A Key Filled With Gratitude

I am often inspired and humbled by certain people, and even those much younger than me, who are joyful, giving, selfless and maintain an attitude of gratitude no matter the circumstances. You know who these people are because they stand out from the crowd with their smiles and attitudes of gratitude. Our babysitter, Maria, is one of these special people and the beautiful thing is, she doesn’t even know it! 

My Giving Key is to express my gratitude to Maria and her gift of meaningful friendship to our family and boys since 2005. 

We are deeply grateful to Maria for not only watching our boys over the years and keeping them safe, but also mentoring them in what it looks like to help out others, be a good role-model, and by example, showing an expression of love, grace and gratitude to our family. 

As I write this message on gratitude, I am reminded of one extremely special and grateful experience with Maria. In January 2009, I asked Maria to help me support Team Rise. Team RISE was formed by the Everett family and brought family and friends together to run in the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon to raise money for the Phoenix Society providing opportunities for burn victims to receive peer support programs like World Burn Congress and other burn recovery resources. Within seconds of asking Maria, she’s said, “Sure…that sounds fun! Count me in! What can I do to help?"

Together we embarked on a 26.2-mile journey to run and support a very special mother, Sharon Everett. Friends, family, and supporters from all over Ohio and Michigan trained and raised money to help make a difference in the lives of burn victims. This exhilarating experience can be summed up in two words: Gratitude and Appreciation. In the midst of work projects and family obligations, it is hard to stop and reflect on what is important in life, but sometimes (when most unexpected) we experience something special that helps put focus and meaning back into our lives. Meeting Sharon Everett was one of those special occasions. Having Maria join me in this run and fundraiser was amazing. Maria is 20 years younger than me, so having her with me was not only inspiring, but fun!

Sharon Everett is a wife and mother, as well as an inspiration to burn victims. Tragically in July 2000, Sharon was returning from a regular trip to Meijers carrying pool chemical supplies in the backseat of her car. The products were not properly ventilated and exploded in the car. Sharon was badly burned while being belted into the drivers seat. Despite these personal and physical challenges, Sharon is a light – she is gracious, kind and filled with a spirit of courage and grace. Maria and I were introduced to Sharon, her family and event organizers at the Friday night pasta and welcome party. Runners were provided a marathon tee shirt with a beautiful colored logo of a mythical bird on the front. Most fitting, the logo for the Phoenix Society was inspired by the “powerful symbolism of the mythical bird that rises from the ashes more brilliant than before”. Maria and I both agreed that meeting Sharon was humbling and truly a testament to those who have “risen from the ashes” and found an amazing strength beyond personal expectations. Sharon’s presence is a gift to all that meet her. She is wife and beautiful mother of two girls who exemplifies something bigger than life. Sharon now helps others in assisting them through recovery – what an inspiration to us all.

So, it is with gratitude and appreciation that I give this special “Giving Key” to our favorite babysitter of all time, Maria. Thank you for your big smiles, wonderful laughs, fun runs and workouts together, help with our "hair", and most importantly the special care and comfort to our boys. On behalf of our family, we love you, Maria!

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