When Chick-fil-A owner John Roden of Bossier City, Louisiana, heard Maggie Lee’s story at his church in early October, 2010, he wanted his restaurant take part in Maggie Lee for Good Day. He shared the story with his marketer, Renee Wilson, who contacted us and asked if we were open to his Chick-Fil-A Restaurant (and, eventually the other two in the Shreveport / Bossier Area) to join in the second annual event. Of course we were ecstatic to have Chick-fil-A on board.
A week later Julie Babboni approached Renee Wilson in hopes of doing a fundraiser to help cover the astronomical cost of a trained service dog for her son, Benjamin. 4 Paws for Ability is a non-profit organization whose dogs perform life-changing and even life-saving service for disabled children and adults. The timing seemed to be divinely inspired. Typically shying away from individual fundraisers, Renee still somehow felt like assisting in Benjamin’s quest for a service dog was the perfect project for this day. On October 29th, 2010, we met The Babboni family and was taken with this little guy whose life would be changed forever by a sweet, enormous canine named Hachi.
As seen in the video, Renee is explaining that at lunch on Maggie Lee for Good Day, every 29th meal was free, given in honor of Maggie Lee’s birthday and every customer who was given a free meal donated to the fundraiser for Benjamin. Donations included an anonymous gift in the whopping amount of $5,000, practically 1/3 of the cost of a trained service dog.
For three Octobers, Maggie Lee for Good has been a great rallying point around which generous enthusiasm is drawn. Whether it be a fun run benefitting North Carolina Organ Donation, a food drive in San Angelo, TX or even a service-dog fundraiser in Bossier City, LA., it is a tremendous phenomenon to watch. We are thrilled by the divine orchestration which led our lives to cross with so many of you and we are also happy that Benjamin has a faithful companion and protector in Hachi. Here are a few remarkable stories from Julie:
“We met Hachi for the first time on Aug 2, 2011. We had just been emailed a photo of him a week prior! When Hachi and Benjamin met it was an immediate bond and Hachi also began alerting to the Electrical status (seizure discharges) that Benjamin constantly has going on in his brain. It was amazing. Since then the two have slept together every night, and lately Benjamin has taken to Hachi’s bed so they both sleep on a huge dog bed! But at least he’s sleeping.
A month after having Hachi we no longer took Benjamin’s wheelchair to school. Hachi is trained in tethering/mobility, which means he wears a sturdy leather harness that has a handle for Benjamin to hold on to, and then we use a padded dog collar around Benjamin’s waist and tie them to each other with a bungee type leash. Hachi walks slowly next to Benjamin and bears his weight when needed (ie stairs) but mostly helps Benjamin keep his balance and use his leg muscles by walking. It is also a godsend because now out in public we do not have to confine Benjamin to his wheelchair for safety because he would always take off. Hachi is trained to stay down or standing no matter how much hard Benjamin is pulling on the leash trying to get away.
He is also trained in tracking! Hachi is amazing at finding Benjamin, it is his favorite game. We’ve practiced in parks, woods, around the house, stores, in the house, and even the underground tunnels up at the mayo clinic! We spent 2 straight weeks training with Hachi and his trainers, and he it was one of the best trackers of his class! So if Benjamin ever does get away from us at home or in public then Hachi will be able to “hunt” him down!!!
As I mentioned before Hachi also does seizure alert. Benjamin’s has had 3 physical seizures since we got Hachi, and Hachi alerted about 6-8 minutes before each seizure. Since Benjamin usually doesn’t have physical seizures we were very surprised. Hachi is used to Benjamin’s constant electrical activity in his brain, ( he has ESES epilepsy as one of his diagnosis’) but Hachi will alert a few times a day, and that is when Benjamin is having a full seizure in his brain and we are only aware of it because of Hachi, Benjamin may be sleeping or playing at the time and shows no physical signs of it.
His last two things he is trained in are Behavior Disruption, and Emotional Support. We have Hachi “give kisses” or lay on Benjamin’s lap as distractions when he is starting a tantrum and it works about 85% of the time and then Hachi is just Benjamin’s best friend.
Having Hachi is like having another child to get ready and feed and tend to, so it is not always so easy for me, but seeing what he does for my son everyday makes every second worth it.
We did go to Disney and Sea World this past November, and the first day at the park Benjamin walked tethered to Hachi for 3 straight hours, he’s never walked for more than 20 minutes straight before. Having Hachi is building muscle, increasing his independence while keeping him safe, and giving him a sense of belonging.”
