The Megan Hayward Fund

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17 April 1999
6:00 AM EST

The Time: 7:00 PM
The Date: Friday night 4/16/99
The Place: Phillips Street Hall East Providence, RI
The Event: A benefit dinner for Megan

I walk into this old hall, one of those NE provincial buildings, located in East Providence. There are hundreds of people already there, sitting throughout the room at those plywood tables covered by nice table cloths with beautiful centerpieces with balloons attached floating up to the ceiling (donated by Silva Family Tree). The DJ is playing nice theme music, and the din from the crowd just overwhelms the entire room.

I canít see a face I recognize. Am I at the right place? Is this the fundraiser for Megan? It would be so easy to turn around and leave, afraid of being in the wrong place. Who are all of these people? They all seem to know each other, theyíre all friends of some sort. But wait,... there over to the side is my friend Mark, and next to him is Megan. At least I found the right place. In a few minutes, I find some familiar faces, and I find a table to sit at where Iím not all alone. With my own personal fears abated, I start to participate in the eveningís events.

Tonight is one of the many fundraising dinners for Megan. Organized in part by Tony Almeida, with food supplied by Mama Juliaís Kitchen. I donít know how much the dinner tickets cost since Markís sister Sheila bought one for me. But by the end of the evening, we are all informed that Mama Juliaís Kitchen donated all of the food, and they deliver to Mark and his family a check for $10,000. from the proceeds of the dinner ticket sales!

Throughout the evening, the entire crowd is "served" by the most courteous and caring group of waitresses and waiters. They are attired in these blazing red tee-shirts with the words "Dourado Family Cousins" embroidered on them. I learn later that the Dourado family cousins are decendents of Markís maternal grandparents, and they have been organizing events for many decades. Their annual picnics are legendary, their committee meetings are beyond anything you would ever see in the hallowed halls of Congress. And their hearts are pure gold! Even Markís sister Joan, better known as "The Princess" due to her royal upbringing and origins, flew up from Texas to participate as one of the "cousins" to serve in this event. There are many stories about "The Princess", but Joan is just like all of us, she cares for her family, she cares for Megan, and nothing could have kept her from "slinging" plates and platters for a dinner to honor Megan.

I know Iím going to miss mentioning a lot of the people who had a great deal to do with the success of this evening. To those of you I fail to mention by name,..... we all know who you are, and we Thank You all from the bottom of our hearts.

Well, my place for the evening was with Tish and her husband Mike, albeit Rose was reaching across the table all of the time for another patter of butter. No one will ever know what Cuddles the cat will end up doing with so many patters of butter. But, it was a fun table to sit at.

The food was great, the music was great, the people were great. The music was supplied by TNT Sounds from Seekonk MA. After a while, the DJ began setting up those "intimidating" group dance numbers like the "chicken dance" the "line dance" and things like that. I found myself "dragged" (in dire protest) to the dance floor by Markís sister Sheila for the "chicken dance". I think they call it the chicken dance for all of us "non-dancers" who are dragged onto the dance floor to make fools of ourselves. But, I guess, all for a good cause,..... I hear there are pictures of me looking like a total fool which will provide numerous laughs for numerous people for numerous years to come! There is a good reason why I donít dance, and the "chicken dance" is just one of them! I will say this though, while I was on the dance floor, I needed to watch someone to figure out what the next step was. Meganís father Mark was out there, and I watched him to copy his moves. I think I did pretty good, but I couldnít copy what was in his heart and reflected in his eyes at the time. Here was a friend of mine, the father of Megan, dancing some foolish dance with hundreds of friends and family members. For him, this was a moment of joy and sharing, a pause in the reality of everything which has happened with Megan. Although I was just going through the motions, he was truly a part of the dance. As the crowd clapped and cheered, I, too began to realize just what it was like to be a part of the celebration of life which this family has struggled to realize. The "chicken dance" was no longer as embarrassing for me, it was now becoming something about being a part of something. This doesnít mean that Iím now "game" for every "chicken dance" at upcoming events,... but Thank You Sheila for forcing me to learn something new.

There were countless prizes and gifts donated by loving friends, and these were raffled off as door prizes. From what I understand, these prizes added an additional few thousand dollars to the total contribution for the evening.

All in all, the evening was a great time had by all. Thanks to everyone who had anything to do with planning such a wonderful evening.

I havenít said anything about Megan yet. Oh yes, she was there! Smiling and laughing. She actually had a private dance with her Dad and Mom. Kelsey was there as well, just dancing up a storm. Her version of the "Can-Can" would put any of those French dancers to shame. Patrick was there with his sports books, although I think it will take a few years to get him onto the dance floor.

Mark, Nancy and Megan will be going back down to Johns Hopkins over the weekend for more tests for Megan. You see, itís not over, and it wonít be over for a long time. The interruptions in "every-day" life are now part of "every-day" life. However much I can joke with Megan about cooties between her toes every time I see her, I know there will continue to be countless airline flights, hospital rooms, Mom & Dad sleeping in strange rooms, medical tests, drugs and medications, etc.

Towards the end of the evening, Mark had a few words to say. He thanked all of the people who had organized tonightís event, and who had worked to support his family over the past months. He told us that "cancer is bad", but that "cancer in a child is ugly." Yes, it is "ugly" for someone like Megan to have cancer. It is "ugly" to watch what it has done to her and her family. Yet, it is refreshing to see how many people have tried to make the "ugliness" go away. It is refreshing to see how many people care.

Someday soon, there will be a picture circulated of some awkward guy doing the "chicken dance" at some fundraiser. Before, I would have been embarrassed. Now, I look forward to seeing the picture. It represents me being a part of a family trying to remove the ugliness of cancer in Megan. I may look foolish in the picture, but in my heart, I feel like all of you, another one of Meganís friends trying to make something good out of something bad. We all learn many things in life. Iím still in awe at how much I have learned from having known Megan,....and sheís only 3 years old! Like all of you, I wish there were more I could do to take the "ugliness" away.

Thanks to all who made this night a memorable event.



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