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Nicole Phillips, Published October 19 2012

Kindness is Contagious: Replacing hurt with a healthy dose of hope

My friend, Kristi, said something the other day that made my heart stop for a moment.

But let me back up. She is a one-woman parade: marching band, confetti, the whole works. She walks into the room and brings sunshine and gale-force winds. She has more energy than anyone I have ever met. Anyone. Ever.

Kristi and her husband, Rod, have four kids. Jack is 10, Rosie, 7, Howard, almost 3, and Baby Olive, 5 months. There is always something going on in that house. And to top it off, Kristi runs a school out of her basement she light-heartedly calls The Academic Academy of Excellence. We all want to send our kids there, but enrollment is limited to immediate family. Kristi needs to homeschool her children to keep them healthy.

Jack has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Any hint of a cold or sniffle turns into pneumonia which means a stay in the hospital.

Jack was diagnosed when he was 16 months old. As an infant, he went through the regular developmental stages of rolling over, sitting, crawling and standing.

But then something strange happened. He stopped standing. Kristi and Rod took him to the doctor and ended up in a world they had never imagined: the world of a child with special needs.

Kristi has drawn her sword to take on all the dragons of this world. She dedicates herself to her family and fights for their well-being at every turn. She began a yearly fundraising walk called the Jack Attack, which has raised more than $100,000 for families with SMA. She is certain a cure is coming quickly.

I’ve never once seen Kristi lose her cool or fall into despair or even whisper “Why me?”

So, finally I asked her.

“Have you ever had that moment?”

Her response was what made my heart ache. She told me that when Jack was almost 2, she and her husband went to a professional hockey game. As she was watching the guys hit the ice, she thought to herself, “My son will never play hockey.”

Kristi’s grief was replaced by hope. Hope has given her son the ability to play hockey even though he is in a wheelchair. He also plays baseball and goes downhill skiing. He goes to dances and parties at Skateland, and hones his acting skills by performing in plays. There is much more he could do, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Maybe you’ve heard of Hope. Technically, it’s Hope, Inc. The people who started it, Bill and Adair Grommesh, became local celebrities when they appeared on Extreme Home Makeover.

I wanted to share Kristi’s story with you, because from noon to 2 p.m. today, Hope, Inc. is having its annual bowling fundraiser at West Acres Bowl in Fargo. Donations are tax-deductible, and Dakota Medical Foundation is going to match each donation of $50 or more.

Sometimes we hear about fundraisers without really knowing much about the organization or exactly how it helps people in our area. I didn’t want that to happen this time. I wanted you to know how important Hope is.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.