Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LOVE Powers Our HOPE

Wow!  What a week we have had… I have been pondering over how to write our “thank you” all week in the midst of all of our happenings…As many of you know, Parker was accepted into and started the RAPPORT study which is an National Institute of Health study on the drug Rilonocept and its effects on systemic on-set juvenile arthritis.    So between work, labs, and a trip to Shands Hospital, I am finally sitting down to write about our Arthritis Foundation Walk and the thankfulness that overflows in our hearts…
Well, here it goes…  People walk in and out of our lives each and every day, it just naturally happens.  Taking the time to build lasting relationships with people has blessed our lives immensely.  And it’s moments like we have experienced when you realize how interconnected we all are… On May 5th, we had the pleasure of sharing in one of the most remarkable experiences with many many people who will forever be IN our lives and dear to our hearts.  May 5th, Parker was showered with love that totally wrapped around our family in a way that words cannot quite explain.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we gasped at the sea of purple starting to wash over the park.  We knew a lot of friends and family were joining us, but it’s overwhelmingly powerful to actually “see” it.  In addition to our team, there were many people out supporting various other teams…definitely more than last year.  All I kept thinking is how much love was in that park for one single cause!  Everyone’s lives were touched by the many forms of arthritis.
We are so very thankful to all the people all across the nation who wore their purple for our sweet boy, Parker.  And we are incredibly thankful to the over 130 people who came out to walk with Parker’s Purple Playas.  There were friends from my work, University of South Florida, and Michael’s work, Southern Wine and Spirits, who not only generously donated but also came to walk with their families and friends.  And did you know that Southern Wine donated each and every one of the 202 shirts that were made with the drawing of Parker’s Purple Playa on the front saying “I’m not fat; I ‘m puffy!”  It was so wonderful to have all our family and friends join us and even many strangers who quickly joined our circle of friends.  We had several early childhood colleagues/friends from multiple agencies and preschools who walked and some even hosted fund raisers to donate to the cause.  Girl Scout Troup 65 and Boy Scout Troup 212 joined with their families and also worked together to raise funds.  My aunt and uncle came out to pop kettle corn and donated all their proceeds to the Arthritis Foundation.   And a very special thanks to Joseph who went to all the staff from Parker’s middle school and shamelessly collected donations for his friend Parker.  We even had some staff and kids from TCMS’s Junior K Club join us.  Team mates also asked their friends and family to donate and walk.  We had complete strangers opening up their hearts to us.  Children from Westchase Aftercare gave up their coins to donate; and a very special little 4 year old Purple Playa, Kailyn, collected her precious “pennies for Parker”.  We had donations from all over the nation…from colleagues, friends, family, and complete strangers…all touched by one sweet boy, our boy.  We love him dearly.  If you haven’t met him yet, here is a short video that he made to explain what it is like to live with systemic on-set juvenile arthritis…I am sure if you watch, you will see how people fall in love with him too.  Parker's YouTube Video Link
As Parker was getting his team ready for our walk team picture that morning, I was in the bathroom helping the Tampa Bay Ray’s mascot, Raymond, get over to the team.  When I walked around the corner holding Raymond’s hand and looked out at Parker’s Purple Playas positioned for the snapshot, I could see Logan at the very tippy top of the mountain-like jungle gym.  Logan, Parker’s older brother, right at the top of it all.  I was totally overwhelmed at the site.  Logan has endured all of this right alongside of his brother and in that moment I was so very proud of the young man he has become.  He has strength, compassion, brilliance (the kind that shines), and he so deserved to be “on top”.  At first he was all I noticed…and as we got closer and closer the white nose I was hearing turned into cheers.  My breath escaped me…and my eyes glassed over with the tears that were trying to flow.  We were all there…in the moment… together!  For one cause!  With HOPE in our hearts! 
Parker grabbed his bull-horn that Logan had covered in duct tape…purple duct tape, of course.  He cheered his team on while we snapped pictures…  We love each and every one of the Purple Playas.  So much of the morning felt like a blur…  As we all began the actual walk, I kept thinking how incredible it was to share in this moment…all of us…walking together.  As we rounded the second corner I felt compelled to thank everyone…We were at the front of the walk, so I turned around and started to walk against the flow of traffic.  That was pretty funny because my husband also had the same idea (we had separated somehow but met back up as we walked against the crowd).  We knew the only way we could try and say thank you to everyone was to walk all the way to the end…so we did.  If you are reading this and we missed you somehow, please know that we are eternally thankful.
When we finished walking, the crowd dispersed somewhat to play games, enjoy the playground, and to check out the vendors.  And then a marvelous surprise arrived.  Parker has always adored one of the Rays baseball players…and guess what…his hero, Ben Zobrist, came to see his buddy Parker and he brought his beautiful family with him.  They were so gracious with their time and posed for the many pictures and chatted with the small crowd that gathered.  And when the crowd dispersed, I was deeply touched that they just hung out and played with their dear children.  Julianna Zobrist was so delightful and the fact that they took time out of their precious family time to join our family in this event was so special.
What touched me the most though, was that my father, mother, sisters, nieces, nephews, and aunts and uncles and my dear sweet grandmother all came out to join the walk.  I kept looking over at how beautiful my grandmother looked sitting under a huge oak tree with a smile full of love on her face and I couldn’t help but to think of my grandpa who passed the same day that Ben Zobrist walked into our lives when Parker got his Make-A-Wish…and there was one person who made so much of this come together for both of these events…Jen Funk.  She works with the Rays, often behind the scenes...and she is an amazingly giving and caring individual.  Thank you Jen! 
When Parker and I were saying prayers that night, Parker said to me “Mom there were a lot of people out there today for me.  It feels good to be surrounded by so much love.”  My thoughts keep going back to my grandpa… who would have thought that the Parker’s Purple Playas are “the most to say the least” and that all we need is “a smile and a few kind words” and that he would have thought that this event was totally “top drawer!”  I am sure he is up in heaven right now with Grandpa Tony, Memere and Pepere thinking how very blessed we are to be surrounded by love!
If you would like to see pictures from the walk please visit these 2 links (and there will be more…my uncle is still editing some) : 
Love from our family to all of Parker’s Purple Playas…Together we raised over $15,500.  Join us again, same time, same place, next year!
P.S.   And Happy Birthday Grandma Dianne.  We know you couldn’t walk with us, but hopefully you could share in the experience by reading this.  We love you very much!


  1. Yes- I had tears reading this! It truly was amazing. My whole was overwhelmed and completely tickled by how many people came out to support your family. And $15,500??? Just wow. That's all I can say.

    When you wrote that his disease has progressed, does that mean that the Rilonocept isn't working as well as all had hoped? I'm still praying that this is his "it". Love you guys and miss you all tons!

    1. Danielle, he just started the rilonocept (or placebo). We will not know for some time if it's working but at 4 weeks he will definitely be getting drug. He is not "progressing" but he is not doing well at all. I pray he doesn't progress. He does have some new symptoms though and I wonder if they are more "side effects" which would mean he got the drug...He is just miserable right now and pretty swollen in his hands in particular.

  2. This is truly fantastic. So happy to see such a turnout. Sorry we couldn't make it, but a lot has been going on lately.
    Praying for Parker. Hope the meds start to work and stops whatever progression is happening.

  3. I can't believe how many people dont know about JA! thank you parker for being an inspiring advocate for children. We are praying for you & your family. We thank you for sharing your lives with us and for inviting us to the walk. Since then, my son and I have been walking several times a week. Its Io become our time to talk and connect. Keep the faith Lentini family! God Bless...