Shortly after Jax died, my great friend Sam, who was working for Disney at the time in the art department, first told me about the CHOC Walk. He has worked many special events at Disney, and worked for this event and figured my wife and I might be interested in supporting the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
I was hesitant. I was still deep into grief, and I didn’t want to walk around with a bunch of families celebrating the hospital that saved their kids. Ours died there. We can skip this.
But I told my wife about it, and because of her strength and her more optimistic outlook, we registered as a team. We figured some family members would walk with us. We didn’t recruit people to join us. But in six weeks our team went from maybe 10-15, we figured, to 80. We raised $10,000 as a team and Sam created the best logo for a t-shirt at the Walk, which we clipped capes on the back of. And Iron Jax was born.
On Sunday, Sam, his new wife and his mom, who has known me since the third grade, walked with 50 of our friends and family to remember Jax. To honor him. To celebrate his super hero spirit of life.
This is how the CHOC Walk weekend went.
Friday was wristband/t-shirt pick up night at my parents’ house. But unlike last year, only a few people stopped by. Most packages were distributed in groups. We watched the Dodgers lose to St. Louis in extra innings in game one of the National League Championship Series. And the twins set a new record of sound decibel in that house when a couple of friends stopped by to play with them. Gray screams louder than Ellie and her 4-year-old friend combined. That’s not a good thing.
The early part of the day was pretty normal. Breakfast, play, lunch, play, nap. Because of my wife’s hard work and planning, we weren’t racing around working on last-minute details. She even grabbed some shut-eye.
Like last year, we booked a hotel room near Disneyland for the night before the Walk. It’s appealing to wake up, walk 15 minutes and not have to deal with the traffic of 15,000 people, many without their coffee yet, all driving to the same place.
But first we met my wife’s family at Buca di Beppo for a pre-Walk carb load. Her mom, aunt, brother and his girlfriend stayed in an adjoining room with us at the hotel, which makes for a fun time.
After dinner, we hit up the hotel to unpack. My wife and her mom went to Albertson’s to blow up balloons with a helium tank. They also brought back a six-pack of Shock Top and Lysol spray. Ever since nursing school my wife sees germs everywhere. The hotel remote. The floor. The bathroom. That couch. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY BARE BUTTS HAVE SAT ON THAT COUCH? You’re disgusting for even thinking about sitting on it, Seth. (She’s never said that. It’s just what I imagine is going on in that mind of hers).
While they were out, I got the kids ready for bed. Because two pack-n-plays take up a large amount of floor space, I thought it’d be smart to get two queen-size beds and each of us could sleep with a kid. It’d be Gray and Ellie’s first time sleeping in a big bed. So after I unknowingly tossed Ellie’s long-sleeve shirt into the hotel trash (which we didn’t discover until just before check-out the next day, after a 15-minute hunt for it), I loaded the kids into the same bed. It was 9:01 p.m. I figured they’d be up a bit, then quiet down. I went next door to hang with the others.
An hour later full of giggling, playing footsie and “Daddy” requests, my wife came back. They were too excited about this newfound freedom. Usually they just reach through the bars in their cages (cribs) to touch each other. Now they have no obstructions.
Gray finally fell asleep. Ellie, however, wanted to p-a-r-t-y. She talked to herself. Sang to herself. When my wife finally went to bed a little after 11 p.m., Ellie wanted to watch her play on the iPod Touch, or watch TV. Anything but sleep.
The whole idea of them sleeping with us was a bust. Our 5 a.m. wake-up call came far too quickly. I found a little sleep between Gray kicking me in the nuts and my fear he’d fall out of bed. My wife had similar luck. At one point, Ellie was turning herself around like the hands on a clock.
Fortunately my wife heard her alarm go off at 5 a.m, because I didn’t. She got ready, I showered and the twins woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I found a quiet moment to explain to Gray why we do the CHOC Walk, which they’ve been looking forward to. He stood on the bed next to me. I told him it is to remember Jax. And it was the first time I let myself have any emotion about the event. To avoid walking through streaming tears, I focus on the event aspect of it. What needs to be done. For the first time, my eyes welled with tears. Gray, normally go go go go, contemplated what I told him. It was a moment.
With the twins loaded in the stroller and balloons, signs and posters in hand, we hurried over to Disneyland to meet the rest of the team.
It was still dark. My face was puffy – dehydrated and full of Buca di Beppo’s sodium. Our team joined up and we made our way inside.
As opposed to last year, Disneyland had the Walk begin at Disneyland. Because of this, the Walk went much more smoothly. We didn’t get stuck in the same spot for 20 minutes listening to Phineas and Ferb‘s theme song on repeat like we did last year. Talk about a near nervous breakdown. Naw, this year was noticeably better. Kudos, Disney.
Our team weaved around Disneyland, into California Adventure and finished at Downtown Disney. Gray and Ellie jumped between family and friends after we unstrapped them from their stroller.
Ellie found older girls to walk with, and she went from being 2 to 12 in the matter of minutes. She ate up the attention, stuck out her hip at pictures and was in full tween mode.
Gray, however, hung out with me a lot.
And when we came across, Jake, his best friend in the world (or tied with Jack Sparrow), he freaked. The characters terrify him. He won’t let me stand near them even if I’m holding him. He starts to climb up my back to get away.
After the Walk, my wife’s friend and co-worker gave my wife the a necklace she was wearing. The Walk was over. Everything went well. And it was time for my wife to unleash some emotion.
The day turned out as well as we could’ve hoped. We left exhausted but satisfied.
In all, our team raised $8,987. Thank you everyone that walked, sponsored a walker or donated to our team. It means so, so much to our family that you will help us to honor and remember Jax and raise money for a tremendous organization in his name.
On Monday, a friend of mine text me to say that my wife and I handled the day really well. She said she admired my strength. But it’s not me. I just follow my wife’s lead. She does all the heavy lifting for the event. I’m just a supporting actor to her Oscar-nominated role. And really, we don’t have much of a choice. What others see as strength, we see as our new life. We do what we have to do. For the twins. And to preserve Jax’s legacy. Our little hero.
Thank you Tim and Heather for your outstanding photos. I hope you don’t mind I used them here!