On Friday Bishop O’Connell High School kicked of SUPERDANCE 2017 with the assembly. Unfortunately Danny and I were not able to attend – Dan still recovering from the hospital and I needed to be at the office. So instead of Dan’s normal speech, we submitted a letter. Just in case you are still a little new around these parts… O’Connell is an incredibly huge part of our story: past, present, and future. Such a special place that has been a cornerstone in the Heppes family life and the reason Danny and I are now married through a funny turn of events – but also this community big part of our CF story. SUPERDANCE is a 12 hour dance-athon that Bishop O’Connell has been running for over 40 years to find a cure for CF through donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
We know some of the O’Connell family follows our story here on the blog, so today we wanted to share the letter that was read at last week’s kick-off assembly. All of the Knights in our world should know how much they mean to us personally and to learn about the amazing work the foundation is able to accomplish thanks to their support. So to all our Knights, we love you all and thank you for being part of our walk with CF.
To learn more about the history of SUPERDANCE and our involvement take a look at last year’s assembly post. And if your means should allow, we appreciate any contribution to the student’s fundraising goal: SUPERDANCE 2017
On November 30, 2016 my husband, DJO alumni, and O’Connell hockey coach Danny Bessette had a double lung transplant. For 32 years Danny’s lungs had fought the battle against Cystic Fibrosis, but as it turns out CF won and he needed new lungs to survive. This surgery was a great success and Danny’s new lungs are doing beautifully. The challenges he does face are associated with the many new medications he now must take, the long healing process he is working through, and the realization that he has traded out a life with CF in the lungs for a whole new outlook. This sort of change is huge and the journey can be long with a variety of ups and downs. Unfortunately that is what keeps Danny away today as recovers at home from a recent hospitalization. However he would want me to warn all his players: he will be back next season, and feeling a lot better – so get ready! Also we wanted the chance to send our greetings to you all on this special day.
You see O’Connell is not just the high school Danny and I attended, it isn’t just the school that he coaches at, and SUPERDANCE is not just another fundraiser – this place is our family and this event a life line. On the night of Danny’s surgery, while he was on an operating table for over 6 hours, I heard from students, alumni, teachers, administrators – all with messages of prayers, love, and support. Post surgery it was our O’Connell community that helped to take care of us, prepare our home for Danny to return to, and the ones we plan to call on as we continue to try and return to normal. As Danny woke up in the ICU it was a friends’ video message of them doing “the Knight’s Rumble” that Danny watched, and his hockey jacket that I wore. O’Connell travels this road with us and we want you all to know now much you mean to Danny and I.
This year has been a tough one for our local CF community. Three folks that have walked on this stage to say “I have Cystic Fibrosis” faced the harsh realities of this disease and had to fight their way back to life. Sometimes, even when you are living with this disease in your house you have no idea its power until it takes hold and you are forced to face the unthinkable. That reality is one that we don’t wish on anyone and the reason what you all do here is so important. Your efforts at SUPERDANCE support the modern medicine that will continue to give life back to CF patients and hope to their families. And to know that our little SUPERDANCE community of CFers has you all supporting them – there is no wonder they all are such amazing fighters.
But there is something else you should know about your efforts here – you are not just providing medical help or a safe place for our CF patients and families to tell their story – you are giving them the chance to actually live life. Being sick is terrible – but its not all about how you feel or what your body is doing. It is also about insurance battles, loneliness, financial strains, and many other factors that weigh these Cystic Fibrosis patients down as they try to fight their disease and live life. The CF Foundation actually offers resources for all these needs as well. If you have an insurance issue, the Foundation has a lawyer service you can use free of charge. If you are in need of advice on community or medications – they have resources for that too. Helping these individuals to just stay alive is only half the battle, we also have to help them with the resources to actually have a life. The CF Foundation offers these resources and SUPERANCE makes it possible. This year at a CF event I learned there are more CF adults in this world than children – and that is thanks to the hard work of the many years of fundraising here at O’Connell, and now you all are helping to assure these people have what they need to keep going.
SUPERDANCE is so important. You all are actually impacting lives here – but there is also something very important we want you to remember, the O’Connell community. Each of you sitting out in the auditorium here have been influenced by this special place. Some of you may already know how – some of you may not yet know – heck, you may not be able to even imagine why it would be so important, but you will. Somewhere between the classes, the activities, the events, the students, and the faculty there is the experience of going to a school that has chosen to look beyond just the worldly things of grades, awards, and tournaments and actually find out how they can change the future for those less fortunate. That sort of thing sticks with you…. and it will shock you how much it comes to play out in your future. Both Danny and I have come to never underestimate the power of the “O’Connell Effect” and we believe each one of you are here at DJO for a reason. This year Danny and I have come to learn the many reasons we were brought through this school and it has been incredible. Take the spirit of O’Connell with you …. and don’t be surprised that no matter what, it will follow you.
We wish you all a wonderful SUPERDANCE this year and thank you for all the hard work that gives our loved ones an opportunity to live a healthy life. Be sure to take a few moments and soak in the special place you call your school and these moments that give you a chance to change lives. We hope to maybe see you at the dance!