Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please open your mind, your heart, and your wallets.

I debated for awhile whether or not this was the appropriate forum to discuss such a touchy subject as mental health, but I figured, why have a blog if you can't talk about the things that are most important to you? So here's the story I'd like to share today-

My first best boy...Gannon

Sometime during the Fall of '06, at eight years old, my nephew Gannon was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. At the time, he was one of the youngest diagnosed case in the history of the disease. This came as a shock to my sister Amanda and her husband Greg, Gannon's parents. They chose not to share this information with the rest of the family until they came to terms with it themselves. So last spring they broke the news...Gannon is sick. I remember the day that I got the email from my sister like it was yesterday. Our entire family was distraught, confused, angry, sympathetic, and just about every other emotion you can imagine (excluding joy and happiness of course). But just like we always do, we banded together and went to work. We learned about the disease. We offered support to Amanda and Greg and their three kids (Gannon has a little brother and sister too- Jack and Elise). We learned that there was going to be a 5K walk to help raise money for the organization that raises funds and awareness for everyone effected by mental health issues. We jumped in with both feet and got down to business, collecting donations and recruiting team members for our walk. In Sept. of 07, we spent the day on Belle Isle in Detroit, walking, eating, dancing, having a great time. We had 16 registered walkers (our goal was 10!), but SO many more people showed up to cheer us on. We raised over $5,000 (our goal was $1,500!!!). We wore our "Gannon's Gang" t-shirts with pride and Gannon even won an autographed picture of Tim Allen! He was pumped!

Gannon's Gang 2007

Christmas 2007

So far, I make it sound like one big party. Don't get me wrong, we did have a great time the day of the walk. That was one of the good days. What I haven't talked about are all of the bad days. Some of you know that Gannon had a difficult year. He began to struggle in October. By March he had to be hospitalized and he struggled to make his way back from there. He returned to school in May and attended a half day with a full time aid for the remainder of the year. On a happier note, he surprised us by picking up where he left off socially AND academically. While Amanda and Greg considered other options for his education this fall, they realized as time went on that he fits best right where he is. The decision was made to promote him to the 5th grade with his class this fall. He will continue to receive accommodations and he will keep his aid as well. But those things aside, he's just a regular kid. On the last day of school, Amanda attended the 4th grade clap out. Everyone lines the hall and claps as the 4th graders leave the elementary school for the last time. Watching him walk down the hall with this big grin on his face, high fiving everyone made her realize they had made the right decision and brought hope for the coming year. Clearly, it's not going to be easy. But his courage and determination continue to inspire us and drive us to advocate for him and for everyone who suffers similarly.

Gannon, Abbey and Baby Sydney (their cousin)

Gannon is now in 5th grade. Things have been difficult lately with the constant change in medications and the sometimes volatile temperament that comes with it. There are days that everything is fine and that you wouldn't know there was anything wrong, other than the constant "spinning" that happens whenever Gannon walks anywhere. Then there are days when his grandpa (my step-Dad) has to come remove him from the situation because he is having a really bad day and just needs to get away from it all. The whole situation breaks my heart. Gannon was the first grandchild (therefor my first nephew) and we used to hang out ALL the time. He was at my parents house constantly when I still lived there, I would take him to the barn with me to go riding, go to the playground, snuggle up and watch movies together, all sorts of fun stuff. And Gannon was the ring bearer in our wedding last year. Point is, I couldn't love him more if he were my own. And I'm willing to do anything I can to make his life (and his family's life) a better place to be.

At our wedding, November '07...what a handsome dude!!!

Here's where you come in. Follow this link:
Donate some money if you can. Sign up to be a walker if you're up for having some fun. My bestest buddy Jamison and I will be heading out (possibly this weekend!) on our now-annual "Pub Crawl for Gannon". Last year we decided to hit up some local bars on a Saturday night looking for donations and we were amazed by the outpouring of generosity. We raised over $300 in one night and can't wait to go do it again. Every little bit helps. This is the WORLD WIDE web...just think what would happen if everybody that has access to this blog donated $1? Or even $5 for that matter! Think about your family, think about your children you have or may have someday. Think about what you would want people to do if you were in these shoes. We're all in this together and this is a great way to "pay it forward". So please, donate if you can, pray for us if you can't. Our family will appreciate it more than you will ever know. If you have any other questions, or need to contact me for any other reason, I can be reached at Thanks.

Thanks for your support!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. There is such a stigma attached to mental diseases and I'm so glad when someone can open up and share their experiences with them. A good friend of mine has a brother who suffers from schizophrenia and I know quite a few people who suffer from PTSD (my husband included). How amazing that your family has banded around your nephew - I'm sure the support is more appreciated by him than you will ever know. said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I think more people need to talk and share about mental illness. I'm embarrassed to say my first introduction to schizophrenia was on True Life. My heart really went out those brave kids. And my heart goes out to your family. You've really banded together in a touching and creative way. So inspiring! You're in my thoughts...