave was so kind, and even came back out after the show so that he could get in a picture with Michael. I was really impressed with what a nice person he was.

We were asked if we wanted to go to Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ to see the Blizzardmobile in person from 1130-1pm, but truthfully, I was just SO tired that we decided to go home and take the rest of the day to relax. The kids were given free t-shirts and we hung around in them all day and had a nice time as a family.

Next up is the Dance Marathon in Ramapo College on April 23rd! CMN has even put us up at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Mahwah, NJ for the night to make us more comfortable. It is going to be a fantastic time!!!!!

(In photo: Dave Price from CBS & The Early Show, alongside Mackenzie, Michael, Caitlin (NJ Champion 2009) Chad, and Dairy Queen Franchise Owners)

Monday, March 15, 2010

National Pancake Day

Michael, Mackenzie, Miss New Jersey, and Kaitlin (NJ Champion of 2009) Celebrate National Pancake Day at the Brick IHOP.

On February 23, 2010, Michael & Mackenzie made their debut as the 2010 Champion Children for New Jersey. We [Mackenzie, Michael, my husband, Aaron & myself] were all invited out to the Brick, NJ location to try and raise money for Children's Miracle Network. Kaitlin Clutter, 2009 Champion, was there with her family, also. They immediately took us under their wing and were happy to answer any questions we all had about the journey that now sits before us! Kaitlin & Mackenzie went around from table to table, making sure that if people were eating a short stack, that they made a donation!

All the kids participated in some really fun events that day, which included learning how to make pancakes with Alex, the chef for the day, a pancake-stacking contest, and Mackenzie was even on the radio. Miss New Jersey helped the children for a good portion of the day, and even signed autographs for everyone!

Lou & Toni Maschi, the wonderful and generous owners of the Brick IHOP, were pushing everyone to the best of their abilities for the entire day. He really showed tons of support, not just for CMN, but for our kids who were there. He proudly presented all three children with a Pancake Day t-shirt that had been signed by the entire Brick IHOP staff, as well as tickets to the circus at Wachovia Center. We were unable to go due to snow, and so Lou made sure we got tickets to see the Philadelphia Flyers [our favorite hockey team!] a few weeks later. Lou, Toni, and their entire staff are the reason that CMN touches so many. They truly helped spread the word about the cause behind the donation, and it SHOWED! We found out just a few days ago from our NJ CMN Representative that the Brick, NJ IHOP that we were at was the #1 fundraising restaurant in the country; bringing in a whopping $14,000+ for the day! Overall, over $2.3 million dollars was contributed from IHOP's all over the nation. We were just proud to be apart of that, whether we were #1 or not.

Right now, we are looking ahead to the Ramapo Dance Marathon at the end of April. Until then you can check out our caringbridge website, created in memory of my mother, and in honor of my children:

Stay tuned!

Mackenzie and Michael's Story

Mackenzie and Michael
Ages 10 and 8
Car Accident

Children’s Specialized Hospital

It was supposed to be a normal day for Mackenzie and Michael, who were living with their grandmother for the summer. On their way home from Chuck E. Cheese, a truck hit the car their grandmother was driving. Tragically, the accident was so severe their grandmother did not survive. Mackenzie and Michael were left in comas with traumatic brain injuries.

Mackenzie suffered an open skull fracture and a fractured collarbone. Michael suffered a more serious brain injury known as “sheering” where nerves were severed causing a decrease in neurological and motor functions. Both children were treated at Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Mackenzie went home a little over a month later, having regained some use of the right side of her body. Michael was an inpatient for four months and underwent coma stimulation and many intensive therapies to get him breathing on his own and to regain the use of some motor function.

“I had never heard of this hospital, but doctors who referred us said it was the best children’s hospital in the state," said their mother Nicole. “That turned out to be a huge understatement.”

Mackenzie, 10, and Michael, 8, still miss their grandmother, but they know she is watching over them as they lead happy lives with the support of their parents.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

About Walmart and Sam’s Club

Wal-Mart has supported Children’s Miracle Network since 1987. Since then, Children’s Miracle Network and Wal-Mart have worked tirelessly together to help children by raising money for children’s hospitals. Walmart and Sam’s Club associates, customers and members have raised more than $500 million for children’s hospitals during the 23 year relationship. This is the second year Walmart and Sam’s Club have sponsored the Champions program.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Champions presented by Walmart and Sam’s Club

Champions presented by Walmart and Sam’s Club is a Children's Miracle Network program that brings attention to the important work being done at children’s hospitals by honoring remarkable children who have faced severe medical challenges.

The Champions program designates a champion child in every state who has bravely battled a serious injury or illness. The champions represent the nearly 17 million children treated at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals every year. The 2010 champions have dealt with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses including genetic diseases, heart transplants and traumas, as well as life-threatening staph infections.

As part of Champions presented by Walmart and Sam’s Club, the champions travel for a week in June to Washington, D.C., where champions traditionally meet with their state senators on Capitol Hill, and the President of the United States during a visit to the White House. The family then travels to Orlando, Fla., for a second week in November. There, champions meet Children’s Miracle Network sponsor, hospital and media partners who all convene to celebrate a year of medical miracles during the Children’s Miracle Network Celebration event at Walt Disney World Resort.