Friday, February 27, 2009

Bagging Date Set

Our next bagging date has been set! We will be bagging on Saturday, March 7th at 7:00 at our house. Along with donated animals we have received, we will also be bagging the animals made at Sew for Fun's sewing day with a special card stating they were hand sewn with love. Plus, the Foundation purchased almost 100 stuffed animals after Valentine's Day that can easily have the hearts removed to be an "anytime animal" to give (thanks to your monetary donations). So, bring a pair of sharp scissors and help us snip off hearts before we bag. We will also keep working on plans for the Celebration in June, so bring your fun ideas.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fairfax Community Hospital Donation

We made our first donation of stuffed animals to Fairfax Community Hospital on Tuesday! They had just been taking coloring books, crayons, etc, but not stuffed animals. We are so excited to add stuffed animals to their hospital. They are what we love to donate the most since they bring so much comfort to kids.

Pictured are Rebecca Gatlin of Fairfax Community Hospital and Phyllis Schimming.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Abby Loved the Snow

From the time she was big enough to walk and be in the snow, Abrielle loved it. This seems kind of strange since she was such a little thing, she would get cold really easily (Randi and Kara can vouch for this), but we always had a hard time getting her to come inside. Her cheeks and nose would be red and her teeth would be chattering, but she would still say that she wasn't ready to come inside when we were sledding. Just to prove how much our little girl loved the snow, here's a picture of her....

Notice anything? She has on her nightgown and put on jammie pants, her snow boots, and her "big snow coat" and was ready to head outside to play. Obviously I didn't let her go out like that, but had to get her to pose for a picture before she changed.

This was taken February 25, 2007...two years ago today. I still have a hard time with the fact that my little girl is gone, much less the fact that it has been almost two years. It literally still seems like she was hear just yesterday. I still have vivid dreams about Abby doing something and when I wake up, it takes a few moments before I realize it was just a dream and she is still gone. I long to have all three girls together, three sisters able to play, laugh, run, and dance together. That was the way it was supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Heart of America Tractor Cruise

The 2009 Heart of America Tractor Cruise will be held on June 20th and will benefit juvenile charities in Northwest Missouri. The Foundation was selected to be one of those charities! We are so excited the Tractor Club chose ANF again! Here's the scoop on the Cruise...

The Cruise will begin at NWMSU, travel up Icon Rd to Hwy 71 then on to CC and Hwy 148 to Pickering. The Cruisers will take a morning break there and then will continue on Hwy 148 to NN. From NN they will travel to E and to Hwy 246 into Sheridan. Lunch will be served there and then they will head on to Hwy 46, into Parnell and on into Ravenwood where the afternoon break will be. From there it is on to Hwy 136 and back to NWMSU Outdoor Pavilion where supper will be served. Supper is open to the public and is a free will donation barbeque. (It was super yummy last year!) There is also a raffle for a Farmall M pedal tractor and gravity feed wagon since this year's featured tractor is the Farmall-International. More info or registration forms can be found at their website I just LOVE their slogan of "Kids need Angels like you!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Presidential Showdown Pictures

I received some pictures of the fifth graders dressed up for the Presidential Showdown and wanted to share them.

Teddy Roosevelt - Nick
Lady Bird Johnson - Haley
John F. Kennedy - Jackson
Jacqueline Kennedy - Jacqueline
Dwight Eisenhower - Kelly
Franklin D. Roosevelt - Michael
Martha Washington - Brea
Martha Jefferson - Hanah
Thomas Jefferson - Emily
George W. Bush - Joseph
Michelle Obama - Josie
Barack Obama - Shelby
Abraham Lincoln - Corby Walker
Caroline Harrison - Riley Spire

Not Pictured
William H. Taft - Mollie
Abigail Adams - Abby

Thanks again kids and Mrs. Halley!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Presidential Showdown

St Gregory's fifth graders hosted a Presidential Showdown in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday and the proceeds went to us! Here's what they did...

The students were able to dress as Presidents and had a lot of fun duking it out to raise money. They collected $234, some ziplocs, books, and stuffed animals! They did this all in just ONE day! How amazing is that! The students are going to use the money to purchase items for the Foundation and then will help out even more by decorating cards and bagging up their goodies.

Thanks so much 5th graders in Mrs. Halley's class for doing this and thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Family Circle Celebration, Part 2

Since the last post was so long, I thought I should break it out into two posts, so here's part two.

