Support For Christi Thomas

This blog is to help offer support to the Thomas Family and their daughter, Christi, in her battle against cancer. Please visit Christi's website at to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Heidelberg College's Christi Tree Dedication

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In Memory of Christi Thomas
Tree Dedication Ceremony
written by Diane Armstrong, Ph.D.
Christi's Celebration of Life
at Heidelberg College
October 5, 2006

Christi Thomas was a remarkable young girl. In the nine short years she graced our earthly lives with her presence; she touched and changed the lives of literally thousands of people. A brilliant, talented, kind, compassionate, and loving child, she lived each day to the fullest. Whether she was drawing, painting, dancing, playing the piano, visiting COSI and art museums, or just curling up with a good book, she taught all of those who knew and loved her what it means to make every day count.

When she brought Alex & Christi’s Lemonade Stand to Heidelberg and charmed our Education Majors with her reading of “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand,” Christi Thomas became a part of who we are – a community of learners seeking ways to make the world a better place.

In Isaiah 11:6 it states: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall life down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” And lead us she did. Through her lemonade stands which raised over $12,000 for pediatric cancer research, to her blood drives, and through her ability to serve as an example of what matters in life – the love of family and friends – her legacy lives on.

Today we dedicate this tree in Christi’s honor and memory. The plaque that will soon be placed her permanently, will read: “Our Little Lemonade Girl” In memory of Christi Thomas, May 12 1997 – September 19, 2006 – Heidelberg Education Department.

It is with love, humility and thanks to the entire Thomas team for sharing your wonderful daughter with us that I present this replica of this plaque to Angela and Shayne Thomas, also forever honorary members of the Education Department.

Dr. Armstrong reads as Shayne & Angela listen on

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Visit to the Cemetery

WINTER 2002, Christi 4 1/2. She didn't want to smile as you can plainly see.
Since my teachers' meeting was moved up today, I had to take Shayla with me. Thankfully, one of Christi's best friends was home today also and Sarah's sweet mother offered to let Shayla play at her house instead of going to my meeting. On the way to Findlay, we told Christi that we were short on time or we would stop and play in the snow with her. (When I spoke with Shayne via cell phone who also drove by the cemetery today, he told me he wanted to stop and build Christi a snowman, but the snow was too fluffy.)

Shayla had a fabulous time with precious Sarah and I just wished Christi would have been there too and I wondered what was going on in little Sarah's young mind. On our way home, Shayne called to tell me Shayla's swimming lessons were cancelled. Since he called right before we approached the cemetery I figured that was our clue that we needed to go make Snow Angels on top of her grave. I pulled in and Shayla and I were so shocked and surprised by what we saw we didn't think of making Snow Angels - until we ran (brrrrr!) back to the van yelling our "Hail Mary" prayer outloud because we were so cold we couldn't stand there any longer.

Much to our surprise and delight, we found an INCREDIBLE grave blanket. It's HUGE and GORGEOUS. It's all green and covered with an abundance of lovely holiday ornaments. I don't even want to think how much it cost and we cannot imagine who did something so generous, but we loved it!! Additionally, we noticed something orange and black (our school colors) under the small pile of snow. We uncovered it and discovered a Seneca East pom pom. It was the sweetest thing. At that time we were still ohhing and ahhing, and then decided how cold we were so we literally ran to the van to head home shouting our prayer and thanking God for glorious, thoughtful and compassionate friends who have so richly blessed our lives by sharing their love!
On this cold winter day it's fun to look at warm summer pictures (Christi 3 years old, Shayla 1, Summer 2000)
Shayla got a big kick out of this picture the other day. I explained to her this was taken while we were waiting for Shayne to come home from work so we could drive to Florida in June of 1999. (Christi 2, Baby Shayla)

Snow Day!

The first thing Shayla did out in the snow today was make three snow angels. After analyzing them she pointed to this one and declared, "This one is for Christi. It's the best one."

