My friend, Jamie, is not only my life-long best friend, but my sister as well. She is just a normal girl, from a normal family, who has endured one of the most heart-breaking situations that could happen to a person. I admire her more than any other human being on this earth and think she is the most deserving person I know. Here is Jamie’s story:
My nephew, Parker Underwood, was diagnosed with AML leukemia, a type of blood cancer, at the age of 19 months. My sister had taken Parker to the doctor many times, but the doctors kept sending her away. Jamie continued to insist there was something wrong; unfortunately, her instincts were correct. Finally, a doctor checked his white blood count, he immediately told her to take Parker to the Children’s Hospital. She and her husband were told to not even go home and pack. The doctor wanted them to go directly there. This began the Underwood’s battle with leukemia. The details of this story are heart-wrenching and difficult for me to write; however, even through this hardship, my sister was able to document the ups and downs of their family’s journey at The Adventures of Parker Underwood.
Jamie was a rock throughout this entire experience. She was pregnant at the time of Parkers illness and had to stay nine long months in the Ronald McDonald house sharing a room with her husband, daughter, and soon-to-be-born newborn. Being close to Parker was more important than any type of un-comfort Jaime physically felt. Paige was born halfway through Parker’s hospital stay. The situation with Parker was already mentally challenging, but Jaime still kept her spirits high for her little girls and Parker, even at times when at the end of the day, exhaustion crept up on her from routine hospital visits and caring for her sick child.
Jamie showed such an inner strength and was able to give day after day offering hope to the other patients as well to her and their families. She made me want to be a better person helping me to put my trials and tribulations of my life into perspective. Jamie’s example of how she handled such difficulties helped do this for many members of my family as well. People who had not spoken in years put aside their differences and bonded together over prayers of healing for Parker and support of my sister and her family.
While Parker was going through his chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, they contacted Make a Wish Foundation only to find out it was only for children over the age of three, so Parker was not eligible. She soon found out there was a definite need for support of families with children under the age of three.
Parker passed on November 17, 2007. In memory of her son, Jamie started the nonprofit organization, Parker’s Pals to help children diagnosed with cancer under the age of three. Since starting this organization, she has single-handedly organized several fundraisers, auctions, and golf tournaments, and has raised over $75,000 to help 24 families. Let me tell you what this really means. Jamie drives to Orlando and personally delivers Parker’s Pails, art supplies for the kids (several tots have siblings hanging around the hospital all day), food for families, gift cards for restaurants, and offers love and support for each “adopted family.” She also organizes an annual auction and golf tournament, calling and emailing thousands of people to sponsor her events in the months leading up to the events. Then she spends days grouping the donated items into baskets and presentations. On the day of the event, she sets everything up, puts on a dinner, organizes a golf tournament, and still has energy to eat, bid, and play golf. She does this all for free. Besides the cost of supplies, 100% of donations go to Parker’s Pals’ families. She works countless hours donating her time, love and energy to others every day.
You would think that was beyond enough for one person to do, but she also tends to her home, spends playtime with her children, nurtures her marriage to her husband, and has a very close relationship with God. She truly leads by example and is very involved in her community, church and her daughters’ school. She even (mostly) has a clean house! She is still my sister, so I can pick on her a little.
I love and admire Jamie and am glad to have her as my sister, but more importantly, as my best friend. She deserves this trip more than anyone I know, and I would be thrilled to have her by my side at BlogHer. It would be like we were little kids again, sharing a room, going to “school,” and playing with our friends.