It’s difficult to hide from the negativity in the world. Gun violence, terrorism and political attacks are taking over the airwaves and I happen to be in the thick of it with a career in television news broadcasting. I report on death and destruction most days and shake my head in sadness as I think about how our world has changed over the years. As a child, I remember my parents saying, “Back when I was your age, life was different. We were safer.” Now, I find myself saying the exact same thing to the younger generation.
I look at my 3-year-old and I’m honestly worried about what the future will hold. I want to protect her and I want to provide for her the best life possible. Thanks to a group of college students, my fears have subsided. It’s amazing how one group of students has renewed my faith in humanity.
My daughter, Peyton, is a miracle. She’s our lone surviving triplet and she’s achieving more that we ever thought possible. After nearly four months in the Nicu, Peyton came home from the hospital and that’s when she began her journey as one of our local “Miracle Kids” through the Children’s Miracle Network. Over the years, we’ve been given unique and exciting opportunities. We are able to help others by sharing our journey, and in the process, we’ve met some amazing people.
The University of Illinois holds a dance-a-thon fundraiser every spring for Children’s Miracle Network. This group of students has a passion for giving back and helping a wonderful cause. Just this year, their annual “Illinithon” raised more than $153,000 for CMN and our local hospital where my triplets were cared for. Think about it. While most college kids are busy studying or at a party, hundreds of students are volunteering their time to raise money instead. I watch them in awe as they inspire their peers to help a worthy cause and I tear up realizing they are doing this to help children like my daughter.
This past weekend my heart swelled with pride and gratitude as I watched these students embrace my daughter. We were invited, along with other miracle families, to a University of Illinois Football game. But this wasn’t just any college game, this was a full-blown football experience. As we arrived in Champaign for a tailgate, the students cheered when they spotted Peyton. They played football, ate donuts, and cuddled our miracle child, treating her like a celebrity. We watched the first quarter from unbelievable seats and were escorted to the field for a rare view of the game. Peyton hung out with the cheerleaders and watched the marching band up close and personal. And when halftime arrived, we were brought out on the field; the miracle kids introduced to the tens of thousands of fans.
The college years go by in a flash. Between classes, activities and making memories with your friends, it’s hard to find time to cram in anything else. But, these students make the time to selflessly help others, spending their days on the quad recruiting new members and planning how they will break the previous year’s record donation. They go to class and have their own lives, yet Children’s Miracle Network is always on their mind. They treat our children like family and they go out of their way to make sure each child feels special.
As I stood back and observed the students at the football game, a sense of pride swept over me watching them ooh and ahh over my daughter’s latest milestone. It’s amazing to think that my miracle child can inspire these students to give 110 percent. Every single one of them has a heart of gold; a passion to make this world a better place. It was at that moment I thought about the future and I turned to my husband and said, “I think Peyton will be okay.”
It’s easy to be blinded by negativity and fear. But, rub those eyes and look closely. There is so much good in this world, and chances are, it’s right in front of you. Kindness and ambition was right in front of us, in the form of eager college students. This special group is changing lives and they give me hope for future generations.