“Don’t Be Mean Just ‘Cause He’s Colorful”

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Don’t Be Mean Just Because He’s Colorful

As a former “fat kid” in physicality growing up and current “fat kid” at heart (while still attempting to grow up) I had an opportunity not too many in my position often get a few weeks ago. It was an experience that I longed for like a slow burning ember stashed away in my heart walls that I had no idea even resided there until a good friend asked if I’d be willing to do it nearly a year ago. As one of the coordinators of Windsor Middle School’s annual school year “Spartan Stampede 3K,” a fundraiser for the PTA that doubles as a much needed chance to spark today’s youth into being active in the process, Hillary Miller was wondering if I’d come in as a guest speaker for the kids to get them fired up for what had apparently become an “oh, this again? Ugh…” sort of mentality amongst the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

I couldn’t answer “absolutely” fast enough.

Stampede Shirt

For many, going back to their old middle school would be a tangible nightmare. It’s been my observation that most people are either apathetic or bitter at revisiting their old grade school in any capacity, let alone actually getting up in front of the whole school and saying “hey y’all! I used to go here before any of you were even born yet! Here I am again!” To me though… that was the very moment I was unexpectedly craving until the situation serendipitously presented itself.

Here it was… a chance to go back and reach out to the kids with a message that I wished upon many a star for someone to come and give to me when I was their age. A moment to draw them in and even if just for a brief moment in time let them know that no matter how hard things get they are not alone and that everything gets better, you’ve just got to work for it. A shot at giving the gift of self-affirmation that has personally taken me a literal lifetime thus far to gain myself. Not redemption, but rather paying it forward; taking everything I’ve come to learn the hard way to this point and hopefully saving some of the hardship for others so they can focus on all the other guaranteed stresses they’re going through that have nothing to do with self-worth, anxiety, seclusion, and self-esteem.

Life is hard enough. There is absolutely zero point in being your own worst enemy.

Beyond just speaking to the kids, I was hoping to be a representation of hope. An embodiment that the words I’m saying are actually true and that I’m not just some weirdo adult (emphasis on the words “not just”) coming in and spouting off a bunch of words that I think they want to hear but rather someone who truly knows the hardships of being overweight, dealing with an eating disorder, battling self-mutilation, and getting bullied to the point of tears daily while redundantly asking “why me?” yet not having quite the mental fortitude to realize it ISN’T you… it’s them. I didn’t want to just come in and say things get better… I wanted to show them!

Assembly

The date of the assembly was May 8th, a Thursday. I showed up on campus strapped with a Rebel shirt on my back and a shovel in the backseat just begging to be hoisted. It felt surreal since I hadn’t been there in who knows how many years but my shaky nerves told me I was ready. All good things carry nerves behind them so I took it as a sign the Universe was watching and waiting.

This is the point of the story where the tide shifts and I’m no longer the magic maker but instead the recipient of something so personally profound that there will never be enough words to explain how much powerful beauty resided in one simple statement from the mouth of a 6th grader.

Shovel

I want to be very clear… I have no disillusions about the confusingly flamboyant and “out there” caricature I can be with my shaggy hair, brightly spray painted shirts, knee high socks, crazy bandanas, all accented with the energy of a hummingbird/silverback gorilla lovechild. Add a shovel painted up like a watermelon into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of funny looks and murmurs. Not only do I completely understand but from time to time will even let out an “I know, right?!” to the onlookers and whisperers (mostly because it’s fun to catch people off guard but trust me… you’d be surprised at how quickly someone’s perspective on you changes when you acknowledge it rather than fight it).

As I stepped through the gates and onto the actual campus itself the gawking, giggling, and subtle cat-calls immediately started in. Totally ok with me though… Since the last time I was there I’ve had quite a bit of practice at dealing with this scenario. With my chest puffed out like a Spartan shield and my sword drawn in the form of a toothy grin you couldn’t knock off my face no matter how hard you tried, I walked around campus in a “soak it in!” manner while mentally preparing for the task at hand. One boy even gazed up at me in bemused bewilderment and asked “Who are you?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, young buck!” was all I said as I high fived him and kept on movin’.

