Angels in our Midst

In my line of business, I get to meet some incredible people.  They are people who have huge hearts and display an unbelievable amount of dedication to their cause.  Our golf course is fortunate to be a venue that helps foundations, charities, families or other organizations raise money.  While working during an event, I often have to stop what I’m doing when it comes to the award presentation after the golf outing.  That’s when it becomes something so much more than golf.

It becomes a network of people pushing one another to do great things.  Friends.  Families.  Non-golfers.  Golfers.  Everyone is pulling together for the greater good.  They are in it to raise money.  They are in it to make a difference.

I love the laughter.  It’s what drives me to work very long days throughout the summer months.  When I hear the laughter, it unites.  It gives me purpose.  I see so many people who have gone through such adversity in their lives, yet they rise above it.

Meet Jason and Cindy Berkley.

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Left to right: Debbie Guagliardo, foundation vice-chairman, Jason & Cindy Berkley holding daughters, Becca and Kayla, Paula Evans, foundation chairman

Jason and Cindy lost their daughter, Jamie, seven years ago.  She was born with Angelman Syndrome which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects speech, developmental delays, balance, and epilepsy.  After losing their daughter, they decided they wanted to adopt a child with the same syndrome.  As it turns out, they adopted two.  One of the best characteristics of individuals with Angelman’s is that they are the happiest people on earth.  Seriously!  Look at those smiling girls!

Seven years ago, their daughter, Jamie, contracted meningitis and passed away very suddenly.

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Jason with his daughter, Jamie.

In 2012, they decided they wanted to hold a golf outing to help raise money for the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST).  This foundation is run strictly by volunteers, so all of the proceeds go right back into the hands of the researchers who are doing what they can to help find a cure.  As I was cleaning up from the golf outing, I began listening to Paula Evans, the foundation’s chairman, talk about what last year’s golf outing was able to purchase.  I stopped working and listened.  It was amazing to hear what this small group of family and friends were able to do in just one year!

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This amazing family with hearts of gold and their group of volunteers were able to raise enough money last year to purchase a desperately needed microscope for the researchers.  Ironically, the amount of money raised was almost equal to the cost of the microscope right to the dollar.

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Paula went on to explain that the microscope had been named after Jamie.  This year’s golf outing would be raising money for a research grant named the Jamie Berkley Memorial Grant.  I looked across the room at all of these people who had come together to make a difference in the lives of those with Angelman’s Syndrome.  My eyes fell on Jason and Cindy Berkley who both had tears in their eyes.  Then, it traveled to others families who were smiling thinking about what the researchers might some day find.

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Some groups of golfers had gathered their sweet children from their wheelchairs, so they could ride on the golf cart on the course and enjoy the beautiful day.  Every time I saw one of the angels, they were smiling.  Their happiness was contagious.IMG_1871

As with most golf outings, they had sign sponsors at each tee box.

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These signs also celebrated the lives of those who had passed away due to complications with Angelman’s syndrome.  Angelman’s doesn’t directly affect the life expectancy, however, many children die because of complications such as seizures.

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Their families were here, too.  Remembering their loved one.  Doing what they can to make a difference.  One of Cindy’s friends even took her first stab at making a quilt that was bid on in a silent auction to help raise money.  I thought it was pretty well done for her first time quilting!

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They also sold t-shirts and encouraged one another with their positive spirit.  It was a room full of “bucket fillers.”  When my daughter was in kindergarten, she came home to tell us that we all walk around with invisible buckets.  Some people fill those buckets with positive thoughts, compliments and energy, while others take from your bucket and bring you down.  These people had bucket filling down.  Their buckets were overflowing.

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It was an amazing day.  Everyone celebrating Jamie Berkley’s life.  Her dad had a logo for the golf outing made using her initials JB.  They happen to form a butterfly.

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A butterfly with a halo.

If you’d like to donate to this foundation, please follow this link to find out more!  They hold a golf outing every year at our place.  Next year’s is already in the books.  Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

Post by Allison

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