Sunday, July 18, 2010

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation~TendHer Heart Luncheon

Last month I received two invitations to the Charles "Peanut" Tillman Cornerstone Foundation TendHer Heart Luncheon. This is an annual event put on by the foundation to honor mothers of critically and chronically ill children for the sacrifices they make to care for their children. The brunch gives mothers an opportunity to take some time for themselves and talk to other mothers in similar situations.

Charles Tillman started this program after his three month old daughter was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Shortly thereafter, it was decided that she would need a heart transplant. It wasn't long before they found a heart for his daughter however unfortunately, it was rejected by their physician. Sometime later, at the age of six months, she received her heart transplant. As a result of this experience, he and his wife spent several weeks in the hospital. During that time, they saw other parents caring for their seriously ill children and more often than not, it was the mother who stayed at the hospital to care for their children, often giving up their jobs and making sacrifices to be with their children. As a result of this experience, he decided he wanted to do something to honor these mothers and the TendHer Heart Luncheon was started. The luncheon was a success and is now one of five programs administered by the Charles Tillman Foundation whose mission is to provide opportunities and resources to children or families in need. But you may be more familiar with Charles "Peanut" Tillman's on-screen persona as Number 33, left cornerback for the Chicago Bears.

The invitations were sent to top three pediatric hospitals in the area and the Make a Wish Organization. I received the invitation from Big Academic Medical Center and from our contact at the Make a Wish Foundation. I was so flattered. In addition, they offered a shuttle bus from each of the three pediatric hospitals for those without transportation. Everyone was invited to use the shuttles regardless of whether or not your child was in the hospital. I drove to the hotel.

The TendHer Heart Luncheon was held downtown at a luxury hotel. Although I RSVP'd I wasn't sure if I would be able to go. Dear Son was up several times last night and has been suffering from more seizures lately. I spoke with Ped Neuro Doc on Friday and we increased one of medications so hopefully, Dear Son will be more comfortable soon.

The luncheon just happened to coincide with the filming of Transformers 3 which meant several detours. The mayor closed down several major streets for the filming which is perhaps why the carriage ride was empty. Regardless, it was pretty and the perfect day for a gourmet brunch.
The luncheon was held in the Chagall Ballroom.

Of course, I was all dressed up in my "Sunday's Best" according to the dress code. I was pretty sure this meant "new dress" so I went out and purchased one. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered what it said, I am pretty sure I would have read, "new dress", lol. Of course my earrings didn't photograph very well so it looks like I chose not to wear any which was not the case.

Soon I arrived at the ballroom. As you know, since tablescaping is my hobby, I couldn't help but take some pictures of the room. The chairs were outfitted with pink and green satin ribbons. Pink and green were the luncheon colors, both of which are also two of my favorite colors.

The luncheon was buffet style, hence no plates at the table. Instead, there were matching green napkins and gift boxes for the mothers.
Here is another picture of the room. I tried to get a few other pictures of the room however the ballroom faced the street and the outside light was in front of me instead of behind me so the photos turned out too dark to share.

As we went up to the buffet table, I had a chance to talk to Charles Tillman. I thanked him for the invitation. We chatted a bit and he talked about his daughter's surgery and how the luncheon was started. He talked about how his situation was highlighted due to his celebrity status and how his daughter's situation changed him and made him want to do something more for these mothers. I thought it was great that he used his celebrity status as a platform for his foundation. He was a very kind and extremely personable man. I was also impressed that he not only stayed for the entire luncheon but also was very interested in speaking to as many mothers as he could.
From there I proceeded on to the buffet. The buffet was located on the other side of the room so it was difficult to get some pictures however I was able to get a few photos of the dessert table that was located near our table. The strawberries were delicious; everyone especially loved them when they were coated with a little chocolate from the fountain.

Another guest helping themselves while I took pictures. I am sure she liked that.

After we were done eating, he took the time to thank everyone for coming. He talked at length about his daughter's medical situation-how they found out, how they felt, what transpired and all of the emotions surrounding their ordeal. He talked about how the luncheon came about and how the invitations are sent to the social workers at the hospitals since they are the ones who know which families have the chronically or critically ill children.