Near the multipurpose room doors was a planter box with benches on all sides of it that happened to be occupied with quite a few 7th and 8th graders who seemed to be the “ring leaders” in terms of making fun of the “weird guy.” I made sure to look them all in the eye… Not in a vengeful manner but instead stating without words “I see you and I’m unaffected by your taunts” before high fiving the boy nearest me and saying “how you doin’ man?!” His reply was a snicker followed by a “good…” I asked a couple other kids close by the same question and they all gave essentially the same answer.

It was as I was walking away when I heard the words that will stick with me forever.

With my back turned to the planter box as I walked to my inevitable destination merely a few feet away I heard a girl’s tiny, feisty voice cut through the schoolyard clutter clear as day:

“DON’T BE MEAN JUST ‘CAUSE HE’S COLORFUL!”

I stopped abruptly and did an about face before it even dawned on me I was doing it. I searched for the body that the voice belonged to but to no avail. I was in disbelief at what I had just experienced… In a cage full of lions rose a single, solitary voice fully intent on taming those beasts. She had no reason to… She could have kept quiet, ignored what was happening, and moved on like everyone else. She COULD have, but didn’t. I’d made it very apparent I needed no fending for, yet she spoke up anyway. She had no idea who I was, but it didn’t matter to her. I was a person. Not young, not old, not fat, not fit, not anything but a colorful human being that she decided to take into her own hands to speak up for when nobody else would.

It’s hard enough for damned ADULTS to do that, but a little girl?! She surely wasn’t going to make any friends by making such a defiant statement in a schoolyard shark pit that thrives on the first scent of “blood.”

Group Run

When I made it into the assembly room I thought to myself “something just happened that completely changes everything I’m going to talk to these kids about…” I was still awestruck by what had just happened when I decided to walk around the campus for a bit before the Circus got started. Shovel in hand I set off towards the playground, my mind racing with the change in circumstances.

As I was rounding the building I walked past a few girls making their way towards their classroom before the final bell rung. One of them says “Hey, what’s your name?”

I knew that voice…

“Josh, nice to meet you! Hey, were you the one who yelled out ‘don’t be mean just because he’s colorful!’?” I asked hopefully.
“Yeah!” she said as her and her friends giggled at the recognition.

“That was AWESOME! What’s your name? What made you say that?” I pondered to her, excited at what her sage-like reply might be.
“I dunno… People shouldn’t be mean. Oh, and I’m Erin” She nonchalantly said back before more excitedly wondering “What are you doing here?!”

“I’m here to fire y’all up for the Spartan Stampede next week!” I shared as the final bell rung, they sped up their pace, and we exchanged our “see ya laters.”

This is where I’ll leave it. Not because that was the end of noteworthy events that I was blessed to be in the presence of that day… but because this tiny voice of love cutting through the deafening voice of judgment deserves to stand alone. It deserves to be highlighted, shared, celebrated, and emulated. It deserves to be downloaded into your mental data banks for those moments when you need a little bit of Erin’s courage to make a brave stand in any dire situation you may find yourself in.

The morning started as an eager opportunity to showcase hope but ended with me detailing a wonderful point in time in which hope was already present. The “Erins” of the world deserve the moon and stars for the beacon they shine. They flicker their light and chip away at the darkness so that all the other love warriors around who maybe aren’t “there yet” have not a reason to stand up… but instead a person to stand up with. Linked arms will ALWAYS be stronger than malicious ones.

Erin, I will always and forever take a stand with you.

Who’s with us?

