Dagmar Obert | Balsam Hill Design Consultant

Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Campaign: Vanessa of At The Picket Fence

At the Picket Fence celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Vanessa, her beneficiary and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog.  

Vanessa

For Vanessa, having a loving and supportive family can make a world of difference to a child’s growth. As a devoted mother to two adorable children and as one half of an amazing sisters duo, our featured blogger knows how much it means to have someone take care of you as you go through the challenges of life. That is why Vanessa always makes it a point to spend time with her family and stay connected to them no matter how far they may be.

Since creating At The Picket Fence with her sister Heather, Vanessa has become one of the most successful bloggers on the internet. Thanks to the wonderful crafts and projects they feature on their blog, the sisters are now considered as mavens of practical decorating. Their articles are constant source of inspiration for many of their followers. But even though they may have found popularity on the blogosphere, for Vanessa and her sister, family will always come first.

Hope Unlimited for Children

As part of Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July charity campaign, Vanessa named Hope Unlimited for Children as her chosen charity to help out. Founded by Reverend Jack Smith and his son Philip along with David Swoap, the former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Hope Unlimited for Children aims to rescue homeless children in the streets of Brazil and provide them with care and safe housing.

In a recent interview, she shares on how their family was introduced to the organization. “We became aware of this charity through another blogger and it just struck such a chord with us,” says Vanessa. “As mothers ourselves it is unfathomable to us to think about these young children living on the streets and the hopelessness they would live with every day. We couldn’t NOT do something, and we just knew that this was the right organization for us to support. Choosing a charity to support is a heart decision all the way.”

BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?

Vanessa: The charity we’ve chosen is Hope Unlimited for Children. This organization was founded by Reverend Jack Smith and his son Philip along with David Swoap (former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services) and began when they realized that homeless children in the streets of Brazil were being systematically killed when they were deemed a ‘public nuisance’. Currently, over 1019 children and hundreds more graduates and their families are served daily:

255 children in residential programs
35 children in graduate transition homes
540 children in preschool program
89 young adults in a church founded and led by Hope graduates

Over 100 graduates and children’s family members are also served through graduate support programs, including CENE (a church founded and led by Hope graduates) employment placement services, counseling programs, and family-support programs. Read This Entry

Dagmar Obert | Balsam Hill Design Consultant

Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Campaign: Michelle of Powered by Mom

Powered by Mom celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Amy, her beneficiary and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog. 

Michelle Sutter has always worked hard to be a positive influence to others. Whether it’s through her work in universities or her interactions with others on the internet, she makes it a point to share her optimism no matter how difficult a situation may be. And through her wonderful blog, Powered By Mom, Michelle is able to connect with more people and touch their lives more closely than before. Her arts and crafts are constant sources of inspiration to followers.

In the spirit of helping out her community, Michelle has joined up with Balsam Hill for our Christmas in July charity campaign. As one of our inspirational bloggers whose story and advocacy are more than worthy of recognition, Michelle shares her positivity with others by extending a helping hand to her chosen charitable organization.

Hope for Paws: Animal Rescue Organization

Hope for Paws is a volunteer group close to Michelle’s heart. This non-profit organization aims to rescue sick and abandoned animals who are suffering on the streets and in shelters. Their main goal is to educate others on the importance of companion animals in our society. In her interview with Balsam Hill, Michelle shares her enthusiasm in being able to help out Hope for Paws. “The name says it all, but this organization has rescued hundreds of animals from extremely poor conditions, abusive conditions and more,” says Michelle. “I am an animal advocate and lover and supporting an organization that rescues animals is one of my top priorities.”

BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?

Michelle: Hope for Paws animal rescue. The name says it all but this organization has rescued hundreds of animals from extremely poor conditions, abusive conditions and more. Some of the rescues are nothing short of heartbreaking and then heartwarming. Read This Entry

Dagmar Obert | Balsam Hill Design Consultant

Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Campaign: Sarah of Sarah Halstead.com

SarahHalstead.com celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Sarah, her beneficiary, and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog. 

 

For Sarah Halstead, achieving happiness in life is all about enjoying the little things no matter how good or bad they may be. A loving wife to her husband and mother to two amazing boys, Dustyn and Carsyn, Sarah makes it a point to always support her family in every way she can. And even after finding out that her two boys were diagnosed with special needs, she continues to show the same dedication in turning each day into a memorable one for her family.

Today, Sarah is an active member of Inspiration Through Art, a non-profit organization devoted to empowering other people to give back to the community and make a difference through art. She is one of many artists passionate about sharing their time and talents in order to let children around the world know that they are loved in spite of serious illnesses or life-altering disabilities. Through her skills in photography, Sarah tries to capture the little moments in life so that they can become unforgettable memories for other beautiful families such as hers.

