Sisterhood…Anna’s Angel and Also Mine
It’s a new month and with the beautiful fall leaves in October comes an even more beautiful organization that I want to tell you about. This foundation is as close to my heart as any. That is because its founder is… as close to me as anyone in the world can be. Do you know what a true “sister” means to you? I must say I have learned from Michelle. Our 20 plus year old friendship has been nothing but joyous. Solid. Love and loyalty to its core. I only hope that other women have an opportunity to experience intimacy with a friend in its entirety as I have with Michelle. I could write forever about her positive qualities (our husbands always roll their eyes at us when we start spouting our love for one another!) So lets start with some background on my “BFF” (as my little girl inside me would call her).
I first saw Michelle at the beginning of my college career (1986) – briefly at orientation. She was with her roommate and closest friend and I thought to myself, “Those girls look like people I would like to get to know. They look so content.” Little did I know that it would take 5 years to meet up with Michelle again. We both went about our college years participating in different activities. I would see her on campus and still remember that first day of orientation. After graduation, I moved to India for several months and when I returned, an old friend invited me to a get-together for his birthday – who was there? Michelle! We talked for a long time that evening, and it was like catching up with a long lost friend, but I felt awkward about asking her for her phone number to connect. So on we went. Then, about a month later, I was looking in the newspaper for places to live in the greater Raleigh area, and I came across an ad that said, “Great hardwoods and must love dogs!” I called and, of course, it was Michelle! Both of her roommates were moving, she was engaged to be married and needed two roommates for a short time period.
After I moved in, we instantly connected. It was like we were catching up for all the time we had lost in our lives together. She asked me to be in her wedding and on we went as dear, dear friends. Unfortunately, I moved several times – Michelle is still in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. We have been through thick and thin together. Death, illness, divorce, marriage, raising kids, friendship challenges, you name it. Like Oprah calls Gayle her “go to girl”, Michelle is mine and will be forever.
One of the most challenging times in Michelle’s life was finding out that one of her three beautiful children had Leukemia. Anna, who was born with Down syndrome is, I believe, Michelle’s touchstone in life. When Anna was born, it changed her soul forever. Her birth opened up many people’s hearts and began Michelle on a journey that I do not even think she could have imagined. From the experience with Anna’s cancer and her incredible recovery, Michelle and her husband Andy decided to start a foundation with Duke University to provide funds to promote laboratory and clinical research in Down syndrome. The foundation’s overall vision is to improve the cognitive and communicative ability of individuals with Down syndrome.Anna’s Angels began in 2003 and, to date, has raised over $825,000 for Down syndrome research. What is incredible about this number is that 100% of the funds raised has been from individual donations and almost all of the those funds goes directly to research. Their goal is to raise $1 million dollars by the end of 2012. I have tears in my eyes as I write this and my heart is full thinking of all of the work my dear friend, my “sister” in the best, best sense of the word has poured into Anna’s Angels. She tirelessly mobilizes her local community to put on annual events including a 10 mile run, a beautiful Gala and Auction and a tennis tournament. Here is a picture from one of the events. SISTERHOOD!
It is an appropriate month to highlight Anna’s Angels, because it is Down syndrome awareness month. Throughout October, we will be talking about all of the great strides Anna’s Angels has made in Down syndrome research and the incredible results. Additionally, I will tell you about other ways Anna’s Angels has positively impacted the mainstream community’s awareness of Down syndrome. I would like to end this blog with a quote from Michelle herself. Truly to me Anna’s “Angel” of a Mother:
“I started Anna’s Angels so Anna and other children with Down syndrome would have the best opportunity to live a healthy and independent life. I hope Anna’s Angels will be a gift to Anna and others with Down syndrome. Passion, love, vision, clarity and dedication created Anna’s Angels and hope will keep me working for years to come.” – Michelle Pfeiffer