Little Boy Shovel

– Rebel8

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not Disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

Cheryl fat face

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

“I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

                Those were the first words to come out of Cheryl’s mouth when I asked her what she wanted her story to say once people had the chance to catch a peek through the kaleidoscope that is her. Simple yet powerful her statement cuts like a knife through the gimmicks and trickery often sought after to “make it through” life by trimming away the bullshit and leaving you with a foundation you can either choose to accept or deny; you have the choice to be life’s victim when it attacks unexpectedly and relentlessly but rest assured that throughout that decision making process it will be terrifying beyond belief. We ALL have felt the mind and body blows of that last statement, but it’s what you do with yourself as the dust settles that defines who you are at your core… How do you respond and what actions do you take? If you’re Cheryl you respond like a cat with nine lives and the tenacity of a tornado… This is a glimpse of Cheryl’s storm.

                If you were to catch snippets of Cheryl’s life growing up you’d swear you were watching reruns of “Leave It to Beaver.” You’d see a loving family with a nice home in Northern California that recycled before it was cool. Church every Sunday with full societal calendars for the whole family in between… they were the epitome of the American dream. A dual parent household with one daughter and one son that ate healthy, exercised regularly, exceled in work and school, adorable family dog… I think you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, per all circumstances her upbringing carried with it the “usual suspects” regarding growing pains and tumultuous times but to her own admittance nothing too extraordinarily tragic beyond that.

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                It was while she was attending grad school at the San Jose campus of the University of Phoenix when Cheryl’s Americana upbringing suddenly took a turn towards “The Twilight Zone” of the television spectrum. It started with a hospital trip and the two reasons that prompted her to take it; a bruise resembling a black and purple vortex that showed up out of nowhere on her hip and the nonstop bleeding that occurred after casually scratching an itch on her head. Combined with the extreme fatigue she’d been feeling (among other symptoms) she decided it was time to promptly get checked out so she stopped her dinner preparation for that night and had a friend bring her to the ER.

She never made it back home that night.

                After having some tests run Cheryl could hear her name announced over the intercom with a tone of urgency that instantly made her anxiety swell. Her husband at the time was working night shifts which left Cheryl by her lonesome to deal with the fear bouncing around in her head like pieces of shrapnel.

“I was in the waiting room for the longest time. While I was there my greatest fear was that it could only be one of two things… cancer or AIDS.”

                A lot of us have gone the “Web MD” route in our brains of figuring out the worst case scenario and convincing ourselves that’s EXACTLY what we’ve got, but when it turns out to be true… it can be profoundly soul shattering. Unfortunately, it did end up being one of those two things… leukemia. At the very least she had an answer to the suddenly surging ailments she was experiencing; it just wasn’t the answer anybody ever hopes for. Boot straps were pulled up as treatment started immediately and aggressively. With her grit to keep moving forward and the support of her family Cheryl went about trying to beat the cancer that had suddenly found its way into her family’s home.

                Progress was swift and after only a few months of dedicated cancer management (radiation therapy included) the cancer began reverting course! They’d beat the cancer into remission! It was an optimal situation because it gave them more time to get it gone for GOOD.

That lasted 3 months.

                The beginning of 1998 did not bring good tidings as the cancer came back with a vengeance in January forcing Cheryl and her family to get right back into defense mode. It would only be fair for Cheryl to deal with one life-altering catastrophe at a time but as we all know life is FAR from fair and it was April of 1998 when life dropped another sledgehammer driving Cheryl even deeper between the rock and hard place she’d already found herself in… On the day Cheryl was scheduled to have her annual bone marrow biopsies from the diagnosis a year prior, she had a stroke.

“After the cancer came back I harbored a LOT of anger. When I had the stroke though… It was bad… I mean I’m 29 and I’ve suddenly lost the ability to walk, talk, drive, ski… I thought I’d never be able to go to work, travel, or get on a plane ever again…Things you can take for granted until all of a sudden you can’t do them anymore.”

                Awhile back Cheryl and I had a conversation about the daily planner she kept at the time of her stroke. Cheryl detailed how she kept track of everything in this agenda; work obligations, social events, and medical appointments filled the bylines within the weeks up until the day where she was set to have a bone marrow biopsy which was cause for a very powerful moment when she showed me the point of stoppage. It bore a symbolic resemblance to an author stepping away from writing a carefully crafted book mid-paragraph.