Families for HoPE!

Sarah shares with Balsam Hill why she picked the Families for HoPE, Inc. as her charity for our Christmas in July campaign. She was introduced to the organization when her son, Carsyn, was diagnosed with Holoprosencephaly when he was almost a year old. Holoprosencephaly is a serious medical disorder where the forebrain of the embryo fails to develop into two hemispheres. This ailment leads to facial deformation. Left undiagnosed, it can cause mental retardation, epilepsy, various endocrine maladies, and even behavioral problems.  The people from Families for HoPE helped her understand her son’s condition and gave her hope. As a token of her gratitude, Sarah devotes her time and efforts in helping spread knowledge about the disease and to support other families who might be going through the same situation.

The spirit of charity is alive in Sarah Halstead and in her deeds. Hers is a story about savoring the beauty of each moment in spite of adversities. And just like Sarah, we can also do our part in sharing hope to others.

BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you? 

Sarah: My son Carsyn was diagnosed with Holoprosencephaly when he was almost a year old. I had never heard of it and the doctor didn’t give us much hope. I came across Families for HoPE, and it instilled new hope in me. Read This Entry

Dagmar Obert | Balsam Hill Design Consultant

Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Campaign: Kristin of My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Kristin, her beneficiary and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog. 

Kristin of My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia with her Family

Kristin Salazar lives a simple but fabulous family life in San Diego with three adorable boys, two lovely dogs and a loving husband. With a love for all things DIY, Kristin decided to set up a place where she can share colorful tidbits of their suburban life and show others how they can achieve the same on a small budget. My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia is her online soapbox for all ideas regarding practical and functional home maintenance. She hopes that the slices of her life she shares can inspire and help people achieve stylish and beautiful spaces they can call home.

A dedicated mother and loving wife, Kristin and her husband faced one of their darkest moments as parents when their youngest son was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease. Kawasaki Disease (KD) is the leading cause of acquired heart illnesses in children. If not treated, KD can lead to aneurysms, heart attack and death. The disease can be treated if diagnosed early. Sadly, it is sometimes misdiagnosed, like in Kristin’s case. Although her son has now completely recovered, Kristin is unrelenting in her mission to fight KD by spreading awareness about the ailment. She hopes that her son’s miracle will give hope to others facing the same battle and that her family’s own experiences with KD will help them prevent its dangerous effects. Currently, Grayson is in a KD study to help medical professionals better understand the sickness and to help promote effective diagnosis and treatment.

The Kawasaki Disease Foundation (KDF)

In line with Kristin’s goal of spreading awareness regarding her son’s previous condition,  she has decided to support the Kawasaki Disease Foundation (KDF) for Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Campaign. The KDF is a non-profit organization, and the only one dedicated exclusively to addressing issues related to the illness. As a by-product of the highly successful Kawasaki Disease Parent’s Education Symposium, it represents a true collaboration of parents and medical professionals. The board of directors comprises parents of children who have faced the ailment. Recognized Kawasaki Disease experts and other parents from around the United States also contribute a significant amount of time and effort to support the organization.

BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?

Kristin: I have chosen to support the Kawasaki Disease Foundation. As a mother, you know when something just isn’t right with your child. It actually comes the day you give birth; this motherly instinct.  When our youngest, Grayson, became sick in March of 2013 with high fevers, swollen glands and joint pain, I knew something was not right. Over a week’s time, we were turned away by doctors. Our son was misdiagnosed and was given antibiotics, but nothing was making him better. He only continued to get worse.  After receiving a call from a friend who saw my posts on FB, and whose son had been diagnosed with Kawasaki too, she told us to go back to the children’s hospital. She said that she will alert the KD specialist. I rushed him back, held him up to the window and begged for someone to take him. By this time, his fever was 107 and he was slowly slipping away. He was rushed back in. He met with specialists and was given the correct diagnosis. This happened 9 days after he first became sick. There is only a 10 day window in which you can get treatment in order to save the child’s heart.

As frightening as it was, it was a relief to finally have a diagnosis and start his IVIG treatment.  Grayson was touch and go and we were rushed to ICU were he stayed for 3 days. Once the second dose of IVIG, steroids and Remicade infusions stabilized him, we were moved out of the ICU. We watched vigilantly as Grayson got better every day.  A year later, Grayson is healthy and happy. Hos coronary arteries are back to the normal size. He did not suffer from any aneurysms or heart attacks. He is extremely fortunate!

I hope that, in addition, to raising money to help fund the diagnostic test for KD, that someone can eventually figure out a definitive cause, prevention procedures and a cure to this ailment in the near future. Read This Entry