Thanks to Lisa Medford of Hilton Head Island for sharing a story about Harbour Town icon Gregg Russell.
"I am on the board of directors for Hilton Head Heroes," she writes. "We are a nonprofit with the mission to bring families with children between the ages of 4 and 18 suffering from life-threatening illnesses to Hilton Head for a resort vacation."
Children are referred to the program through doctors, health care providers and hospital administrators. The families are housed in the Hilton Head Heroes house in Sea Pines. They are given gift certificates to local restaurants, grocery stores and island amenities.
"Founded in 1998 by longtime island resident and family entertainer Gregg Russell and his wife Lindy, Hilton Head Heroes was born out of a desire to help very ill children and their entire family enjoy a vacation that would not be ordinarily possible."
The board is made up of local business people along with the support of high-profile honorary members such as Corey Pavin, Jim Nantz and Stan Smith. It was awarded the Chamber of Commerce 2009 Organization of the Year Award.
"We have had many children come to Hilton Head to unfortunately say goodbye to their families as they enjoy a week of non-threatening hospitals and other unpleasantries that go with terminal illnesses.
"There are numerous stories that are heart-wrenching and uplifting, but one truly stands out -- the angel story told by Gregg Russell."
THE ANGEL STORY
By Gregg Russell
Over the course of the summer months, I come in contact with many of the Hero families who visit Hilton Head Island. Many of them will make the trip down to Harbour Town on a summer evening and sit out in the crowd during one of my shows. Some choose to just blend in with the crowd and remain anonymous while others readily identify themselves to me as one of our families.
One particular story from a previous summer stands out from the rest as it clearly reflects the reality of what these families are experiencing every day.
I reluctantly invited a Hero child to speak on my stage one night from the confines of his wheelchair. I say "reluctantly" only because I've always tried to let our Hero families remain as invisible as they choose to be.
Well, this particular boy was bound and determined to perform just like the other children on stage that night.
During the short interview process that I go through with every child who performs, I asked all of the normal questions I usually ask. (I left out "What do you want to be when you grow up?")
This young man knew that I had left out this routine question, so he eagerly volunteered to tell me what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Knowing he was sick, I held my breath as he told the audience that his mom told him he was going to have the best job in the world. His eyes twinkled as he told me with pure joy that he was going to get to be an angel.
I am reminded that we are in the business of helping children gracefully become angels, while unselfish acts of love and kindness help normal, everyday people become heroes. I am so grateful for being in the presence of both.