NBC Action News was covering the story and asked for an interview. I am not sure when it aired, but here is the link to the article on their webstie and to the video. The interview was tough since I was fighting the emotions of the day to begin with and then to talk about Abby just made holding back tears impossible, as you can tell in my voice. I love that they link the website and use our butterfly along with Abby's pictures.

While at the ceremony, we were able to visit with staff from CMH and from MTN, some who we have not seen since that day. It was nice to see them, but since there are not any happy memories attached, it's hard to see them too. They are all wonderful and caring people that have helped us along this journey and we appreciate them for that. We did get to visit with some of the families too and share our stories. It is just like an immediate connection is made and you don't have to explain much, which is nice. A CMH staff member came up to me and said she had lost her son 3 months ago and wanted to know if it gets any easier. I just shook my head no and started crying. She replied by saying that she really hoped it would. I didn't have a response. Maybe I should have said yes, but I just couldn't. It's been almost two years and I still cry when I talk about it and miss my little girl every day. I don't know that it ever gets easier. Some say that it gets different, but the only difference I have found is that the feelings of disbelief and auto pilot are gone and I'm forced to try to conform with society's belief that things should be better by now.

I was not sure what Mady would think of the day, but she did good. She looked at the quilts with me and rubbed my back as I cried. She acts so much more mature than 8 at these things. She walked up front with me to receive everything and was such help the whole day. She visited with the news reporters and the ladies from MTN. She told one of them that she hoped she could put the figurine in her room on her shelf beside the pictures of her and Abby, the ones in the frame with the poem about sisters. I thought this was so sweet when the story was relayed to me. I guess I am going to have to buy her one too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Family Circle Celebration

Saturday we attended the Family Circle Celebration at CMH to honor Abrielle's gift of life through organ donation. We were presented with a pink rose in the vial, both like the one that was on the float.

The inscription on the vial reads,"In memory of Abrielle Neff- Children's Mercy Hospital honors the family of Abrielle Neff for their decision to donate life"

The vial was not filled with water. Instead, a card was attached to the rose that said, "This vial may appear empty, but it represents your dedicated rose that will live in the Family Circle Garden on the 2009 Donate Life Rose Parade Float, Stars of Life. Please fill it with love and give it a special place in your home for your rose will shine brightly amongst our stars."

We were also presented with a certificate commemorating the rose on the float,
and a Family Circle pin. (Sorry for the glare, but it looks like the roses in the certificate above.)

The card states,"This pin represents the families who are touched by organ and tissue donation. The large rose with the heart in its center symbolizes the donor and donor families who generously give the gift of life. The two smaller roses symbolize the recipient family and the families of those who are waiting. The green circle connects these families in donation and together they make up the Family Circle."

The poem "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was read since it was one of the meanings behind the float.

In one of the stars

I shall be living

I one of them

I shall be laughing

And so it will be

As if all the stars

were laughing

When you look

At the sky at night

Both the families from my Friday post were at the ceremony and spoke. Merle talked about his story of receiving his heart, his experience at the parade, and the work he is doing to help promote donation. We then got to see up close pictures of the float and learn more about it. The symbolism was explained and we were able to see families placing the rose dedicated in honor of their loved one. The donor family that had the florograph on the float then spoke, with the young man's younger brother talking. He talked about losing his brother in a car accident and helping with the float. This young man did such a wonderful job speaking in front of everyone. I was very impressed because he was probably 12-14 years old. Afterwards, Mady said she thought it was neat he talked about his brother and she wished she could have talked about Abby. (Maybe someday) We were also given a Willow Creek figurine called Angels Embrace - Hold close that which we hold dear.

We also had a responsive reading that always makes me cry (not like I wasn't crying any other time). It is called "We Remember Them"

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.
So as long as we live, they too shall live, for now they are a part of us, as we remember them.

The last two Midwest Transplant Network donor quilts were also there for viewing. The quilt that Abby is on still has three more squares to be added before it will be complete.

Since this is getting really long, I will continue with my thoughts and feelings on another post.

Pay It Forward News

Here is the link to the newspaper article that tells how all the kids did. Check it out, over $3200 was raised!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pay It Forward

Friday I attended an assembly at Maryville Middle School for the conclusion of the fifth graders pay it forward project. The local Optimist Club give $1 to ever fifth grade student and challenges them to turn it into something more for a charity. Puppies and kitties are the most popular among the kids, but I was excited to have two groups raise money for the Foundation. Cody Jackson raised $26 by asking for donations. The second group consisted of Hunter Hayes, Dakota Beemer, and Brady Heitman. They made up flyers and solicited $604.56. WOW!!! Good job all of you and thank you so much! The pictures are dark, but here they are...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Butterfly Pick-Me-Up

I received a wonderful spirit lifter last week, and what perfect timing. Last week was my annual audit at work, so everything you saw posted was made up to post ahead of time since it's way too stressful that week. I had just been flipping through the mail in my basket, saving it for later, when a package caught my eye. I opened a small manila envelope to find a pink crocheted butterfly with a note attached. The note said it was from an organization called Angels for Hope. It said, "Someone special has requested that you receive this 'Wings of Hope' so that you would know that you are loved and cared about. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Hugs - Angels for Hope" What a wonderful surprise and pick-me-up. Mine was sent anonymously, so thanks to whomever sent me this gift. It is beautiful and I have a thing for pink butterflies, so it is perfect.

Here's their website They are a nonprofit that sends out hand crocheted angels, butterflies, and smiley faces to those in need of hope. Maybe you know someone that needs one?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Family Circle Celebration

We will be attending the Family Circle Celebration on Saturday at CMH to honor Abrielle's gift of life and to receive the vial from the Rose Parade Float. We will be getting to see some of the behind the scenes work on the float and get to watch the rose dedication ceremony. We will also be able to meet other donor families from CMH that will be there. I think this will be good for us to have some other "been there" friends. Somehow, that bond just forms immediately and we know how each other feel without words. I'll update about our experiences on Monday.

We receive a newsletter from Midwest Transplant Network each month and I wanted to share a couple of stories that were in it from the Rose Parade. The float had riders from the midwest area, which I thought was neat. A heart recipient from Bonner Springs had the opportunity to ride and said this about his experience, "Riding the float was very emotional as the people in the crowd and on the float just put a lot of feeling in the air, and you could sense it was something special. I highly recommend the experience to anyone. Working on the float was a tedious chore and makes you appreciate how much work each one of those floats takes. The float judging was the most touching moment as the music was played for the first time, and we were all on our spots on the float. Even two of the three judges cried."
Cody Prewitt, Harrisonville, was honored with a floragraph at the top of the float. Cody donated seven organs and his corneas following a fatal car accident in 2004. His family was able to decorate his star and had this to say, "It was such an honor that we got to attend this event in honor of Cody, and these are memories we will cherish forever. Cody's floragraph was beautiful; I cried when they showed it to us."
What an honor for these two families. Maybe someday we can attend the parade in person to experience the magic of the float in person.
The 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade has announced its theme as "2010: A Cut Above The Rest"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God Sent Us An Angel

God Sent Us An Angel
God sent us an angel, but he didnʼt give her wings
I never saw a harp, and I rarely heard her sing
He tucked away the halo, so we wouldnʼt recognize
But I think I saw it shining, in the light deep in her eyes
God sent us an angel, to live an earthly life
To walk the path before her, in happiness and strife
It wasnʼt his intention that we should ever know
Her purpose was to touch us, and to help our souls to grow
God sent us an angel, with a nature pure and true
She showed unselfish love to everyone she knew
A kind and gentle spirit, her words would never taunt
Such beauty in simplicity, in a life she didn't flaunt
God sent us an angel, with the strength of many men
It wasnʼt in her muscles, but from what she held within
The burdens that she carried, could never break her stride
As she lived the life God gave her, with dignity and pride
God sent us an angel, with a lovely face and mind
Yet it wasnʼt physical assets that he hoped that we would find
I know that she has blessed us with love to make us whole
And the splendor of her essence will live forever in our souls
God sent us an angel; her faith was firm and strong
Through pain and physical torment, she knew where she belonged
Sheʼd close her eyes in silence, and bow her head to pray
To thank God for his blessings and the life he gave each day
God sent us an angel who would never cast a stone
Or speak words to break the heart of anyone sheʼs known
She didnʼt make an enemy, in the present or her past
For she only knew of goodness, and made memories that last
God send us an angel who wore a smile upon her face
Iʼve tucked it in my heart, where it will never be erased
She will linger in my memories, until we meet again
Waiting there in heaven, to greet her family and friends
God sent us an angel so many lives she touched
We all should count our blessings for sheʼs given us so much
The void in our hearts and the sorrow that we feel
Will not hurt us forever, but it will take some time to heal
God sent us an angel but she couldn't stay for long
For he needed her in heaven and he had to call her home
But we were surely blessed, and each of us was loved
By the angel who has left us, but still watches from above
God sent us an angel, her heart devoid of wrath
Now hand in hand with Jesus, she walks a golden path
Sheʼs going to meet her savior; the time is now at hand
For eternal peace awaits her, there in the Promised Land
Leria Hawkins

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Building Snowmen ~ 2007

What a perfect day to share some more snow pictures since there's snow in the air...

January 21, 2007 ~ Lots of snow to play in, so here we are building snowmen.
The girls topped the snowmen off with their own hats, dug rocks out from underneath the snow for their faces, and used dead seedum flowers for their arms.
There was so much snow that we built snow forts and had a snowball fight. It was a fun afternoon in the snow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sewing Success

Saturday was a HUGE success! There were 11 sewing machines running, 7 people embroidering, 2 people cutting, 2 people stuffing, and one person sewing the critters closed for most of the day. Somehow a system emerged from at the beginning of the day, and flowed through to the end. Some came later in the day, some had to leave before the day was over, and some were there for the duration. Here's a look at the sewers hard at work.
And here's some embroidering.
And just look at some of their work before the critters were stuffed.

We don't want to forget the cutters and face drawers either.

Me? I stuffed, along with some of the other ladies. Here's Beth, stuffing away.
Mady and Chloe stuffed a few too. It was really cute. Mady said "This is more fun than Build A Bear because these are for other kids."

The critters were then lovingly stitched closed. And awaited bows. In all, we completed 79 bears/bunnies/kitties and have 13 more to sew and stuff. Can you believe that....92 critters were made and filled with love in a day of sewing! Thank you Pam and Donna for doing this for the Foundation. And thank you to everyone that helped out in some way. What a wonderful way to give back!
Each one of these will be bagged with a special card stating that they were hand sewn with love at Sew For Fun.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sewing for Abby Story

Before I share our success from the sewing day at Sew for Fun, I have to share how and why this event took place. Pam Baumli, owner of the store, has experienced first hand people's kindness. Her husband was injured a few years back in an accident as he was lending a helping hand. Friends, neighbors, and others joined in to help the Baumli's with their farming operation as Larry was unable to. Since then, they have given back every chance they can. When Pam opened the sewing store, she decided to set up monthly charity sews for different organizations and events to help out. In January, they sewed bags for Briley Heart Cart (in memory of Briley Hull). In December, they altered clothing for injured soldiers. Pam came to us and asked what could be done to help out the Foundation. We remembered a cute little handmade teddy bear that was donated last summer and thought if we could make some of these, that would be wonderful. Pam found the pattern, which included bears, bunnies, and kitties, and one of her fabric suppliers agreed to donate some flannel fabric. We were thrilled by these donations and the sewing day was set. We were then contacted by the Maryville Treatment Center, wanting to help. Sue Posten arranged for the inmates to cut the patterns out from the donated fabric. They were able to cut 29 bears/bunnies/kitties from the fabric during their allotted project time. This helped out tremendously since we were able to have some critters ready to embroider and sew.

I wanted to take today to thank these inmates for their work in helping the Foundation on this sewing project. Two inmates in particular have been touched by the story of the Foundation and made monetary donations. The amount of their donations might seem small for us on the outside of prison, but they were HUGE amounts for someone confined. For them to give up anything and give it to us of all places tugged at my heart. What small amounts of money they earn while in prison is spent on their basic needs (soap, toothpaste, etc), so to give this away, WOW. These men must have big hearts and are on their way to reform.

Check in tomorrow for the results of the sew.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Organ Donation Letter

I was asked to speak briefly about our experience with organ donation at CMH today, but due to audit at work, had to decline. I did agree to write a letter which would be read at the ceremony to honor the work CMH does for Midwest Transplant Network and organ donation. As my letter is being read, pictures of Abby are being shown on the screen. Here is what my letter said...

To all the staff at Childrens Mercy Hospital~
Organ donation has always been something I felt strongly about. From the time I was 16, I made sure the back of my driver’s license was signed and told my parents that I wanted to donate if something should happen. After Marc and I were married, I let him know my wishes and we agreed that donation was something we would do for each other. We never could have imagined that it would be our little girl’s organs we would donate instead of one of ours.

Our story of donation is one of sudden tragedy. On March 29, 2007, while taking our girls to school, I was hit nearly head on by a driver impaired by alcohol. Abrielle, almost 4, was critically injured and was taken ahead of us to the hospital by ambulance. A second ambulance transported my older daughter Madyson, almost 7, and myself, 32 weeks pregnant, to the hospital as well. Upon arrival, I was told that Abby was responding well to all the tests for head trauma patients and was going to be transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital. Marc, his Mom, and a friend, followed Abby. I had to stay behind to be treated for my injuries, to evaluate our unborn Elly, and to stay with Mady. It wasn’t long when I heard from Marc that Abby would be going in for surgery for a depressed skull and that she was very critical. It was at that moment my health no longer mattered to me - I had to get to my Abby. I signed out AMA (against medical advice) and my sister, my mom, and I raced to Children’s Mercy. Before I arrived, Marc had been given the news that the surgeons were not able to stop the bleeding; the damage to her brain was too severe. Upon my arrival, I was told our little girl was not going to survive her injuries. After a few moments of shock and disbelief, I asked, “Can she help someone else?” “Yes, she could,” was the response and that was all there was to the decision for us. We wanted our little girl’s death to bring life to another child, sparing their family our heartache. We knew Abrielle’s zest for life and her feisty spirit would carry through to the recipients, bringing them the strength needed. We were right. Abby’s liver was given to a little three year old boy, saving his life. He is no longer confined to a hospital bed, instead he is finally able to run and play like a normal little boy should. Abby’s kidneys were given to a young lady, saving her from the dialysis machine at last.

After the mind-numbing shock of losing our daughter wore off, the giving the gift of life brought not only tears to our eyes, but also smiles to our faces. Somehow, knowing a part of our Abby lives on, improving the life of someone else, brings a certain feeling of comfort. It is a comfort that brings about a sense of purpose from our tragedy; a comfort that someday we may meet these lives saved by our little girl.

Children’s Mercy was wonderful in facilitating our decision. Dane and Janie were there for comfort and support as we struggled to let our Abby go. There was never any pressure to give. It was our choice and the easiest one of the day; it was sending our Abrielle to Heaven that was hard. I tell people, for us, it was never a decision of if we would donate; it was just a matter of coming to terms with our loss before we could.


Brenda Neff
Abby's Mom

Thursday, February 5, 2009

News & Updates

There was a wonderful article in the Daily Forum about the girls with WN FCCLA and their speech. Here is the link

I was also told the most wonderful news...the girls are going to state!! How exciting is that! I am so happy for the girls because they did such a wonderful job on their speech and the community service project. Good luck in March girls!

Also, be listening on the radio for Tricia Deen. She will be competing for Miss Missouri and has chosen for her platform to incorporate MADD and the Foundation. She is going to be becoming very active in the Foundation to learn all she can, so you might see her with me at various functions and speaking events. She will be taking the name of the Foundation to places where only her crown and sash will allow her to go, places we can't. How great!

It is overwhelming sometimes the amount of people our little girl has touched. How our story and the story of the Foundation have become inspiration to some. How people are taking things to the next level for us. The attention both the Miss Missouri pageant and the State FCCLA Contest will generate will be amazing for the Foundation. What an honor they have chosen us, out of all the options of topics out there, to talk about.

(Look at the places you're going Abbers!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snow Day ~ 2007

I am going to try to start sharing more pictures and stories from our life with Abrielle. I've meant to for quite some time, but sometimes it's all still just too raw that I want to keep those things extra close. So, since it's cold, I thought I'd share a few from our last snow days with her in 2007. These were taken on New Years Day while I was at home playing outside with the girls. There was not much snow left on the ground, but it was slick enough to sled.

My girls really do have hats. Not sure why they aren't on, but then again, Abby would never leave hers on. Let's just say it must have been warm that day so I don't look like a bad Mom.

Snow Angels! The girls always loved to make snow angels.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Confirmation Class Donation

St. Gregory's High School Confirmation Class took on the Abrielle Neff Foundation as one of their Advent causes. They sold Advent calendars and candles to raise $100 for the Foundation. Their goal ~ to grow in the community that has generously nurtured them, to show their appreciation. I think they accomplished their goals. The students in the top picture are ~ Brent Ginther, Jordan Stiens, Keri Waldier, Libby Howell, Colton Mattson, Tracy Jenson, Jacqueline Schulte, Kenzie Waldier, and Melanie Spinnato. The students in the bottom photo are ~ Sarah Schuman, Jessica From, Becca Seipel, Bryce Coulter, Trevor Sybert, and Colton Ruehter. Thank you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bunnies & Bears

Look at the cute bunny and bears we will be sewing at Sew For Fun. Here's the information on when we will be doing this again...

Saturday, February 7th

9 am ~ 4 pm

Sew For Fun

218 N Main

Bring your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies. We also need people to cut fabric, stuff, and do hand embroidery. ~Lunch will be provided~