It was an early morning our last day in Florida with Children’s Miracle Network, but the kids were roused awake with the promise of a breakfast buffet and it did not disappoint. When Brenna went for seconds, she came back with a plate full of bacon!
And then, Children’s Miracle Network had a surprise for us – they brought in all of the Disney characters! Everyone around us was laughing because Brenna just about jumped out of Evan’s lap with excitement when the characters waltzed in waving.
After a filling breakfast and time with our favorite characters, it was time to gear up for the Big Finale – the Momentum Closing Ceremony hosted by Nick Cannon!
CMN broadcast the whole ceremony on Facebook Live to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to support children’s hospitals across the country. All of the major corporate sponsors, CMN staff, some hospital staff (like ours!) were there for the big event, and each of the state’s Champions were introduced and walked across a stage.
Brenna was so nervous leading up to her big stage entrance. I was a well of helpful information, trying to prepare her (walk carefully! speak loudly if Mr. Nick asks you a question!) and she was clinging to my leg, saying she wanted me to walk with her. But as we watched the other kids, she grew calmer about it, and when the 10-year-old girl from Indiana behind us began Facebook Live-ing it, Brenna was making goofy faces into the phone and forgot about her nerves.
They called her name, and she strutted up like a BOSS.
High fives and cheers! (the three people closest to her are from our local hospital!)
I was trying to videotape but had to turn it off. Not that I was crying or anything. No sir.
I asked Brenna a few weeks after we returned from our trip how she felt when she walked on the stage at the ceremony. She smiled and said “special.”
Nick Cannon was real pumped about Brenna’s purple kicks, which had light-up laces (a gift from our children’s hospital CMN team!), and then she got to give Miss America a hug at the end of the walkway.
After each of the Champion children was introduced and they ran through various promotional videos and activities, it was time to wrap it up, and all of the kids walked back across the stage as a group, giving high fives. They collectively sat on the walkway leading to the bigger stage, but Brenna was sauntering along with another little friend and they apparently didn’t feel like stopping with the group.
They walked all the way up to the presenters, and Marie Osmond pulled Brenna right into her lap! Marie is one of CMN’s co-founders, along with John Schneider,who played Bo Duke in Dukes of Hazzard.
Marie’s giving her loving squeezes and John’s rubbing her back, and Nick says “Let’s keep the applause going for Brenna and all of the Champions!” And it’s such a surreal moment for us, to think about how she’s grown from a critically ill infant to a now five-year-old child who, although she still has many daily health care needs and challenges, is learning how to step outside of her comfort zone and show the world her confidence in who she is as God made her.
I’m not sure I could truly recount the emotions and experiences of not only this trip but the entire year of Brenna serving as the CMN Champion Ambassador for Illinois. Not only have we gotten to experience and see so much, but working alongside the other families has transformed our hearts as we’ve gotten to hear their stories and learn their journeys. The experience has instilled in my children a deeper appreciation for what other people are living with, and they have had the opportunity to get to know children with a vast spectrum of conditions, backgrounds and differences.
It was a privilege to be entrusted to represent our state within this wonderful organization this year, and it was a privilege to be a part of this journey with all of these other amazing children and families. Thank you, Children’s Miracle Network, for this incredible opportunity!