Saturday we packed our truck, and we headed out to DFW airport. I watched the planes, and I tried to keep my anxiety of flying at bay. We met my gracious aunt Caron who flew in from Missouri to fly with us to DC to watch Jude. What a sweet, and selfless gesture from her. Once we had retrieved my aunt we checked in, and they assisted us in getting on the plane with Jude. They took his wheelchair downstairs, and thanks to our friends at American Airlines for making sure we were comfortable. The flight there was great until the last 15 minutes, when it was obvious Jude's ears were killing him. I tried giving him a bottle, and opening his mouth, but it was no good. He screamed for the last fifteen minutes of the flight, and one gentleman in first class was not happy. I apologized to everyone, and most everyone just smiled, and said they totally understood.
My aunt flying with us
Jude's first plane ride:
Emily's First Plane ride:
Once we got into DC, we were greeted by the wonderful staff of Prudential, and the National association of secondary school Principals. They made sure everyone had their luggage, they loaded us on a beautiful bus, and we headed out to the hotel. On our way we were given some history on specific monuments, bridges, and rivers. Once we were at the hotel, they explained they were taking my baby girl to the students floor, and we were to go to our room. I was letting Emily go for the first time, and it wasn't easy. Little miss independent rushed away from me with a gung ho attitude, and she was very self confident. After getting into her room they took her to do radio, and TV interviews, and us parents were escorted to an information meeting. After our meeting we then went to an amazing dinner hosted by Prudential where we watched amazing video's made by many of the children being honored. There were 102 kids that were state honorees, and I have never been so humbled in my life. These kids who seek no recognition performed amazing selfless tasks. One of Emily's new friends Austen planted and maintained a garden for a low income area that yielded more than 7000 pounds of vegetables, and fruit.....and he is only 12. Throughout the following days we would meet more children that would take our breath away.
The next day we boarded a bus, separate from Emily, and we went to Arlington Cemetery for an amazing tour. I was in awe while walking around reading the stones of those that protected our country. I approached JFK'S grave with hesitation, and much emotion. When walking away I saw Robert Kennedy's grave, Ted Kennedy, and many generals, admirals, and more. It was history which I am always interested in. I listed with fascination as we were told this cemetery was originally Robert E Lee's plantation, and the graves started in Mrs. Lee's rose garden. History enthralls me! We met up with Emily's group, and then we all walked to the tomb of the unknown solider. We soon began to hear the chimes of the clock, and it was time for the changing of the guard. We were all teary as the soldier was inspected, and then the Sergeant approached our group. He whispered some instructions, and then Four of our kids laid a wreath marked "Spirit of the community award" in front of the tomb. That's right, our group laid a wreath at the graved, hooray for Prudential. After our tour we headed back to the hotel tired, and sunburned. Unbeknownst to me, DC can get VERY hot!
That night we readied ourselves for the awards ceremony honoring all 102 state honorees. The awards banquet was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Prudential shut the museum down for us, and we had our dinner in the rotunda with the dinosaurs. It was a night of a lifetime. On top of that the key note speaker was Condoleezza Rice, someone I so admire. I was at a loss for words, and Emily inquired who she was, because she could tell how affected I was. I explained that she was the Secretary of State with President Bush, and at one point the most powerful woman in the world. Emily then listened to her address with fascination. I wasn't sure how Dr Rice would relate to the children, but she was amazing!! She told stories the kids could understand, and because of her Emily now says she wants to work in DC someday. Emily then met the Dr, and introduced herself, and her charity. She shook Condoleezza's hand, and they had their picture made together. As we walked off I leaned down to Emily and said "What an honor it was for her to meet you", and I winked at her. Emily smiled real big, and just said "Oh mom you are silly!"
The next day we had the national awards ceremony in the Hall Of Flags at the Chamber of Commerce. We looked around the room in fascination, and looked at each flag that represented an explorer. Soon the awards ceremony started, and we were all a bit nervous......except Emily. Why? Because Emily had several kids picked out that she wanted to win, and she wasn't one of them. So they began calling the names of the kids that were the national honorees, and tears started flowing. One by one we watched these amazing kids walk to the podium. They called Megan Johnson, and she was so excited that even Mike started bawling. She ran to the podium in such a way that everyone laughed. She then explained that to date she had received 27 facial surgeries to try to correct a cleft pallet, and other abnormalities. Megan smiled through her deformities, and explained how she understood the seclusion the homeless feel from society. She said she understood because she too felt secluded from what society deems a normal child. She explained how she has passed out thousands of blankets to the homeless, helped people find homes, and sold necklaces to earn the money to do so. We were all so touched. Emily did not get called, but Ben her fellow Texas honoree did, and we yelled for joy when his name was called. To date Ben has raised more than 850,000 dollars for Scottish Rite Hospital through his charity Kid Swing a gold tournament for kids.
That night we went on amazing boat ride up the Potomac where they served us another amazing dinner. We watched the adults break loose and dance their little heart outs, and Mike, and I laughed there was no alcohol involved. Mike took plenty of pictures, and explained he would be black mailing everyone. The most impressive dancer was a 72 year old grandmother from Japan. She said she still runs everyday, and two years ago completed s 27 mile marathon.......wow!
The next morning Emily had appointment set with her US state Senators. We were led to the capitol where we stood overcome by the very history under our feet. Then Emily was led underground to the Senators office, and we passed offices marked with amazing names. We passed "John McCain", and then "John Kerry", and more until we rounded a corner and saw the Texas Flag. Then we saw the words Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Emily entered the office. She was not able to meet with Emily, but her assistant was. Senator John Cornyn did meet with Emily, and shook her hand. He congratulated her, and then listed to Emily's ambition, and took a picture with her. We were so honored, and I hope the people Emily met during this trip can help her further her goal to touch more children's lives.
Emily and Ben off to meet their senators:
I would like to thank my aunt for taking such good care of Jude. I never could have taken this amazing trip with Emily without her help. A big thank you to my other aunt Docia who came over to watch Jude while we got ready, and then took our puppy home with her for the weekend. A big thanks to Prudential, and NASSP for sponsoring these amazing function. None of these children do their community service to receive a reward, but good for these company's for recognizing these amazing children's efforts. By enforcing the need for community service these company's are only helping the future of America. A big thank you to everyone who helped us get to where we were going this weekend. Also, a big thanks to the amazing parents we met, I know how much each of you do to help your kids help others. What was so amazing to me is that these kids left even more motivated than they were before. Last night Emily printed dozens of flyers about her cut a thon fundraiser beind held 5/23. She then went door to door passing them out, and trying to recruit kids to help her make 200 Smile Boxes that day.
We are now home, and tired. I go back to work tomorrow, but inspired by our nations history. I may even work at completing a goal I have had for a long time. I will talk more about that later. Jude seems very happy to be home. Even though he suffered many seizures while away, he did very well.
Emily says thumbs up for a great trip!