"It's not as easy in real snow as it is on the kitchen floor, mom." (Ah, yes, Shayla - I can see that.)

With great joy, I must admit that 7 year old Shayla's wish came true. It must have been the ice cubes she put into the toilet, or perhaps the fact she asked me to turn her pajamas inside out, regardless - today was our first Snow Day!

Christi (7 years old) & Shayla (5 years old) (Snow Day - January 2005)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Miss America

Last week, while preparing for my Heidelberg class which included the importance of incorporating rhyme with early childhood children, I grabbed a few of our nursery rhyme books to also include and give examples of that information with my students. During that class, I picked up one to talk about it and when I opened the cover I was surprised. Inside it said, "To Baby Christi! Love, Mommy & Daddy (1997)" I also noted it was signed by the 1997 Miss America. Because I felt a bit "shaky" at that moment after seeing that inscription and because I think all of the students in this class know about Christi Thomas I paused a moment and then showed them the inside cover. (I read that book to Christi nearly every night for many months even though she was just a baby because I knew how important it was. (I also told them how Shayne would read into my tummy before the girls were even born so that they'd know his voice too.)

Miss America 1997 came to one of my old college (Bowling Green State Univeristy) to promote reading and to sign books so Shayne and I took off one fall Saturday for that event.
Of course I wanted Christi to grow up and be Miss America, or anything she desired to do. That didn't happen; yet I'm glad she was able to met (and be held) by a Miss America.
Little did we know that she'd soon meet another Miss America one day when on a six hour pass from CHOP.

Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned. We hope she's just a sweet at Jennifer Berry. While Christi was getting out on a "six hour pass" from the hospital during her first intense round of chemo last year at this time, we heard an announcement that the new Miss America would be outside of the hospital. Since we were on our way back to the Ronald House to go relax and play we decided we must stop and meet her. (We also knew she was a ballet dancer and Christi was very excited about just getting her pointe shoes at that same time. Our "Miss Americas" had some good things to talk about.) About a week later, we were very touched to receive an email from Miss American saying how much Christi touched her. After Christi's death, we were very surprised to receive a sympathy message from Miss America as well. We wish Jennifer Berry the very best as she looks to begin her career as an elementary school teacher. Her goal is to obtain a Masters Degree in teaching and I hope she selects Heidelberg College!!

Shayla, 2001, age 2 with Miss Ohio
Christi, age 4, had a "shy moment" upon meeting the piano playing Miss Ohio. She was at our local jewelry store (Jeffrey's) and we thought it'd be neat for the girls to meet Miss Ohio.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Back to PHL

Here is a picture of Baby Christi (about 9 months old) with the former NEA President Bob Chase, winter 1998. Although Christi didn't want to be a teacher, she delighted in being around them!

Shayla and I arrived at PHL and I was doing great.....until we walked off the plane and I saw we were exactly at the same gate where I sent Shayla off on 9/11 as an unaccompanied minor to head back home where she wanted to check on her bunny during what turned out to be Christi's final days. The night before she said her goodbyes to Christi and she was there was the Priest gave Christi her last rites, even though I do not believe either child really knew what was going on and why Shayne called for the priest. Just like the morning of 9/11 - four months ago, at that very same gate, tears poured down my cheeks over the emotions of it all! Shayla looked at me, puzzled and said, "What's wrong?" I explained.

After a restroom stop we continued walking through the airport as I walked past each and every restaurant, stand and store - I felt like I had a great "Christi Memory" at every one of them and it made me sad remember the french fries we split at the restaurant, the Nick magazine I bought for her and of course where all of the electrical outlets were since my computer didn't have a battery! We spent so much time in the PHL airport over the years - waiting for flights, being delayed, trying to get on an earlier flight, etc. Shayla said, "What's wrong now?" I explained that every time Christi and I flew to Philly we flew in with HOPE - hope that she'd be cured, hope that there would be a new treatment, hope that her life would be extended, hope that our lives would get better. Now the only hope I have is hoping that the way I live my life will get me to Heaven. She said, "I'll pull the suitcase for you mom." What a sweetheart!

