Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Road to . . .

I suppose I will be on the road to recovery from here on - maybe I've been on it my whole life who knows but tomorrow we will be on the road for sure.  I know I haven't been very faithful in my writings the past couple of months but perhaps I will come back later and share some of what's happened in the past couple of months.  But what I wanted to share tonight is what God has in store for us tomorrow!

Ed and I are BOTH off and we're on the road!   I can't tell you how excited we both are.  No special vacation, or concert, or festival, not to the beach or the mountain or any other travel destination. We are headed to Gainesville on a very special mission - and while I'm sure there will be a million emotions we are both very excited about the trip!!! 

Thanks to all of you who generously donated stuffed animals we have the opportunity to witness to families and share our love and your love for them!  I spent a little time tonight counting bears (well maybe more than a little - I had to start over a few times) but my final count was around 553 teddy bears!  Most of them are brand new which is really great because we are strictly visiting kids in the ICU units at Shands this trip.  And while we appreciate all of the donations for the sick children we can only use brand new animals because of all of the potential dangers that come to children with damaged immune systems.  If you donated a gently used stuffed animal we will find a special home for those too (we will either donate them to a woman's shelter or find an equally suitable way to make your donation help a child).

So after I counted this is what I did . . .


Yep - that's about 200 of the over 500 stuffed animals - covering a full-size bed.  In some places they are 3 or 4 high.  I'm so humbled - there aren't words.  As I touched every single stuffed animal tonight I remembered moments over the past few months, conversations some of us had, the funeral, many of the stuffed animals you guys gave us were some that Owen had and Ed and I talked about that.  His godmother gave him a stuffed bear with angel wings that said the "Now I lay me" Prayer and there were two of those - one for a boy and one for a girl.  There were stuffed animals that were personally designed for this cause - embroidered, or handmade tags attached with care - I truly am reminded in a huge way how much you guys loved us (and I know you still do).  Our whole purpose of going on this journey is to love on others like you guys loved on us.  I'm not sure I can even put it into words what its like to be a parent of a child in an ICU.  And I can't tell you how many women, girls even, who were there alone with little or no family, no husband, no boyfriend, and maybe just maybe a parent or sibling would show up on the weekend.  I was very fortunate to have Ed by my side almost every single day that we were there - and even on the very few days he wasn't physically there he was there for me.  We had our family, our friends, our church family, our pastor, even distant friends of friends in Gainesville who called, visited, and checked-in on us.  I can't begin to express how loved we knew we were.  We had many supporting us financially to enable us to stay through donations and fundraisers and all the while we had people physically there loving on us too.

Now, there were sometimes that Ed and I would go a week or so without any visitors but we NEVER for a moment felt alone.  I know without a shadow of a doubt how incredibly fortunate I am because I watched day after day, month after month, girl after girl, woman after woman, who had little if any support.  What's worse is there were babies in the ICU who had NO visitors the entire 3 months we were in the NICU - if that doesn't hurt your heart then nothing ever will.

Our mission - our goal - is to love on everyone in the ICU's at Shands tomorrow.  To share with them that there are people they will never see and never know who care deeply about them.  To share the gospel with them that there is a God in Heaven who is in control who knows all and sees all and has a divine plan for their families.  To share with them the healing powers of our Lord - that NOTHING is impossible for God.  And yes, I still believe with all my heart that God can heal any hurt, pain, disease, aneurysm, cancer, anything - with all my heart I know that God is the ultimate healer and that will be our message tomorrow - a message of hope and encouragement.  I pray that God opens doors wide open to us that maybe couldn't be opened otherwise.  Last night after Wednesday night service pastor prayed with us for our safety and for God to use us - and I liked what he said, that when we leave those stuffed animals that we leave the spirit of the Lord to dwell in those rooms.  I'm so excited I don't know if I'll even be able to sleep tomorrow.

We've created some postcards to share with the families so that they know our hopes and our mission.  Hopefully we will be able to minister to some parents and put some huge smiles on some precious children's faces! 

{ The front of the postcards}

We had several friends who created their own tags and "in memory" notes for the teddy bears and we've left those on the ones they created too - here's one that inspired our own writing for the postcards.

{From Dianne Keel & Amanda McCoy - who also have an angelbaby in heaven}


So tomorrow we will set off to Gainesville and we will be able to share these stuffed animals (thanks again to you) with about 75-80 precious children in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) both of which Owen was a resident for a period of time.  He spent 3 months in the NICU and 2 trips about a week each in the PICU.  There are usually about 50 babies in the NICU and the PICU can house up to 24.  We are carrying about 90 stuffed animals this time just to be sure we have plenty and we can't wait to come back and share with you all what a difference your contribution is going to make in some family's life.  Thank you all for this opportunity to share our son's legacy & testimony with so many families.

One question people ask me all the time is "Are you still accepting teddy bears?"  Yes, yes, yes.  As long as you have it in your heart to give them to us we will make as many trips to hospitals to give them to the little children.  We are hoping to create an annual event to collect them but we haven't set that up yet but for now whatever you have to give we are happy to accept.  Please, please, please, and I say this with nothing but love in my heart, please remember when you are making a donation of teddy bears or other stuffed animals they MUST be brand new for us to give to these children - they have compromised immune systems and cannot be exposed to risks that used stuffed animals may present.  We have to take great care in storing them in sealed rubbermaid tubs to make sure that they don't collect any dust while we have them (not that I have any dust in my house . . . bahahahaha).  So I hope you all understand.  As for the gently used items we have received already I can assure you they will find good, deserving homes, in Owen's honor too.

Thanks again to you all. Wish us luck and if you have a chance say a prayer for our travel, the words we will speak, and that God's will be done on this trip.

We love you all and we wouldn't have made it through all this and certainly wouldn't be able to do this tomorrow if it wasn't for all your love and support.

~ Jerica


  1. Your and Ed are amazing I have no idea how you have stayed strong enough to write this, let alone make it through all that you have. Since I last talked to you, the collection of stuffed animals that we have has grown. I will continue to buy them when I see therm and think of Owen. We will be home again Memorial Day weekend. I am hoping that we can get together or I can dip them off somewhere for you to add to the ones already collected. I pray that your travels are safe, your heart is strong, and your message is heard today. May God place his hand on all that you say and do.

  2. May God continue to bless you as you continue on your journey in Owen's Memory. He has changed more lives in his 6 months of life than most people do in a long life time.
    NICU & PICU babies & families are going to feel so much love when ya'll walk in there with your arms loaded with stuffed animals.
    The babies will love having something cuddly to snuggle with other than an IV tube.
    GOD BLESS YOU and give you safe travel.
    " I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phil 4:13
    Wayne & Sharon Arnett