                With the leukemia coming back around a second time and in rapid fashion the bone marrow transplant was a necessity still regardless of this newfound “kitchen sink” life had just rocketed Cheryl’s way. After gaining some control on the stroke situation the transplant was pushed from April to July. It was during those months Cheryl found herself dwelling on what she’d lost in her life and reveling in the anniversaries of bad occurrences for a long time afterwards.

“When I was in the hospital my Dad brought in a ‘PEOPLE’ magazine for me and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t read it. I remember thinking ‘I JUST WANT TO READ THE F*&@!ING MAGAZINE!!’ but… nothing. That was hard.”

                When the time came for the transplant fingers were crossed and prayers were sent out that Cheryl’s body would accept the new bone marrow and an immediate road to recovery could begin so they could put as much of this awfulness as possible behind them. At this point in the story I’m sure you’ve picked up on the tone that things hadn’t taken a lucky break yet and I’ll tell you they weren’t about take a turn in that direction now. With her body rejecting the transplant Cheryl suddenly found herself in yet another situation where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive. Things got so bad physically she nearly needed a feeding tube to combat the inability and lack of desire to eat. Luckily Cheryl found herself able to stomach grilled cheese sandwiches which is essentially what she lived off of from July of 1998 until February of 1999, the date she was released from the hospital with her body finally accepting the donor marrow.

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Christmas of ’98 was spent in the hospital. Making it to Christmas of ’99 was in genuine doubt in this picture…

                Once released from the hospital the fight was far from over, but things were at long last starting to look up. With the bone marrow transplant going from being rejected to being accepted it wasn’t longer after Cheryl was deemed cancer free. The rigorous, aggressive, and draining treatment paid off! Sure, she had to get annual marrow biopsies for 10 years (they have to drill a hole in your hip to put in perspective those unfamiliar on how “not simple” this task is) but that’s better than actually having cancer! Cheryl’s spirit, however, was far from healed… The unexpected and sudden loss of abilities coupled with the weight gained from the drugs she now had to take left her in a dark, defeated place.

                It took a fateful crossing of paths at church with a single mom who had multiple sclerosis that started the revolt against her own demons keeping her down. 

“What I really admired about her was that she never let the MS get her down. I started going with her when she ran errands and even went to the gym with her. She helped introduce me to people after I’d been in a cave for so long. She showed me that things could be different…”

Bit by bit Cheryl started to crawl out of her shell as the days went on. She even started to do some volunteer work at her Church again! Over the years Cheryl dug deep to regain her life back even though the realization that it wouldn’t be the same life she had before had a tendency to send her on a roller coaster of ups and downs. Through the rough times Cheryl retaught herself how to drive, how to walk, and how to eat healthy again. She got herself back to work, travelling with the family, and even joined several gyms with yoga becoming a new favorite therapy for not only her body but her mind, too.

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Getting back to everything she was able to do before sometimes means needing a cane or motorized transport to aid with the devitalized left side of her body, but it all goes back to the first words Cheryl said when we sat down to put the pen to paper on this;

 “I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

It was 2009 when Cheryl found her way to Anytime Fitness.

Cheryl group

“I’ve belonged to a lot of gyms in my life, but none of them hit like Anytime did. It was different… I found myself actually wanting to go and really liking the people there. I also remember thinking ‘who’s the weirdo who yells a lot?’”

(Spoiler alert: I was am that weirdo who yells).

Wasting no time she joined up with a transformation challenge that just so happened to be on the verge of starting and wouldn’t you know it… she won the damn thing. She even lost 20 lbs in the process! It was soon after that when Cheryl, who was once told she wouldn’t ever regain the ability to walk all that well ever again, trekked across the Golden Gate friggin’ Bridge.

