Hope Stout: An Angel On Earth
"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand" - Randy Pausch
That is one of my favorite life quotes to live by. Life is not always fair. This is nothing new.
Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. He was a husband and a father to three small children. In August of 2007, Randy had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His Dr's informed him it was no longer treatable and that he had 3-6 months left to live.
He was 47 years old.
It is a tradition at the end of the semester for professors at Carnegie Mellon to deliver all the wisdom they wish to pass on to their students in a single lecture. On September 18, 2007 Randy gave his last lecture titled "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". The lecture isn't about dying. It's about the importance of overcoming obstacles in your life and seizing every moment, because "time is all you have, and you may find one day that you have less than you think" - another Pausch quote that I love. The lecture is about living each day to the fullest. And Randy did just that. He had a zest for life, all the way until the very end.
I've read his book and watched the YouTube video a dozen or more times; especially when I have been down on my luck. His quotes have stuck with me for years. I always try to live each day to the fullest. I go, go, go. I try to learn from the bad times. I have had to apply this to my life a lot in the past couple of years. Not "Why is this happening to me?" but instead, "What am I learning?"
These are the cards I have been dealt; how am I going to play the hand?
In the Summer of 2003, Hope Stout was diagnosed with osterosacoma, a common form of bone cancer found in teenagers. She had hurt her leg in a biking accident and when the injury persisted, her parents thought it was a re-injury so they, like most parents, did a quick trip to the Dr. to get a professional opinion. The Dr. told them to keep an eye on it. Hope had mentioned here and there over the next few weeks that it was bothering her. It was not until her parents noticed it swelling that they took her to the Dr and found out it was bone cancer. The world they knew instantly changed forever. In the weeks to come after that awful day (June 27, 2003) the Stout’s found out that the cancer had spread to Hope’s other leg and to her shoulder. To look at her, you would have no idea that this monster was inside of her and killing her.
These were Hope’s cards. How was she going to play the hand?
Hope was 12 years old.
I was recently introduced to Stuart and Shelby Stout, Hope’s parents. In the short time I have known the Stout's, I can tell you that they are good Christian people, with good Christian values and a big circle of support around them. Why had this happened to their sweet, seemingly healthy daughter? How could a strong, vivacious pre-teen have cancer throughout her entire body? She was just cheerleading and riding bikes with her friends and doing typical pre-teen things.
Word of Hope’s diagnosis spread like wildfire. The Stout’s were immediately overwhelmed with the reaction and outpour of the Charlotte community. Hope continued to be in and out of the hospital over the weeks doing chemotherapy, while they prayed daily for a miracle. The Make-A-Wish team came to visit Hope in those months. Make A Wish is a non-profit organization that grants life-changing wishes for children with a critical illness. The wish can be anything from a trip to Disney, to a meet and greet with your favorite actor or band. It can basically be anything. Most kids pick the trip to Disney. That’s most kids.
Hope Stout was not most kids.
While Hope’s dream was to one day be famous, the biggest concern on this feisty red head's mind was for the other ill children around her. One of the many things about this little girl that I love? Her love for all of those around her. Here she is, fighting for her own life and her biggest concern is for other children; the one’s that didn’t have a Mom or Dad to stay overnight with them and to take care of them while they were sick and in the hospital. She was often known to have her family running around and checking on the other children; did they need anything? Were they alone?
When Hope was asked her wish by the wish granter from Make-A-Wish, she asked how many children were on the list to have wishes granted. There were 155. After a short while, Hope decided that was her wish – to grant them all! It would cost over a million dollars. Now, I don’t know about you all, but I don’t know many (if any) 12 year olds that are that selfless. She could have picked anything – ANYTHING! And this is what she picked? You have got to be kidding me? Who is this angel here on Earth?
These were the cards Hope was dealt and she played the hand like a pro.
With the help of the Charlotte community, the Carolina Panthers Kevin Donnalley, WBT's Keith Larson, Nascar's Joe Gibb’s and so many others, on January 16th, 2004 at the Celebration of Hope Gala, The March Forth With Hope Foundation raised over a million dollars; $1,160,761.00 to be exact!
And yes, all the wishes were granted. All 155!
"The only difference between $1 and $1 million is faith and hope" - Cuz Wendy
When I was approached to help the Stout’s with their upcoming fundraiser Hope, Hops and Flip Flops, I was immediately in. A million times – yes! Hope’s wish was to continue to help ill children and to help provide financial assistance to the families of children facing life threatening illness. And while I never met Hope, after reading her parent’s book Hope’s Wish – How One Girl’s Dream Made Others Come True and listened to her interview with Keith Larson on WBT Radio, I felt like I knew this sweet angel. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet her. How someone who was on this earth for 12 short years made such an impact, and almost 15 years later is still making an impact. I saw her sweet smile on the cover of The Charlotte Observer a few weeks ago.
I feel like Hope seized every moment she had while she was here. She played the cards she was dealt with such grace and maturity and selflessness. In those 6 months that she fought, she did more from her bed than most people can do that are healthy. Her little body couldn't do all the things she wanted it to do, but that didn't stop this determined young lady.
Since The Celebration of Hope Gala in 2004, the Hope Stout foundation has granted hundreds of wishes and they are still raising money. This month on Sunday, July 28th the Stout's are hosting a fundraiser at Brewers at 4001 Yancey to raise money for ill children and to keep Hope's wish alive. The fundraiser will have everything from raffles to giveaways to a Hope Stout beer! Old Navy is on board to give away flip flops (because Hope loved her flip flops), Sir Purr from the Carolina Panthers and Homer from the Charlotte Knights will be there. There will be a lot going on; the amount of people that have wanted to jump in and be a part of this event has been overwhelming. I love when I can count on my hometown to step up and give back. I hope you can all join us and I only wish we had more caring and giving people in this world like Hope Stout.
If you are interested in tickets, click HERE
If you are interested in donating, click HERE