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 www.ChristiThomas.com 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, June 17, 2009

2009 Christi Thomas Dance Unlimited Scholarship Awards

We presented $2,400 in scholarships to graduating Dance Unlimited Seniors at the close of Saturday night's performance. The ballet recitals are always killers knowing how much Christi loved them and that she's not dancing on that stage anymore. We both cried when what should have been Christi's class performed their lovely ballet dance.

What no one knew was that they danced to a song from "Shrek". When Christi was in the hospital in NYC, a group called the "Musicians on Call" would come around and sing and play the guitar for the kids. Christi would typically request a song from Shrek. Oh, that was tough! I told myself it was her way of letting us know she was there with us and that we weren't really without her at all.

As usual, I told myself the speech would just be "words on paper" so there was no need to cry. I actually did pretty well. When I glanced over at Shayne and saw tears streaming down his cheeks I told myself, "Well, don't look at him until this is over, he's not doing well either." Shayla, as always - what a trooper and thanks to Dance Unlimited for letting us award the annual gifts in Christi's memory.

Here's this year's speech:

Just last week, Shayne and I were finally brave enough for the first time since our daughter, Christi’s death, 2 ½ years ago, to watch some video footage of Christi. Ironically, the very first video we watched showed her, at the age of 3, wearing ballet slippers and a leotard, putting on a performance for us in our living room. Perhaps she knew her recitals would be limited in number and that she should get a head start.

(PIC FUNNY: As this picture was being taken, Hope's mom said to Shayla, "It's a good thing your parents don't hold grudges. I think I gave your dad a detention once." Oh, yes, I had totally forgotten about THAT! Too funny! Who knew I'd grow up and work with one of our teachers? Shayla had many questions about all that. Hee hee!)

I pointed out to Shayne that the little ballet slippers she was wearing were given to me by Hope Davies’s mother . And that I was willing to bet that the leotard she was wearing was given to her by Jayde Culver’s mother. But what this video clip showed us was not only Christi’s love of dance at a very young age, but also the love of the Dance Unlimited family – passing their outgrown items on to others – a practice I know continues today. It is this very sense of family, of sharing, and of concern for others that causes us to continue to give this annual scholarship money in memory of our daughter, Christi Thomas.

Some of you may remember Christi. It’s hard for us to believe, but she would be 12 years old now and going into the 8th grade. It was 12 weeks after her very first dance recital, when she was five, that she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – stage IV, the most deadly form of all childhood cancers. For four straight years she fought the evil beast with gallons of chemotherapy pumped, radiation treatments, surgeries and experimental drugs too numerous to count. By the grace of God, she was somehow able to dance in three of the four dance recitals during those four years of continual cancer treatments. 12 weeks after the curtain closed here at the Ritz, for what turned out to be her last dance recital, she went to dance on a stage even more beautiful than this gorgeous one here. She was nine.

After Christi’s death we determined we would award annual scholarships to deserving young men and woman as a tribute to Christi and to her love of dance and education. Since that time, we have given over $20,000 to help others pursue their educations, and with tonight’s awards nearly $7,000 will have been given to Dance Unlimited students.

The Christi Thomas Scholarship committee consists of five members. This year’s scholarship selection team had an incredibly difficult task. The applicants are all remarkable and we know that any one of them would be a fabulous, well-deserving choice. They are all simply amazing, the kind of gals we had hoped Christi would grow up to be like.

In her application, one young lady wrote: Christi’s life is an inspiration to me. When I see how in such a short time one little girl accomplished so much, I can’t help but question if I am doing all I can to leave a legacy like hers. Her story is a motivation to me to live life to the fullest and to touch as many lives as possible. I can only hope that in my life I can accomplish as much and bless as many people as Christi did.

Another fine young woman wrote: Having someone positive affect your life can leave a lasting mark. I think Christi Thomas has done this for all of us. From her positivity and keeping her head held high through good times and through her struggle through the worst times, she definitely inspired all. We all let the little things get us down and we need to remember to look to the memory of Christi and think about her positive attitude. Having a positive attitude can make all the difference.

Another wrote: Until I met Christi I did not know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Her cheerful outlook on life encouraged me to do the same as well. That’s why I am going to school to study in an area where I can help others in need. It gives me great joy when I am able to help someone, just like Christi did when she worked her lemonade stands.

And finally: To this day I think of Christi when it gets closer and closer to each recital and how she would have been have an amazing dancer. I also thank God for giving me the chance to have been able to have known her joyful spirit. She will never be forgotten at Dance Unlimited.

As you can imagine, we couldn’t pick just one and unfortunately, we can’t award $1,000 to each Senior despite the fact our hearts say yes, but our wallets so no. However, we added some smaller scholarships to reward these fine young women. We hope to share Christi’s unique love of books and reading with these gals by helping to pay for their fall textbook bills. Therefore, the following women will each receive a $200 scholarship. (Read names)

Jayde, Meghan, Courtney, Jaci, Jacquelyn, Marta, and Hope

Once upon a time there LIVED a beautiful princess and we want to remember that she LIVED and she DANCED not just that she died. One of the applicant’s essays was especially touching as I learned something new. Here’s bit of what this year’s scholarship winner wrote:

Christi Thomas changed my life in many ways. She inspired me to look at the world in a whole new light. In 2005, during dress rehearsal, I was helping backstage and Christi was waiting to perform. I felt someone pull on my arm saying, “Will you hold me? I’m really nervous.” It was Christi. She had no idea who I was, but she had to have known that I was a dancer in the performance as well. I knelt down and while she was holding my arm we watched the end of the dance together. Before it was her turn to perform, she made me promise that I would be there for the next performances too. I kept my promise. Christi called me her “cuddle buddy”.

Shayne had heard this story before and if I had I had forgotten; however, I’ve never forgotten this sweet young woman, standing outside of church at Christi’s funeral, giving our little dancer a respectful and tearful goodbye.

Shayla says, “ This year’s $1,000 scholarship winner, in honor of my big sister, Christi, goes to Cassie Smith.”

Shayla gave Cassie a little present Sunday before the show and Cassie said, "Oh, wait, I have something for your family too." I don't have it scanned yet, but what she gave me was a picture of her and Christi cuddled up together after the 2006 recital, Christi's last. I couldn't look at the picture then because I knew I'd break down crying so I just stuck it in my purse. I'll share it soon. That really caught me by surprise.

I know I have a picture (somewhere) of Jayde sitting in our living room holding baby Christi. She was one of my kindergarten students and Christi wore many of her "hand-me'downs" for many years. I think this is one of the many beautiful dresses Christi was got wear too. Best wishes, Jayde! She's a gem!

1 Comments:

At 17/6/09 5:35 PM, Blogger Vickie said...

Love your speech! Twelve. Oh how we miss our girls.

 

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