“When I walked the Golden Gate, it wasn’t exactly something I’d been fantasizing about for years and years or anything… It was that things were going really well and I wanted to make a bucket list to give myself some goals and aspirations. I needed that, or else I wasn’t going to keep pushing myself. You need to have goals to work towards or else you won’t do anything.”

To know Cheryl now means most would be surprised finding out that for as gregarious as she is, she still sticks to her reclusive tendencies  (only they are much healthier now). From that initial challenge in 2009 Cheryl has joined damn near every single Hulk/Rebel challenge since (missing one due to hip surgery in 2011), putting her up there as one of the most tenured Hulkster/Rebels there is. Her presence is coveted and her inspiration is legendary as she’s shown more people than she knows the true meaning of strength, inside and out. If you ask her about her inspiration and her take on it though, you get a much different and humbled response:

“I get it, you know… People being happy for people with disabilities being able to make it past them, but I don’t see it that way. In my head I don’t see myself as disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

Cheryl cross legged

This photo was taken once we concluded our session. What you’re seeing is the first time Cheryl crossed her legs casually in a conversation since her stroke. The best part is it was inadvertent yet instantly recognized. Thank you Cheryl for such a wonderful moment :).

AhhhOOO.

–          Rebel8

PS Check Cheryl out!

Something I Need Those Closest to Me to Know

There is something I need to say to a lot of people, but couldn’t possibly do it individually for lack of ability to take on that emotional toll at the moment.

I want everyone who knew me all my life or since early childhood that it is not your fault for not knowing things were as bad as they were. Mom, Dad… it is not your fault. To all my family and closest friends… it is not your fault.

There is nothing anybody could have done for me because I wasn’t ready for help. I wasn’t ready to let people in. In many ways, I’m still not, but I’m getting better at it. I tried SO HARD to hide my demons and issues for fear of burdening those closest to me that not picking up the signs isn’t a testament to your ignorance, but rather a testament to my diligence. I became so good at hiding away my problems I could teach a 10 week course. It’s part of the reason I’m able to detect a lot of people’s problems when they think they are doing a good job at hiding it. Ask yourself, have I ever caught you off guard by my first response when I see you being “what’s wrong?” and followed it with “it’s ok if you don’t want to talk about it, but if I need to beat anybody you let me know.” I see people hiding things like I’m reading a book. I’ve also never lost the ability to hide my demons away like an expert, and it’s taking everything I’ve got to get this message out.

I firmly believe that part of my “draw” is the fact that I am and always will be a broken person. No matter how hard I kid myself, I will always have a driving spirit in me similar to “Ghost Rider.” I carry what feels like super human abilities at times and with it comes the curse of knowing what I know and feeling what I feel. I just so happen to do good with those super human abilities that tend to wreck me at times. The end result with what drives me though is so unequivocally positive that I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. It’s because of the fact that I went through what I did in the MANNER that I did it that gives me the ability to do what I do now. Essentially, I look at what I went through as training to fight the overwhelming fight of helping people just like me not be just like me anymore.

I liken it to when a world ranked computer hacker decides to use his skills to help out “the good guys” rather than implement anarchic destruction. He wouldn’t be able to do the work of good without knowing the trials and tribulations of evil. I am that computer hacker. Now, had someone caught on to how truly broken I really was, I wouldn’t have been made into the person I’ve been molded into. It was necessary no one saw the forest through the trees… Had I been seen for weaknesses, I wouldn’t have discovered the strength that I found. I wouldn’t have honed and crafted the skills necessary to fight something I will always feel is bigger than myself or any other human being.

Heroes die, but ideas are bullet proof. I’m no hero, just a lost soul who doesn’t want to be lost anymore. I am someone who just so happens to have an idea so bullet proof that it might as well have been crafted from coal into diamonds with the amount of time this revolution has been building. The reason what I stand for is spreading like wildfire is because I am FAR from the only one who feels this way, I just happen to have the ability to articulate it in such a way it’s impossible to NOT resonate with people. I have the ability to showcase a message that opens up new pathways in your brain you either didn’t know existed or blocked out years ago. Not even I’M quite sure how I do it, but the important thing is I KNOW what I’m able to do and would never question it.