So if you ever wondered about Benjamin and if he ever got his service dog, there’s the rest of the story.
Bossier City Chick-Fil-A is again participting in MLFG this year and I wanted to encourage you to go by on Maggie Lee for Good Day on October 29th and Eat More Chicken.
For their good deed, they are spreading the word this week with MLFG “Bag Stuffers,” ( new term to me….apparently those slips of paper that come in your CFA bag) encouraging their devotees to do a good deed on October 29th.
Who knows, you may be one of the lucky souls who gets your meal free on Maggie Lee for Good Day!
Besides Betsy in Tifton, St. Madeleine Sophie School in Bellevue, Washington, Jessie’s MLFG Costume Fun Run in Fayetteville, NC and Preferred Imaging Monster Garage Sale in Dallas, there are a lot of wonderful Shreveport / Bossier MLFG Events. We are really excited about Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover officially proclaiming October 29th “Maggie Lee for Good Day,” and encouraging the citizens of Shreveport to take part and do one good deed for someone in need.
-Cosse-Silmon Orthodontics Food Drive to benefit HUB Ministries.230 Carroll St. 71105
-Caddo Middle Magnet- Coat and shoe Drive, T-Shirt Sale to benefit the American Heart Association (on going) -7635 Cornelius Lane 71106
Oct. 25th Tuesday-St. Mark’s Cathedral School Memorial Prayer Opportunity 11:30am
-Mayor Glover’s Proclamation- 3pm City Council Meeting 505 Travis St, 71101
Oct. 26th Wednesday -Caddo Middle Magnet Happy Bellies sale for American Heart Association
Oct 27th Thursday – First Baptist Church School Choir Concert at Spring Lake Nursing Home 10am 8622 Line Ave 71106
Oct. 28th Friday-Byrd Astra Club’s MLFG Lighthouse Kid Celebration 4pm- Highland Center 520 Olive St., 71104(under large sanctuary)
Oct 29th Saturday- Veteran’s Transitional Housing Painting & Community Renewal Friendship House Yard Spruce Up-9am-12pm, 2204 Creswell 71104
Jack’s Monster Dodge Ball Party Highland Center Gym 3 pm 520 Olive St 71104
Maggie Lee for Good Celebration; Highland Center 4pm- Come have a cupcake and celebrate with us!
Thank you for making this the most far-reaching and impactful October 29th yet!
Betsy Sone Jones was my Baylor roomate. She was the subject of my post, “Just Don’t Look at it, Betsy!” which referred to our Freshman 15 which she has now marathoned off of herself. I have done no such thing. It is good for a comic to have some flaws.
This MLFG Day her school, Annie Bell Clark Primary in Tifton, GA, will once again hold a food drive. While our son like many of your kids cannot wait for the weekened to play sports, have blow out birthday parties and go to the movies, over 100 of ABC students face homes with an empty food pantry. A few years ago, Northside B.C. of Tifton, was made aware of this situation and stepped in with a creative solution to this problem.
Every Friday, kids are discreetly given a sack of groceries to stick in their backpacks so that they will not go hungry until Monday morning. Things like Granola bars, beanie weenie and fruit cups. Because the need has increased so significantly, ABC is collecting food which will go directly to this program.
This is my friend, Gina’s Maggie Lee for Good story…what’s yours?
Maggie Lee For Good (North Texas Food Bank)
Why was my 11-year-old so driven to organize a canned food drive at her school? I think it was a way for her to have action or maybe control over a situation that left her feeling so helpless and so insecure about how she saw her world. When your best friend dies when you’re in elementary school it certainly doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t even make sense when you’re 40. How can all your dreams of your future be taken away from you when you haven’t even lived long enough to have much of a past?
Just a few weeks before Maggie Lee’s accident the girls discussed and daydreamed endlessly about their future and the role each of them would play in it. They engaged in sweet little girl fantasies that included living in an apartment together in New York City, working in musical theater together, being on Broadway, being famous in L.A. , working with the Jonas Brothers, walking down the red carpet hand in hand, and encouraging each other through every glorious success. They believed the fantasy…I believed their fantasy.