Soon she asked, "How are you doing now?" I said, "I think ok, but I'm not certain how I'm going to react once I see Mr. Grant. He loved Christi like one of his own daughters and absolutely bent overbackwards to help us out whenever we were in Philly. I don't think he ever picked me up at the airport without Christi and I just wish she were here too and I wonder how hard it's going to be for Mr. Grant to see me and not to see Christi too." Poor Shayla! I'm certain she couldn't wait until Mr. Grant dropped me off in Wilmington and she could get away from her teary, crazy mom for the weekend!! (By the way she IS having a ball with the Grants!!!)

The conference has been great! Getting together with super teachers I don't see often enough is always energizing!! Last night I hugged and told the NEA President, Reg Weaver, "I've heard many of your speeches over the years, but I don't think you've ever delivered a better one." He's so inspiring and energizing! I also had to reflect upon how little Christi - our wonder girl, addressed the NEA Board of Directors in Washington DC at the age of 7 in 2004. (PHOTO: Christi with President of the 3.2 million member NEA Reg Weaver and the awesome Secretary Treasurer - Lilly, after she spoke to the hundreds of people!) After Christi's death, we received a very personal card from all 9 Officers of the NEA - so sweet!

Last night another Ohio teacher came up to me and said something like, "I always wanted to tell you that I knew exactly what you were going through, but I never wanted you to give up hope so I didn't tell you. Our son died of cancer thirteen years ago this week." I was shocked that I didn't know. Needless to say, we had a long conversation late last night.

Photo Funny: We haven't had enough snow to make a snowman so Shayne and Shayla told me they were heading out to make "snow mice". They did and then they ventured to make little snowmen to represent our family - they made three. Shayne took this photo in a way to try to make it look like they made a HUGE snowman, with our little dusting of snow. Shayla thought the picture was a riot!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Red Cross Interview- Jan. 26, 2006

Christi came up to my classroom during my lunch break to have her interview with the sweet woman from the American Red Cross one year ago today. I can't put my finger on it right now, but I have the last (good) picture of the two of us which the reporter took for the report about the little "Pint Sized Hero".

when we came home from school that day she sat at the kitchen table doing her homework, while I sat down to pull up my email. When I saw her rubbing her head I said, "What's wrong?" She said something like, "This bump hurts." I of course was shocked then she told me that "Theresa found another one here today." Two days earlier we learned that her LDH had skyrocketed and then this news 48 hours later was confirming the fact that her disease was taking off and tumors were popping out of her head and soon causing horrific pain. We knew the antibody trial (hu.14.18) didn't work and we were slipping downhill fast. Our greatest fear was that she would die on her sister's rapidly approaching birthday - Feb. 12th. We Praise God that didn't happen and that we were blessed with eight more months with Christi! (I snapped this picture immediately after she told me about the "bumps" knowing she'd probably never have a normal day again - coming home from school, sitting down and happily doing her homework. I also noticed at that time that her eye really was starting to look funny. Shayne and I agreed to keep quiet and not report to Dr. Maris what was going on because we did not want her removed from the hu.14.18 trial. Less than 24 hours later we changed her mind as things were indeed getting worse!

Shayla and I are now off to the airport! She is so excited about going home with the Grants while I'm looking forward to my teachers' conference in Wilmington tonight! (PIC: June 2005 at the Grant's home)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

God Made Us Sisters, We Made Us Friends

Forever Sisters - Shayla & Christi Thomas

I hope any bloggers still out there enjoyed the poems and the pics of those four amazing young ladies! Although I was very hesitant to ask, a few days before Christi’s death, I emailed their mothers and asked if they’d ask their daughters to pick out a poem to read at the funeral – if they wanted to and if they thought they could do it. I am still amazed at how composed, sweet and beautiful they were reading the poems inside a packed church filled with hundreds. Kids are incredible! I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing all of our old “Christi pics” and searching for the best ones to share. Some days it seems all I want to do is to sit around and look at Christi’s pictures. I don’t know why that gives me so much comfort, but it really does. Many told us we'd be "numb" for months and then months 4-7 would be the worst hell to endure as you come to realize that your precious child really is gone. That is been true. It really hit us harder than ever before this past week.

