We were extremely overwhelmed with this weekend a year ago (read more here) and completely honored to return this year. It was indeed a special weekend and its taken me a few days to put the weekend into words.
As I've tried to wrap my mind around how special our New Jersey trip was, one word continues to come to mind. People. People have the ability to be your biggest blessing or cause the deepest heartache. This past weekend, people were the good! Let me share.
Throughout our weekend, we spent our time with Oticon Medical staff. (Oticon makes our son's hearing devices, the pontos.) During the event, we ate, talked, shared, learned, advocated, played, and relaxed. All of this was done with the Oticon staff interspersed amongst us. Not because they had to but because they wanted to. We have come to know their families, their hobbies, their jobs. The Oticon staff has come to know and love our families. They thought of every detail to make our weekend special. From treat bags at check-in to t-shirts for the children. From a crazy fun day at iplayamerica for kiddos (while the parents workshopped) to cotton candy, churros, and fried oreos for dessert. (oh and the teeny tiny milk and cookies!).
But mostly, they feel like family. Family we are grateful for. Because you see, when a group of people gives your child the gift of hearing, it is a priceless gift. We can never say thank you enough.
Brody and his Oticon buddy, Lindzee
A year ago our friendship with Oticon Medical staff began and we were excited to see so many friends again. But this year it was an added bonus all the new friends to be made! We shared the weekend with 13 other guest families. Each family had a child with microtia (partial to no ear) who wears a bone anchored hearing device or ponto. Some children wore theirs on a band like Brody. Others had theirs implanted into their skull. Some children had reconstructive ear surgery, others had not. Eight of the families chose their hearing impaired child through adoption. Talk about having a lot in common! These are fine people. Good people. People who make you want to be a better person. Two mommas have been pioneers for microtia awareness. One by starting a global nonprofit, Ear Community, that serves to educate, promote awareness, and link microtia families together. The other leads five major microtia/atresia/bone anchored hearing device facebook support groups. They have selflessly given of their time and energy to support families just like ourselves. We met parents who have advocated relentlessly to meet their child's needs. We met children who are living life courageously despite several medical challenges. We learned from other parents how to fight the insurance battle and better advocate for our child's needs. We learned from the children that though they may be young, there is an unspeakable bond that occurs between children who have similar challenges.
Some of Brody's buddies
Our weekend was amazing. Full of learning and sharing and fun. At the end of each day, we were completely exhausted. But exhausted in the best kind of way. Exhaustion that allows you to sleep well and wake-up rejuvenated and ready. Because when you are surrounded by goodness, you want to BE the good too. You want to share the goodness with others. So be inspired by our Oticon family and heed these words from Galatians 6.