I could picture Maggie Lee by my girl’s side being her cheerleader. Why wouldn’t I believe the fantasy, she had always been a positive force in her life since she was two years old. She was an unselfish encourager even then. I don’t think she had a jealous bone in her little body. I would often shake my head in amazement at what an unusual child Maggie Lee was. We were surely blessed by this gale of wind, filled with sunshine, which would blow through our house when she would visit.
So how does a little girl tie down this pervasive feeling of insecurity along with a feeling of emptiness that only a deep sense of loss can create? She gets busy. She focused on a goal. Maggie Lee for Good was created on Maggie Lee’s birthday, October 29th. With a new goal in mind she was able to channel her grief and somehow make purpose of a tragedy that made no sense to her. It also helped her t be able to share with all the kids in her school how even as a child you can affect and help others. You can change them or create change for them.
She got the permission from the principal at Grace Academy of Dallas to have a Maggie Lee for Good cannedFood Drivebenefitting North Texas Food Bank. Along with the student council, they made posters asking families to donate food, either bringing it to school or doing online shopping at the North Texas Food bank website. They stood in carline with posters asking for donations and advertised in the school newpaper. In the end they collected enough canned goods to change the lives of 100’s of families…for good.
The theme was “Angels Among Us”. Agnes & I and the other girls discussed
Maggie Lee Henson as an angel among us and how we might honor her legacy
“ML4G” and her family’s work to convert their loss and grief into “doing
good” to enrich the lives of other children. And that is how we came up with
the gingerbread house that is a church adorned with angel wings, graced by
Maggie Lee’s angelic image watching over us from above. The cross symbolizes
the church, but also Maggie Lee’s faith and that of her family and friends,
who have drawn strength and hope from their faith in coping with their
unthinkable loss and accepting that Maggie Lee was needed more elsewhere.
The wings and feathers symbolize an angel and how even in tragedy, we can
take light and rise above what would otherwise destroy us (grief, sorrow,
loss). The church is decorated in a happy way because everyone who knew
Maggie Lee talked about her light, her laugh and her happy spirit. And so we
felt in spite of the sadness surrounding her premature death, the overall
feeling of the gingerbread house should reflect the spirit of a happy child,
as that is how she would want to be remembered and memorialized.
One of these girls, Madelyn Greenleaf, was a very close friend of Maggie
Lee’s and her family’s, while the others really came to know Maggie Lee and
what she symbolized after her death, through the work of her family and many
friends and members of the community who were so determined to make sure
Maggie Lee had not died in vain. All of them continue to wear their Maggie
Lee for Good t-shirts at school (CMM designated a MG4G Day), at Camp Ozark,
and around town to promote awareness and honor her memory and her legacy.
When Maggie Lee was in Second Grade at Lakeview Elementary, I remember her rushing into my car at carpool line, bursting with excitement to share an amazing story. Eyes wide and face dancing with animation, she exclaimed, “Listen to THIS, Mommy….This is SO a God thing!”
Well, today, on the second anniversary of the bus wreck, SO a God thing happened that I could not keep this to myself.
Colleen Gibbs has been my bff since 7th grade. She was there for my first comedic performance at Camp Tejas. She worked in meeting planning for 12 years until I finally convinced her to book my events since both halves of her brain actually work. For her precious family’s Maggie Lee for Good project last October 29th, they held an art show at their home. This was no ordinary art show, there was a prayer station for my family, a build-your-own snack station and a fabulous display of Kathleen and Meredith’s art work.
Incredibly, The Doucettes raised $305.00 with this project and decided to donate the entire amount to our World Vision Child in East Khasi Hills, India; a girl named Rinky. Amazingly, just today when we returned from our trip to Houston, (Mimi got a new knee, LOOK OUT WORLD!) we received a letter dated 16/Feb/2011, thanking us for the donation. On October 29th, 2010, three precious curly-haired girls took on an art show as their Maggie Lee for Good Labor of Love. July 12th, 2011, their kindness boomerang-ed and fell into our laps at a most opportune time.
And, without a doubt, that is SO a God thing.
East Khasi Hills Area Development Program
“Greeting from me and my Family. Once again thank you very much for your love and your support to me and my family. I have received the gift you send me through World Vision. With this money we have spent school fees, school uniform, school bags, Gass Chulaspot, text books, exercise book and trousercloth. These items are very useful for me and my brother and my sister. It has helped the burden of my father. We do not have anything to give you in return but only my gratefulnessand gratitude and prayers for you. God bless you.”