It does, indeed, take a village to raise a child.
Despite the liberal overtones from the title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, we believe that it definitely takes a village to help parents raise children. As a family planted firmly in the heartland of conservative Mormon Utah, we frequently discuss this simple and profound statement about collective social responsibility.
Over the last few years it has become increasingly clear that many institutions and organizations around us, from the Mormon Church to the Orem City Recreation Center, exist to strengthen families by providing assistance, resources and support for all parents trying to raise strong, capable children.
For example, 11 years ago Carol Jean Bishop organized a small PTA Family Fun Run at Lakeridge Junior High to celebrate National Family Week, show support to a local child with cancer, and raise money for Make-A-Wish Utah. After 11 years this small fun run has become an annual tradition for many families, in part, because the motto of this PTA event is "Strengthen Your Family by Helping Others.”
Over the past three years, this 5K race has become much more than a PTA event or Make-A-Wish fundraiser for our family. It has become a family reunion of sorts.
Two years ago, our children Tori and Madelena were the "poster kids" for this community race. At that time we were in crisis mode, struggling to juggle the demands of managing three children recovering from chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants while still helping our other two children. As we stood on the makeshift stage in front of Lakeridge Jr. High School in 2013, we looked at hundreds of friends, church leaders, teachers and families who had schlepped our kids to school, brought us dinners, assisted with homework and otherwise stepped in to help us when we needed it the most. It was a humbling and powerful experience to be on that stage with our children.
Last year, despite being emotionally exhausted from having buried Tori a few weeks earlier, we stood at the base of the stage with our community family to support Ricky Stafford, still weak from ongoing chemotherapy treatments. We have developed a strong kinship with the Staffords, not only because Maddie, Emma and Ricky attend school together, but also because Ricky’s father, a vice principal at Lakeridge, had become a surrogate father figure for the girls over the past two years.
This year was quite different from previous years. We arrived early to help set up for the race. The time we spent blowing up balloons and cutting bagels was nothing compared to the hundreds of hours of service given by dozens of PTA families who had gathered silent auction items or collected food for hundreds of Fun Run families who would soon gather in the Lakeridge Jr. High courtyard.
This year we stood beside the Staffords as this year's "poster kid," Greyson, a local 6-year-old suffering from nemaline myopathy, was lifted on stage by his father. As we introduced ourselves to the family after the race, we recognized the exhausted look of parents who are stretched to the breaking point, living in a stage of constant crisis.
As we shared stories of gratitude and support, Ricky joined us at our table. He had just finished the race looking hale and hearty, compared to last year when the leukemia treatments were wreaking havoc on his body.
Upbeat music played in the background as children played with balloons, high school football players piled bagels on their plate and adults caught up with old friends. The Family Fun Run was the perfect family reunion, giving us a chance to reconnect and personally thank those families who helped us during our time of need, and providing our family the opportunity to help others in our village.