Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ayla's Stocking: The True Gifts of Christmas

Last year I promised a dear friend of mine that I would create a blog post in support of a Christmas Project that she was doing. Then the Christmas season began, and some difficulties hit me full force, and all to suddenly Christmas was over and her project was done and I was left feeling like a jerk-friend. 

LUCKILY, she is doing her Christmas Project again this year. So. I hope I can redeem myself by writing this post. 

The 'good friend' that I speak of actually frequents my blog often (and also hangs out with me on some of my family vacas ;): ms. Julie O'Brien. Here's a couple recaps of blogs about her that I have wrote in the past here and here. There's a lot to write about, let me tell you. She's one of a kind and one of the most spectacular ladies I know. 


julie helping me wrangle my one year old at disney land this last summer. need i say more? #shesamazing
Nearly two years ago my friend Julie faced an experience that was heart breaking, to say the very least. Her baby daughter, Ayla, contracted a deadly illness. She was transported to the Children's Hospital in Calgary, Alberta where Julie and her family were able to reside with Ayla and stay near her side. The Doctors soon determined that Ayla would likely not survive. Julie and her family were able to move to the Rotary Flames house by the hospital and wait for Ayla's passing.

ms. ayla and her momma.

I cannot imagine facing this trial. I cannot imagine Julie's pain. 

I still remember the phone call in the middle of the night when Julie called to tell me that Ayla had passed. I remember hanging up the phone after speaking with her, tears running down my cheeks, and thinking "How can Julie ever mend from this?... How will she ever be okay?" 

Two years later, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the wonderful example of perseverance and courage that she continues to display in the face of her difficulties. 

Last year Julie began a project called Ayla's Stocking. It's a project geared towards helping families who have sick children and are residing at the Calgary Children's Hospital, to be able to enjoy Christmas as they should. Julie collects toys and stocking stuffers and gifts for children and then delivers it to the hospital so the children can enjoy it on Christmas morning. There is a list of suggestions of things that can be donated and more information on the project here

Or here's a list here: 

"- Infant rattles, rings, teether type toys
Gift cards that can be given to families (Toys R Us, Walmart, Tim Horton's...)
Pyjamas of varying sizes
Craft kits (with supplies all enclosed) or small boxes of pencil crayons, crayons, markers, etc.
Musical toys (anything that plays sounds or music, push button toys...)
Slippers (children and adults)
One-size fits all stretchy gloves
Toques and winter hats
Books (mostly infant and teen books)
These are just some ideas, if you have ones of your own then by all means go for it."

I believe in this project and the good that it can accomplish. Having had to be in the hospital with my child in the past, I know how much joy it brings to children to have even the smallest of toys to lighten their worries and hurts. 

If you don't know how to reach Julie and it's more convenient to arrange pick up or drop off's with me, then please feel free to do so and I will make sure that everything gets to her. 

The deadline for drop off's is the 19th of December. 

I am deeply grateful for my friendship with Julie. She has taught me so much about kindness and charity and forgiveness. Though Christmas is a difficult time for her, containing difficult and painful memories, she has shown me what it means to look past myself and love others by reaching out in kindness to those who are hurting and in need of love. 

And isn't that what the true gifts of Christmas are really all about? 

"We all enjoy giving and receiving presents. But there is a difference between presents and gifts. The true gifts may be part of ourselves-giving of the riches of the heart and mind-and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents bought at the store. Of course, among the greatest of gifts is the gift of love..." 
- James E. Faust

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