Hopefully, my next “series” of blog entries will be announcing how some of the Christi Thomas Memorial Funds will be utilized. We’ve established a committee and have had to do a lot of “checking” with others to get the “big things” all lined up so, so I apologize for the delay in making the announcement, but we really hope to do that very, very soon. We think Christi will be very impressed and very pleased! It has given us something to be excited about!

Speaking of our new k-12 school set to open next year, one day last week Shayla said that they all signed a beam and that she wished Christi were alive to sign the beam too. I asked her if she’d like to sign Christi’s name if we got permission and she said, “Oh, mommy, yes!!” Then she poured out, “I know how to write Christi’s name and I almost wrote her name instead of mine, but my teacher said we couldn’t write in cursive and I only know how to write Christi’s name in cursive because I never saw her write her name any other way and then I knew if I did that I would get in trouble so I just printed my name instead.” Whoa! Talk about nearly knocking the old mom over! I knew in the morning, it would be the fourth month anniversary of Christi’s death and it would be an emotional one, but we’d be finding out if she could sign Christi’s name too. I learned that the answer was “CERTAINLY” and I also learned that this beam will be visible - most likely in a cafeteria setting. Shayla signed Christi’s first name and I wrote her last name. All three of our names are together.

Proud little sissy, Shayla, ready to write her big sissy's name(in cursive, no less). Go, Shayla!

In Action!
The finished product - all three Thomas girls together! Christi would love it!

Our new school was so very, very exciting to Christi. I’ll never forget the night the levy passed. I came home late, having been at the Board of Elections with two other teachers and then when I heard the final numbers later I actually woke Christi up to tell her. She soon ran down the hall to our bedroom and hopped on the bed with us. I said, “Oh, Christi, I know you’re more exciting than that. You can JUMP ON OUR BED!” She said, “Really? I’m not allowed to jump on the bed.” I said, “Christi, never in our life are we ever going to move out of three old school buildings into one brand new school building and all get to go to school together! JUMP ON OUR BED!” Oh, she giggled and giggled! Tremendous memories! I wonder if the fact that they’re six weeks ahead of schedule on the building project has anything to do with a special Angel overseeing the project?! Hee hee.

Shayla’s vision therapy continues to go very well. I won’t say she enjoys doing six days of eye exercises and training with me and one long afternoon/evening spent in Toledo, but she’s making incredible progress! In reading, she’s advanced three levels (Fontaus and Pinnell for any reading teachers out there.) and is now reading at grade level!! Additionally, her grade card came home on Friday and all of her grades went up one or two full letter grades. PRAISE THE LORD! I know the first nine weeks was a tough one with losing her only sibling and best playmate and having missed nearly three weeks of school, but this second nine week grade card only contained As and Bs and her teacher thinks she’s going to continue moving up. We have about three more (long) months of this intensive treatment for her eye function, but this at least motivates us to “keep on keeping on” because it appears to be working! I’ll forever be thankful for that quick trip we took to San Francisco. Little did we ever expect Shayla’s reading problem would be diagnosed while being babysat by the sweetest of Professors who teaches and is a presenter of gifted and talented education.
With the wonderful Dr. Z - Shayla's Vision Therapy Doctor
Working hard with a vision therapist - training those eyes to work together properly
With another of her vision therapists.
Without a doubt, she would still be struggling and falling behind in school if we would not have made that trip. All of the testing efforts that had been conducted on her last year were unfruitful in diagnosing the problem. I keep shaking my head saying, “I’m a reading teacher. Why don’t teachers know about this? I have the state’s reading endorsement and am six credit hours away from the Literacy Specialist Endorsement. My husband has paid for so many reading classes and I never heard about this before.” Shayla’s vision doctor keeps saying, “This is what you need to do your dissertation on,” and “I send stuff out to schools all the time.” I have been amazed at all I’m learning about it! (Seven out of ten juvenile delinquents have undetected eye problems. Amazing!) Regardless, thanks to Robin to telling us about Shayla’s situation! We praise Him!

