South Padre Island Family Reunion RecapJuly 15, 2009 by Victoria Strong
We had an absolute blast in South Padre Island, Texas with our family...and seeing Gwendolyn so utterly content made it all the more special...very, very special and memorable for all of us. Just being with family and seeing Gwendolyn surrounded by so many people who love her was enormously uplifting. And it felt cathartic to be part of something we always imagined we would experience with our child, but thought we would never get to do with Gwendolyn. We did so many fun things over the last few days and experienced so many firsts and it all made our hearts very full.
On Saturday night we had a surprise party for my Uncle Jon's 75th birthday. The theme was, of course, Texas Longhorns, in honor of our "El Patron", a UT alum and super diehard Longhorn fan. We had T-shirts made, burnt orange decor, a themed menu, and even songs and a play written in his honor! He and my Aunt Jeanine do so many wonderful and thoughtful things for all of us and it was really fun getting to do something special for him.
Gwendolyn loved being spoiled by her super awesome aunt and uncle (Elizabeth and Chad), hanging with her super fun cousins (Gail, Jon, Kelly, Camie, Alli, Kathleen, Ryan, William, and Henry), playing with her super great great-aunt and great-uncle (Jeanine and Jon) and getting lots of attention from everyone. There was lots of singing, hand holding, and little Henry (just 5 months older than Gwen) kept lovingly saying, "Hewo Baby" followed by a gentle head or cheek kiss. And we all enjoyed being together, catching up on each others lives, and just being silly.
Our mermaid in the swimming pool -- all smiles.
Thoroughly relaxed and taking a beach snooze under the cabana on the beach.
Feeling the cool waves and warm sand.
Before we arrived, we so hoped we would get to experience all of these things with Gwendolyn, as they are what we love doing with our family in South Padre, but we were not sure how well she would do off the bipap, in the heat, and the sand and machine mixture presented a challenge. We were very, very nervous. But we knew we had to try...we just had to...for Gwendolyn and for us. So with the help of our family in setting up a sand-free shaded spot just for Gwendolyn and her machines and with their protective attention, we did it...and it was simply wonderful!!! And Gwendolyn was so relaxed, so blissful. It's official, we have a beach baby on our hands!!!
We left today with lots of tears. This was a truly special and memorable time together. Thank you Uncle Jon and Aunt Jeanine for bringing us all together and helping us create memories and bonds that keep us connected across the country.
5,000 miles driven. Over 15 newspaper articles written, four nightly news segments aired, and two radio interviews broadcast. theGSF's first official fundraiser. Over $44,000 raised.