This post is made possible by support from Reward Volunteers. All opinions are my own.
During our family’s recent journey with my father-in-law through the hospice process and his eventual passing away from terminal throat cancer, the life season demanded a focus almost exclusively on him: his medical needs and his emotional navigation of death and dying as our house started to look like a durable medical equipment supply store.
Not that I approached it from a “what about me?” perspective but I was taken aback, heartened, and SHOCKED on the rare occasions when someone would say “What about you? How are you doing?” One steadfast hospice volunteer, who came to sit with Dad weekly, always said, “You know I am here for you as much as for him” (at which point I would immediately escape to the bedroom for a nap).
Similar to the way our family members’ less immediate needs got overlooked during Dad’s illness, siblings of kids dealing with life-threatening illnesses and intensive special needs often inadvertently get pushed to the back burner of life. As a family tries to cope logistically and emotionally with keeping the ill child alive, moments small and big (a third-grade holiday play, a need to say, “Mom, Lindsey was mean to me today on the playground”) get lost in the cacophony.
These kids are as heroic as their siblings who are fighting a more visible battle.
What did approximately a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares have to do with a filling the gaps in the lives of sibling superheroes?
The morning of February 5, 2017, dawned chilly and clear, exactly the kind of weather marathon runners crave.
But I wasn’t there to run (and technically arrived long before the sun). I was there to help fortify the runners of the Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon.
Reflecting on my food-prep team’s work that day, making more peanut butter and jelly quarters than we could possibly count, I am reminded that race-day volunteers may not cover 26.2 physical miles and there aren’t any medals, but it still is an accomplishment of its own kind. Like the participants in all the various projects represented over at Reward Volunteers, we are able to share in dividends like these:
We get to support others who are working toward their goals.
Marathoners train for months leading up to the race, battling self-doubt and pushing their bodies to do things they aren’t sure they can do. When you’re one of the first people they see after crossing that finish line, and you’re able to help them refill their physical tanks after using up all their inner stores, it’s an important role.
We get to meet new people.
I had a crackerjack team of fellow sandwich-makers that morning, many of whom I had never met before and wouldn’t have met had we not found ourselves elbow deep in peanut butter on a frigid Sunday morning. It was a way to establish some new bonds with fellow Tallahassee community members.
We get to be part of a community.
This one is a bit hard for me. I was already a member of the running community, because I was a runner for years. But a cardiac issue has curtailed my running; this is disappointing since most of my social network was composed of runners and Saturdays usually were kicked off by a joint run followed up with brunch. Making these sandwiches, supporting other runners, was a way to still be a part of it all.
Some details in life are critical yet unheralded. Runners who don’t have access to nutrition right after a race have a physical problem (because they desperately need to replace burned calories). If no one secured the food donations, planned out the post-race celebration area, opened the bread, spread the peanut butter and jelly, cut the sandwiches, and made them easy to access, the post-race celebration would be dampened as hangry runners tried to cope.
Proceeds from this marathon supported the Hang Tough Foundation, which has a mission of helping siblings of sick kids enjoy the freedom of childhood at a time when their parents’ attention is diverted.
With every peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made, I knew eventually a kid would be shown by Hang Tough “this is for you too.”
More About the Reward Volunteers Program
In case the Reward Volunteers Program is new to you, here are some of the basics:
- It’s a site that allows you to log your volunteer hours and keep a record of all the good you’re putting into the world.
- By logging your hours, you (or your organization) can win prizes.
- Reward Volunteers also provides information about volunteering opportunities in your area.
- Organizations also benefit when they register to be a Reward Volunteers organization and their volunteers log their hours.
For more information, click here (or let me know your questions and I’ll get you some answers!).