You get to a certain point in life, and you think you cease to be surprised by things. After 41 years on Earth (and who knows how many spent on Neptune), I thought it took a lot to floor me.
But about a month ago, a wonderful friend of mine who heads the Friends of Jaclyn Organization emailed with a request that just about knocked me off my chair when I read it: Would I consider being the keynote speaker at the annual FOJ Gala on April 22?
As I’ve written many times in this space before, FOJ is very near and dear to my heart. Started in 2005 by a little girl with a brain tumor named Jaclyn Murphy and her father Denis, FOJ pairs college and high school sports teams from across North America with sick children. The teams “adopt” the children and bring them to games and practices, lets them sit on the bench during games, and often times athletes from the teams accompany the children to chemo treatments, MRI’s, etc.
It is a small but growing organization that my wife and I support with time and money, and I’ve been writing stories for their website, chronicling the journeys between families and teams for a few years now. I have gotten to know so many fantastic people through FOJ, people whose lives were completely upended by brain tumors, but fight back with all they have, and appreciate the life-changing support they get from college athletes and coaches.
We go to the annual FOJ fundraising gala every year, and always have a great time. But never in a million years did I think they’d ask me to be the headlining speaker; hell, Bill Belichick and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly have been the headliners before, and I ain’t them. I am in no way shy, nor do I have a problem speaking in public, but getting up in front of 300 people on a Saturday night and giving a speech? Not something I do every day, you know?
But I was so honored to be asked that of course I said yes, and Saturday night, at a beautiful banquet hall in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., I gave a speech that I’d worked on for a few weeks.
It’s funny; when I rehearsed the speech with my wife a few times last week, I didn’t get emotional or tear up once, even as I described some of the wonderful (and tragedy-stricken) families I’ve written about.
But Saturday night, on the podium, I turned into a combination of Oprah and Dick Vermeil, stopping to wipe tears away at least four times during my speech. Maybe it was just looking at the faces of people I was talking about, or the incredible emotion that was already in the room thanks to the previous speakers, but man, I was a puddle.
Still, I think the speech went well, and I got a nice ovation from the crowd afterwards (hey, no one threw tomatoes or heckled me, so that’s always good). And while there was one nice woman who confused me with the “other” Michael Lewis in thanking me afterwards (I was going to let it go but she was so effusive in her praise of “my” books that I had to correct her), the whole experience was exhilarating.
FOJ is filled with so many wonderful people with huge hearts, and I am so fortunate to know them. If you want to learn more about FOJ, please click here for their website.
**Next up today, as I’ve said before it’s too depressing to write about Donald Trump very often, but sometimes I come across something that makes me laugh out loud, that he’s said or done, because it’s just so pathetic or silly. Case in point: The orange sexual assaulter-in-chief gave an an interview to the Associated Press on Friday. There were many, many falsehoods spoken, but this was my favorite part:
I mean… are you freaking kidding me? He said something and then said something different TWO minutes later! He was also out there in the interview bragging about how he amazingly got a Supreme Court justice nominated in his first 70 days. Ummm, douchebag, Mitch McConnell refused to let the last guy have a hearing, then changed the rules of the Senate to let this guy through! Hey Donnie, same thing would’ve happened if any GOP candidate had gotten to be President.
Grrr. OK, deep breaths… I’m better now. Time for a palate cleanser…
**Finally today, this will put a smile on your face: Friday was the 1-year anniversary of the death of Prince, a musical talent like few others. There were many tributes done, and many were excellent, but my favorite Prince tribute happened two years ago, while he was still alive. May I introduce to you the musicians of the Girard College Lower School Band, a bunch of 3rd through 6th-graders at a school in Philadelphia, doing a medley of his songs.
So great, and makes me smile every time I think of it.