He also invited mothers in the room to share their story or to share something about their child or situation. A dozen women or so shared their stories. It was really interesting to hear their stories. It seemed that no matter where you were in your own journey, you could always relate to what they were going through and the love they felt for their children. It was interesting too to watch Charles Tillman. He seemed genuinely interested in the stories as well and no one felt rushed. It was truly a lovely afternoon.

As I heard the stories and even shared one of my own. I recalled how difficult it was when he was just a baby and didn't meet any of his milestones. You will remember the story I wrote here, called, "Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful" when I had asked myself at the end of the first year, just what did I have. I had a baby that couldn't do anything but yet, I knew that when I held him close to my heart and hugged him, that he was perfect. As I searched for something, I realized that what he had was the fact that he was beautiful. And as the commercial went, "Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful" I said, Dear Son would say, "just love me because I am."

I couldn't help but be reminded of all of the lessons I learned along the way. As different women shared their stories, I remember thinking, "Oh, I remember when I/Dear Son went through that." It was really something to not only hear what other parents have been through, but also a little reminder of just how much my Dear Son has been through. It was exciting as well as different mothers shared their stories at my own table. One lady, had a child who has been at one of the hospitals for eight months. It was her first child and she's on a vent, has a trach and will go home for the first time next month. I was lucky enough to see her beautiful photo album that she brought along with memories of the last eight months. Another lady shared a story of her three year old and all of his issues. He has a catheter and wears a bag along with a multitude of issues. But when you see his picture, he is nothing short of the cutest three year old you would ever see. You could see he got his joy from his mother and pictures like those reminded me of my own beautiful son.
After everyone finished their stories, he thanked all of the mothers for coming. He thanked everyone for "dressing up, wearing their pearls and looking beautiful." You could tell he was genuine in wanting to make every mother in there feel good after knowing all that they have been through.

Next, he thanked his foundation board members for making it a great day as well as the hotel, which is one of his sponsors. Several of the board members also attended the luncheon.

Next, it was onto the presents. Every mother received a present from one of the jewelers. They brought out a pretty tray and each mother received this gift.

Inside each bag, was a necklace that was custom made for this event. It features two hearts; the larger heart signifies the mother, and the smaller heart, the child. Once I arrived home, I decided to stage it on some pink petals so you could see it better.

Here is another picture of the bag and of the necklace. I thought it looked like a flower when I staged it.

Each mother also received a little black box from the hotel.

Inside each box was some chocolates.

Next, they gave away some special baskets with different spa treats. Others received pink or green gift bags and the rest of us received Vera Bradley gift bags like this.

Let's see what's autographed photo of Number 33, Charles "Peanut" Tillman. Oh, Dear Son is going to like that.

You remember Dear Son used to have the Chicago Bears logo on his AFOs, back when he could stand. Now he has them on his hand splints.

Next, was the spa essentials from H2O. What mother couldn't use a little pampering?

And how nice was that, that it matched my bathroom.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon.

Note: Dear Son is eighteen years old and suffers from intractable seizures, dystonia and severe mental retardation as a result of a random mutation of the ARX gene; he was one of the first boys in the world to be discovered with his particular pattern of the gene mutation and appeared in the Journal of Neurology. Since that time, he has been diagnosed and suffers from a progressive neurological disease.


Anonymous said...

Dream Mom... you are just gorgeous in your "sunday best"!!!!!!!

Sounded like a wonderful event.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, lovely event! (for a lovely Mom!...oh, and all those other people, too...)

So glad you got to go.

Lois is right - you look FANTASTIC!!!!!

Anne in NY said...

That last comment was from me...sorry for the 'Anonymous..' - the field didn't take, I guess...

MFA Mama said...

What a wonderful event, and how nice that you were able to attend and be pampered a little! I'm so glad you got to sample the royal treatment :)

Angela said...

You look so beautiful!!!

I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself at the event.

Anne said...

That is just awesome. What a wonderful event and
so glad you were invited and shared the story with us.

ANewKindOfPerfect said...

Wow! What an amazing event! :) You look gorgeous in your new dress, and the gifts you got to take home are so fun. What a fun day!

jbbzmom said...

How beautiful you were as you participated in such a wonderful and giving event. I'm not a football fan, but I am now a football players fan!

Dream Mom said...

Thanks everyone for all of the nice compliments (blushing)!

jbbzmom-It's great to see you again. I've missed our little group; I need a knee replacement and can't participate like I used to.

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