Two weeks ago in this column, I wrote about Cherise Sheffner, a local 16-year-old suffering from a rare and debilitating disease called dysautonomia, a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system.
I explained how Cherise's mom, Renee, needed some financial assistance for an upcoming trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, where a team of specialists are set in October to begin analyzing what can be done for her daughter.
Responses from readers were swift and compassionate. People offered help and provided additional information about the disease and support groups. Then I received an email that read, in part:
After seeing your news story about Cherise Sheffner, I felt the need to bring it to the Kiwanis board to see if we could donate or help in any way.
The board approved a $1,000 donation. We'd like to present the check to Cherise's mother, if possible, at our next meeting.
This money came from Kiwanis' 'Angels Program.' This is a community outreach project where we reach out to help those in immediate need in our community.
I'm fortunate enough to have been a Kiwanis guest speaker at a number of luncheons over the years. The organization is an exceptionally important force in this community, faithfully dedicated to making a positive difference (like the Rotarians and a number of other civic-minded groups).
So in that respect, I really should not have been that surprised. But then again, there was something just so beautiful and thoughtful about this gesture that it gave me great pause. I was really hoping that Renee herself could attend the luncheon and, thankfully, she was able to join me there last Tuesday.
The meeting, as always, featured lots of good-natured banter, joking and discussion about various charitable projects the group has in the works (which is pretty much the case all year long, every year).
Then I was invited up to say a few words, and next Renee delivered a moving account of what Cherise is going through and how much the money will be appreciated. Many in the room dabbed at their eyes as she spoke, and then chapter president John Etheridge presented Renee with the check.
But given that these are the Kiwanis, you almost knew it wouldn't end there. Local insurance maven (and one of the most generous and amiable guys in town) Mike Grumet then announced that he was offering another $1,000. He challenged the room for more and within a short time the entire amount had climbed to about $2,700 for Renee and Cherise.
I will never forget the care and compassion in the room that day. It was a shimmering moment of heartfelt support, the absolute best of the human condition.
Etheridge offered a quote by Confucius:
"A disciple having asked for a definition of charity, the master said, 'Love one another.'"
Novel of powerful lessons
In the afterglow of this very poignant moment, a gentleman named Frank Barry then got up to speak about a book he recently published titled, "The Seminary Seeds — Life Lessons Learned in the Seminary." Through his engaging talk, Barry described how his book is a sort of road map for discovering the most meaningful signposts in life.
It is a wonderful little read, brimming with powerful lessons, parables and playlets that provide valuable insights about how to get the most from life.
Barry has had a fascinating life, having served as a linguist in the U.S. Air Force, and currently is a workplace English instructor in Southern California. The book is available on Amazon.com and I highly recommend it.
And to the Kiwanis, I would like to say thank you once more for your tireless and loving support in this community. The city will no doubt always be facing great challenges, but as long as we have this group of warm and caring people, Huntington Beach will always have something to be very proud of.
You can help Cherise by visiting http://www.gofundme.com/3etgkk
At 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, the inaugural In the Pipeline "We saved the beach bonfires" party will be held at Bolsa Chica State Beach (exact location and further details to come). This is simply a way for us to get together at summer's end in honor of the bonfires, which so many of you worked hard to save.
Save the date and just plan on bringing whatever food you like to cook. My hope is that this will become an annual tradition, as well as a reminder that the Air Quality Management District may always be lurking in the shadows, so we should never let our collective guard down.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting.