102 Fire Fighters Fed for Feed the Fire 2015

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The Fire Fighters at Manoa Fire House and Weston’s Warriors!

On March 23, 2014, Weston gained his wings. It’s baffling to me that 365 days have passed. I still see things in the store and think to pick it up before that split second of reality reminds me.

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Decoration by Me, baking by BJS!

The night at CHOP I remember wondering what happen to to the miracle we had all witnessed that December waiting in the same room at 3 am for the transplant. Little did I know the miracle was more. It was the resilience of a family to get through devastation and honor their sons life. It’s the tons people that united to feed the fire in Weston’s honor, its the friendships that continue because of Weston’s introduction, and it’s the impact his story continues to have on people registering as an organ donor. The real miracle in 34th street is the testimony to an ever lasting legacy of a forever 7 year old boy and the resilience of the human spirit.

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Weston named Honorary Head Fire Fighter at Manoa Fire Company.

On March 23, 2015, people who loved Weston across the country took part in the first ever Feed the Fire event. The brainchild of Weston’s parents Julie and Adam, was a way to use the day as a celebration of the heroes whom Weston admired the most- fire fighters! Over 102 fire houses were adopted last Monday, through the kindness of others brining snacks, supplies and love all in the name of a little boy who had a knack of brining people together.

I was lucky enough to participate in the day with my friend Jen, her adorable 8 year-old son Dom, and our friend Karen. We adopted Manoa Fire Company in Havertown, PA and brought them cookies, brownies, water and most importantly, Flaming Hot Cheetos. The kind firefighters honored Weston that evening by presenting the Keeton family with a special plaque making Weston an honorary member of Local 56. He was also named the Head Fire Chief for one of the fire trucks that evening.

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Even the Highly Intelligent Cat got into it!

It was a day that served as a reminder that our loved ones really never leave us, they just learn to show their love in a different way. I cannot wait to see what great events Weston’s Warriors will plan in the future!

Watch the NBC10 news clip from Feed the Fire!

Read the Delco Times Interview about Feed the Fire!

Read the WOGL Interview about Feed the Fire!

Listen to the WOGL piece about Feed the Fire!

Read all of the Feed the Fire Press here! 

Click here to view photos from the day! 

Click here to watch the recap video of the day.

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The Privilege of Sharing Weston’s Story

1185909_10153899978620063_58327903_nIn honor of the 2 year transplant anniversary of my buddy Weston Keeton, here are the links of articles and videos that I have been fortunate enough to cover since 2012. When I first met Julie Keeton in 2012, little did I know that a life long friendship would take place. He loved playing with my cameras, touching the buttons on the microphone and watching himself back on the screen

Thank you for everyone that has followed Weston’s story over the years. Although he is now an angel, I will to cover his legacy that continues to impact the lives of so many.

A Legacy of Life: Miracle on 34th Street Remembered 

Paying it Forward for Weston’s 9th birthday

102 Firefighters are Fed for Feed the Fire

The Miracle on 34th Street- One Year Later 

How a Little Boy with a Broken Heart Taught Me How to Feel 

The Real Miracle on 34th Street 

18246_10151202133918598_1753656347_nThe Moving Story of the Real-Life Miracle on 34th Street 

Happy Holidays Story Time- Miracle on 34 Street 

Meet Chickie and Pete’s Newest Employee

Faces of Organ Donation- Weston Keeton

Philadelphia Mummers Raise Awareness for Transplant Family 

Faces of the Family House- The Keeton Family 

Dedicating a Day of Thanks 

Faces of the Family House- Weston Keeton 

Feed the Fire- Honoring Weston Keeton

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 12.11.45 PMI never thought a year ago I would be writing a press release and helping my friend Julie organize an event to honor the one year passing of her son, Weston. But on Monday, March 23, it will be exactly a year since I received a text message that my buddy Weston gained his wings. A year later, Weston is missed more than ever but the Keeton family continues to keep his spirit alive by paying it forward.

Many parents cannot even fathom what the Keeton family has gone through. Yet Julie and Adam Keeton are showing that it is okay to honor the ‘angel-versery’ of their son. Since Weston adored firefighters, the Keeton family planned a special event called ‘Feed the Fire’. They have asked supporters from across the country to adopt their local fire house, by donating meals, supplies and snacks. Over 62 fire houses will be ‘adopted’ on Monday, March 23.

Myself and my friend Jen will be adopting Manoa Fire Company in Havertown,PA.  You can click here to read the press release.

98.1 WOGL interviewed Julie and I for this awesome piece promoting the event. You can click here to read it. 

Julie was also interviewed on WJHL last week. You can click here to watch the clip.

To learn more about Weston and Feed the Fire, visit www.westonswarriors.com.

Stay tuned for a recap of the event!

The Miracle On 34th Street- 1 Year Later

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Originally Published on Huffington Post on 12/09/2014 

Oh what a difference 365 days can make. Apologies for the starting this story with such an overused cliché, but it’s the only phrase that captures the event that have happened since the publication of the original ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ story. This was not the follow up piece I had intended to be writing a year later, but realistically I hadnever thought I would befriend a little boy from Tennessee and his family.

This time last year, a gravely ill little boy named Weston Keeton occupied the corner room of the 6th floor in the CICU at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Despite being tethered to literal lifelines in a hospital room, an unparalleled energy radiated from his room which was perpetually occupied with the chatter of his seven siblings and visitors from all over the region as he battled pediatric pulmonary hypertension.

His parents, Julie and Adam, and world-renown medical staff were facing an uncertain future. The only thing certain was that a heart and double lung transplant was the sole way Weston would see another year. After three years of agonizing waiting, the phone call that was prayed for each night was received by Julie in the early morning of December 12, 2013. Thus began my experience in witnessing of the events that unfolded in the original Miracle on 34th Street article, just two weeks before Christmas.

During hours after transplant, my mind wandered about what 2014 would be like for Weston and his family. Everyone who WestonEditedBV-1rooted for this little boy during his long journey on the transplant waiting list was anticipating seeing the promise of new life. That was the miracle, wasn’t it? The opportunity to regain a normal life for a 7 year old boy and his family.

And in a blink of an eye, the expectations for the upcoming year were deflated. Instead of 2014 being the year of Weston’s recovery, it became the year of heartache. As the weeks passed in the new year, complications arose that no one was able to foresee during a time of promise.

Continue reading

Give the Ultimate Donation This #GivingTuesday

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Let’s be honest. You’re inbox has been blowing up with messages from your favorite charities about #GivingTuesday. Each hoping that you’ll make a financial donation to kick off the giving season. Here’s a secret. You can give an amazing donation this holiday season- and it wont’ cost you a dime.

Registering to become an organ donor online will give the gift of life one day to patients waiting on the national transplant waiting list. Currently, there are over 120,000 men, women and children who are waiting for a second chance of life. Kids like my dear buddy Weston, who received a heart and double lung transplant last December from his selfless donor. Because of donation, Weston was given additional time with his family before passing away earlier this year. For most of his life, Weston was listed on the transplant waiting list, and was a huge advocate for organ donation. In his honor, his mom Julie is encouraging people to register as organ donors on #GivingTuesday. It’s the ultimate gift of charity, it’s giving the gift of life to a family that is running out of time.

To learn more about Weston’s story, click here.

To learn more about organ donation, click here.

To register as an organ donor, click here. 

How a Little Boy with a Broken Heart Taught Me How to Feel Again

Originally seen on Literally Darling. Published 9/11/2014

163538_10151415604683598_2092031067_n (1)How did a 7-year old little boy from Tennessee with a broken heart (literally) come into the life of a workaholic, childless, 24-year-old from Philadelphia? Two years later, I’m still trying to sort that out myself.

While working as a multimedia producer at a healthcare organization in 2012, I filmed a lot of sad stories. People sat down in front of my camera and shared their struggles. But one particular story struck a chord. Continue reading

The Miracle on 34th Street Remembered

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Me and Weston on his 7th Birthday.

People cross paths for a reason in life. I’m not a believer in coincident, not after all of the perfectly orchestrated moments of fate that I have seen strung together over the past 25 years.

Weston Keeton crossed my path of life when I least expected it, but when I needed it most. This kid knew how to make the most of every day of his life, even if he spent most of it in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When visiting him while he awaited a heart and double lung transplant, one would forget you were in a hospital. Besides the beeping machines and tangled wires, a visit was spent with cartoons, video games, junk food and friends. He brought together people from different walks of life, and inspired others to preserve in his struggles. The beauty of it was he had no idea he was doing all of this, he was just living.  Continue reading

The Ultimate Miracle on 34th Street Will Live On

As seen on Huffington Post, published on 05/06/2014

*Disclaimer:For those of you who responded to kindly to my initial article “Miracle on 34th Street’ chronicling Weston Keeton’s transplant surgery in December 2013, thank you from the bottom of my heart. The article opened many people to the topic of organ donation.

IMG_4844How did a 31 year-old Tennessee woman, who is mother of seven children — one critically ill –become best friends with a single, 24 year-old from Philadelphia? Two years later, I’m still trying to sort that out myself. I honestly believe fate introduced me to Julie. We were two people going their own personal battles, and trying to find some normalcy in life.

While working as a multimedia liaison at an organ procurement center, in spring 2012, I filmed a lot of sad stories. People sat down in front of my camera and shared their struggles during their wait for an organ transplant. My heart broke for many of these families, but when it came time to film the saddest story of them all, I ended the interview laughing.

Continue reading

The Real Life Miracle on 34th Street

As seen on Huffington post, published on 12/18/2013

2013-12-18-patricebendigUntitledWe’ve all heard of the Miracle of 34th Street, and will probably see it at some point this month. We watch the film to rekindle that feeling of awe and that belief in miracles each of us experienced at Christmas at some point in our lives, before life jaded us. As much as we watch movies about Christmas miracles each holiday, few actually experience one. This past week, in the early hours of December 12. 2013, I witnessed a true Christmas miracle come true for a seven-year-old little boy — right on 34th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For almost three years now, Weston Keeton has called the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia home. Fighting heart disease and pulmonary hypertension for most of his life, his body was wearing out. During his treatment, the Keeton family has been separated in ways that no family should ever be. His father Adam remains in Tennessee to continue working while his mother Julie has made Philadelphia her home away from home with her six other children, ranging between the ages of eight and almost two. Continue reading