project: Pick Hope
project AVA is honored to introduce our first “Heartstring” project. These projects are designed to honor loved ones who have gone before us, while at the same time enriching the lives of economically at-risk children. We have worked closely with the family of the loved one for whom this project has been designed, to ensure the details of the project reflect their passions and help keep their memory alive.
It was late November 2005. Nancy Mason was scheduled for “routine” surgery – the removal of her gallbladder. The doctor returned from the operating room with a devastating diagnosis: Nancy had advanced pancreatic cancer. Thus began a whirlwind of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, tears, and prayers. Prior to this earth-shattering news, Nancy had spent her life happily married to Greg, her husband of over 28 years, and raising their two children, Tim and Beth, who were now grown.
The day that Nancy began chemotherapy, her family received some much needed, POSITIVE news! Nancy was going to be a first time grandma! News that her daughter, Beth, was pregnant was a source of much needed comfort for their family. Upon her birth in September 2006, Zoe, her name meaning “LIFE”, breathed the promise of hope into the Mason family in the tough days, weeks, and months that were to come. Zoe and her “Nanny” shared quite an undeniable connection. Zoe even took her first steps on her Nanny’s birthday in early September 2007.
Although Nancy fought a long, hard battle, continuously surrounded by her loved ones, the cancer proved to be too much on her body. She left this world on February 10, 2008 at the age of 53.
Growing up, Nancy’s children recall their mother proudly wearing the badge of a “Mean Mama” as she made sure her kids practiced their instruments and held them accountable for their music lessons. She was their biggest fan and, up until the very end, would attend every event where they performed. Both Nancy and Greg saw the benefit of an education in the arts and made sure their children used their musical gifts to share joy with those around them.
While death and grief is an unbearable time that we, as humans, aren’t wired to comprehend, it’s always important for us to be positive, to find the silver lining… to Pick Hope.
In honor of Nancy Mason and National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, project AVA is proud to introduce project: Pick Hope. The project AVA leadership team collaborated with Nancy’s family to identify a project to be implemented where Nancy inevitably would have spent a good deal of her time and support – at Zoe’s school: Dennis Lab School in Decatur, IL. Dennis Lab School currently has a 72% low income rate, educating a large number of at-risk students. Since this is where Zoe attends school and it is where Beth’s husband currently teaches, we knew it was the perfect venue to honor Nancy. After debating how to honor their mother in a way that would also enrich the lives of students at the school, Nancy’s family decided on music. Beth spoke with the music teacher and learned that it was her wish to teach the ukulele to all 3rd-5th grade students at the school, but the current budget didn’t allow for it. Ukuleles are quickly becoming the new way to teach note reading and theory skills to elementary students. Learning the ukulele might even spark an interest in going on to learn guitar or another musical instrument! Further, a university study showed that music lessons improved the precision with which at-risk children’s brains distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills.
project: Pick Hope, will fund the purchase of the following:
30 Ukulele Packages: to include a ukulele, a bag, and instruction book/CD/DVD
30 Soprano String Sets
45 Ukulele Picks
The Mason family believes that if Nancy were here, she would be very involved with Zoe’s life at Dennis Lab School. This project offers a way for Zoe’s “Nanny” to be part of her musical education – even from afar. project: Pick Hope will introduce a new instrument and skill set to all of the children enrolled today, and in the future, at Dennis Lab School.