“It’s the small things that keep you motivated,” Jennifer Mosher says.
For Mosher, those small things have motivated her for a decade to offer some special children a special day away from their normal routines: The , resident is co-founder of The Boating Bonanza, which invites children with brain tumors to spend a fall day boating on a nearby lake.
Mosher started The Boating Bonanza, along with co-founder Dick Russell, after being inspired by a boat show hosted by the Children's Harbor, a nonprofit organization that offered camping trips and adventures for children with long-term illnesses and their families.
“Seeing the joy on the kids' faces from Camp Smile-a-Mile, I thought, ‘Why can't I do something like this?’ On a much smaller scale, instead of having a 'boat show' per se, just have a day event for the kids and their families?” Mosher told Barrow Patch.
Sixteen-year-old Conor Bridges has been a participant since 2005. Conor had a brain tumor removed at age 3 that resulted in loss of vision in one eye. His favorite part of The Boating Bonanza? Being able to drive.
"Conor loves this event," his mother, Rhonda Bridges, said. "He enjoys meeting other kids 'like him' who are survivng a serious illness. And he also enjoys being treated like a 'normal' kid."
Rhonda and her husband, John, also enjoy spending time with other families in similar situations.
"Sometimes it is difficult for families of 'typical' children to understand the struggles we go through," she said. "So, it is nice to be with people who do understand what it is like to be a member of this particular group. I can't say enough about the wonderful, generous spirit of the people involved with The Boating Bonanza."
While organizing this year’s event, which was held Saturday, Sept. 17, and drew more than 70 participants, Mosher and Russell faced an unexpected challenge — the venue that previously hosted the organization could not commit to hosting again.
“We scrambled, and thanks to the Bone Island Grill at Crooked Creek Marina and its owner, John Jansen, who provided us with our venue, we were able to continue,” Mosher said. “The people involved are regular, ordinary, everyday heroes.”
Mosher says there is no single moment in which she realized she was making a difference in these children’s lives, but a series of moments that occur every year.
“This year we had a grandmother who had custody of her six grandchildren, and she was able to bring all six, plus herself to this year's event,” Mosher said. “Or when Megan, a 20-year-old brain tumor survivor, drove a boat by herself. Because of her limitations, she will never be able to obtain a driver's license or drive an automobile, but she was able to ‘captain’ a boat, and the glee in her voice and the smile on her face as her dad was crying is something that stays with you always.
“The rewards, wow, are really pretty simple,” Mosher continued. “A hug, a smile and just watching the kids and their families enjoy a day at the lake, where maybe, just maybe, they can forget about being sick for a day.”