Coming full circle, I wouldn’t have these traits and talents without going through what I went through in the manner that I did. I guess the really powerful underlying point is that if you are one of those people saddened by the fact that you didn’t see my pain… Smile. Smile really wide. Understand you were part of the Universes master plan. You were an integral puzzle piece to the fate that has us all here, where we are now, with nothing but the stars as our limit.

As for my demons I’m good at hiding… Just know that I will ALWAYS be a work in progress. The beauty of life is also the struggle in it… Self re-invention and introspect are perpetual and vital. The beauty is you are never done fixing yourself. The struggle is I couldn’t think of anything harder than fixing yourself.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that as hard as it is to fix yourself, it would be harder knowing that I could help out so many by putting my issues out like an examination table yet choosing to keep it hidden inside. I’m not perfect, and although I accept that to the fullest it doesn’t mean there isn’t ALWAYS more work to do on yourself. If working on myself publicly as well as privately helps even ONE other person conquer metaphorical mountains they never thought were possible, well then I have lived a life worthy of legacy. It doesn’t matter who the person is or how “big” the new found successes are, if ONE person is able to help themselves through my openness of struggles, then mission accomplished. You plant a positive seed, you get a positive flower. When that flower blossoms, it drops more seeds beside it until you go from a square foot of foliage to a full field in bloom.

You get the results people don’t get by doing the work people don’t do. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be special. We are defined not by our successes, but our triumphs over pitfalls. You’ve got to want it more than anything, because anything can stop you. To dig is to live with spirit, to put the shovel down is to die slowly. We all have a choice. I made my choices. Not all of them have been right, but I have learned from every one of them and challenge you to read me like a book until you can’t put the book down. Trust me, this all is just the first chapter of many. There are going to be several sequels, only contradictory to the standard rule with sequels, each succeeding one will be just as special as the one before it, even if it’s not as “good.”

Thank you for reading. This has been hard yet necessarily therapeutic to write with my life taking a suddenly slightly (more than) overwhelming turn. It has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I came out with how hard things really were for me how to discuss it with the people who need to that they did everything right. I love you for that. If there is anything you see in me or with what I have done that you are proud of, please know you are an integral part of that beyond words. There is a piece of our journey tattooed on my weathered heart that is exactly as it should be. That is reason to rejoice, not wonder “how did I miss it… I wish I could have stopped it…”

To wrap it up, I’m not unique in how I am an expert in hiding my problems. I’m unique in not only admitting it but shouting it to the world with a megaphone. I’ve literally permanently scarred my vocal chords from screaming at the top of my lungs what I’ve been through in the hopes it helps others. I just took some time to get there…

I love you. Be sad no more. Rejoice in the good things that have come and are still on the horizon. There is a whole world to be changed out there, and that’s what I’m focusing on. You’re either a participator or spectator, but in any case it’s happening… The Rebellion is here, and the soldiers are growing by the day. We are change. We are the future of a better humanity. It IS as big of a fucking deal as that sounds. This is NOT a hyperbole. We are going to change the world. 

Humanity needs more heart, and we’re going to give it that and so much more. 

Welcome to the Rebellion.

– Rebel8

Let’s lose a LOT of weight this week!!!

Here’s the scoop. As you saw in the video, I cleaned my room and got rid of a lot of literal excess baggage. I thought to myself, I says “Hey myself, that’s a lot of clothes you’re gettin’ rid of there. You should think about making a video and encouraging everyone to do the same.” So, I had that thought… and here we are!

It’s something extremely easy to do. It helps out countless others (it will ALL be donated to Goodwill). It clears space in your house. It gives you a reason to do that “deep cleaning” you’ve been meaning to do forever and haven’t gotten to. It’s a fun family bonding experience? Well, probably not… but maybe! \

Regardless, I am encouraging everyone to bring as many unwanted clothing items as they can ALL this week. Tuesday through Saturday, before boot camp, bring your clothes in. I’ll weigh all the bags of clothes and tally up how much “weight” we’ve lost at the end of the week!