Every day we worry about Shayla and wonder how she’s really coping. We know she misses Christi dearly and is lonely much of the time. Our girls played non-stop together and to suddenly have that cut out of your life is a shocking change. On the night of the fourth anniversary of Christi’s death, we walked around the Tiffin Mall and had fun that night sampling lotions at Bath and Body and buying Shayla a ring at Claires. At home, she was a child we had not seen in months! She was trying out dance moves for me having me give her a number score with each series. She was making up commercials trying to sell us products with her jingles. It was like the old Shayla was back. Shayne and I just kept giving each other the look of “What is going on?” “What happened that she’s so happy?” Later, when I told her that we needed to settle down now because it was close to bed time she said to me, “I didn’t know I could have fun without Christi.” It took my breath away, but I somehow managed to say, “I’m glad because I know Christi would want you and everyone to have fun without her and who knows maybe she was floating around the room playing with us tonight too. I believe she’s always with us.” We haven't seen her that happy since then, but hopefully more good days will be in the near future! This week she was sent home from school with an eye infection. Now she's been in the great care of the wonderful Aunt V and Grandma Nee Nee. Tomorrow morning, Shayla and I will fly to Philadelphia where the wonderful Mr. Grant will be picking us up at the airport, driving me down to Wilmington for another teachers' meeting and taking Shayla to their home for the weekend. I'm going to be VERY hard to see Mr. Grant waiting for us at the airport.

PIC: June 2006 FUN AT CHOP with the GrantsI don't even want to think about the number of times he picked up Christi & I and drove us to the Ronald House or to CHOP. I do know however, Shayla will have a great time with his precious girls over the weekend. Those beautiful princesses provided Christi with more joy than they'll EVER know! Although I liked to tease them that they'd get the day off of school for silly reasons, it was very humbling to always accept their offer to come to CHOP to entertain Christi. There's nothing like "same age playmates" to bring joy to one stuck in the hospital! Christi would laugh and play with the girls for hours while I always delighted in catching up with their beautiful mother!

Christi & Shayla's first meeting (Shayla's birthday: Feb. 12, 1999) OK, Christi was more intersted in the book, but.....I guess that doesn't surprise anyone!
Disneyland (California - 2001)
Christi asked me to take a picture of her fruit chews, ugh - gross! (2001)
Planting Flowers on Mother's Day (2001) CT 4, Shayla 2

Backyard Artists!
An Old Time Favorite Picture: On the lawn of COSI, at the Arts Festival in Columbus, Shayla (1) shares her ice cream with Christi (3).

Christi & Shayla - 2000

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dance, Christi, Dance

A year ago this afternoon, I snapped these pictures of Christi during her ballet and jazz classes at Dance Unlimited located on the campus of Heidelberg. I took over eighty pics that afternoon. Why? We just came from the local hospital and during that class I called to get the results and I sadly learned that Christi's LDH had skyrocketted and I knew that meant devestation.

I wondered if it'd be the last time I saw our ballerina dance. Thankfully, it wasn't, but it was the last time she ever danced with her beautiful hair. She was able to attend a couple more classes in the late spring and then somehow managed to get out of the hospital in time for the lovely dance recital at Dance Unlimited in early June. Very soon we will be announcing how the Christi Thomas Memorial Funds will be utilized and we believe the Dance Unlimited students and their parents will be pleased. We believe Christi would be happy with our many decisions and hard work.