I can’t wait to see how much weight Goodwill gains :). Rebels, this is your chance to make a difference in an EXTREMELY easy way. The point of ANY Rebellion is to make a difference. This is that moment. One of many. AhhhhOOOOOOO!!!!

It all starts with the person in the mirror 😉

– Rebel8

Don’t get rid of THESE shirts though! As a reminder, bring me a shirt and I’ll set you up with original Rebel Wear! Welcome to the rebellion!

Rebels… UNITE!

The photo of that handsome young man above is that of Anthony C. Sanchez. Born August 1st, 1989. Son to Anthony and April Sanchez. Many of you know Rebel sisters Kristie Clay and Sam Enos, wh0 have been fighting this rebellion alongside us for quite some time now. Anthony happens to be their cousin. He was 23 years old. His aging stopped on May 14th, 2012.

Last month, Anthony was diagnosed with AIDS. After blood testing, they found out 2 things… 1) it looks to be he contracted HIV from an unknown source when he was 15 years old and 2) had he been tested only a year ago they could have stopped the HIV’s progression to AIDS. Fact of the matter though, you can’t wish about changing the past when your reality is the present. Ever the optimist, he was told that if he maintained taking care of himself and with the right medications, he’d be alright!

As it would turn out, this prediction was far from coming to fruition. He WASN’T feeling better 2 weeks later and found that he was starting to have trouble breathing. A trip to the hospital uncovered the unfortunate circumstance of Pneumonia. Given the dire scenario, he was admitted to the hospital. For 4 weeks, he fought with all he had. His family fought with everything THEY had.

On May 14th, he went down swinging.

Do give a bit MORE of a backstory, Anthony’s younger brother Dylan had gotten into a bad car accident a year prior. He was on his way to school and was blindsided. Even with more surgeries than you’d think possible, Doctors didn’t predict survival. If he DID survive, full recover was slim to none. The bright spot on this story is that via some sort of miracle, Dylan DID make a full recovery. By the grace of whatever you find to be holy, he made it. I’m sure you caught some keywords in there though… “Surgeries,” “Doctors,” and “Recovery.”  The hospital bills piled up. So much so they lost their house in order to keep moving forward.

Trying to keep afloat after such a trying event is hard enough. That’s when the family was hit with AIDS diagnosis. With no paid leave off of work, Anthony’s mother and father (Kristie and Sam’s Aunt and Uncle) stayed by Anthony’s bedside till the curtain was closed. A new set of hospital bills emerged…

As a community, this is where we come in. Kristie Clay does photography of the professional variety. She is amazing at what she does, and wants to help out her family. If she was a millionaire, her and her family’s problem would be solved! She’s not, however so… it’s not. To compensate, this Sunday and next Sunday, she is offering one hour of a professional photo experience. The weather is perfect for family portraits, right? Doesn’t the sunshine make you want to commemorate how much you love your hunny with a picture or several? How about those glamour shots you’ve been looking to send off to those modeling agencies? Pick your pleasure! Either way, the breakdown is as follows:

What’s the deal?: 1 Hour of professional photography with a full CD of all photos taken, professionalized by Kristie herself

When?: May 20th (Sunday), May 21st (Monday), and May 27th (Sunday). ALL DAY! Space is limited to hours in the day!

Cost: $80 (normally $100-$200 depending). 100% of the proceeds are going to the Sanchez family. No profit, just love!

Location: Spring Lake. Kristie knows all the great photo op spots!

Contact Kristie Clay to book your appointment! She will be running them ALL DAY both days, so you’ll have lots of options (before they fill up that is!).

Kristie Clay Contact Info: 

If you aren’t able or would prefer not to do photos but would still like to help, call, message, or e-mail Kristie to find out more info on how you can contribute!
Thank you Rebels. I’m proud to know every single one of you. Rebels UNITE!

– Rebel8