12 February 2013

When I joined Facebook at the end of 2008, one of my early friend requests came from Jeff Castelaz, who, at the time, was running an independent record label. Even though I knew the name, I couldn’t really place the face, but I went ahead and confirmed the request. I’m so glad I did. 

Jeff and his wife Jo Ann’s darling boy, Pablo, had cancer and Jeff was writing a blog about the daily highs and lows that come with a sick child and with every bit of news that the doctors deliver. Even though I didn’t know Jeff, I quickly became addicted to the blog. It was one of the most honest, vulnerable, heartbreaking, funny, touching accounts I had ever read. I eagerly waited for him to put up a new post so I could learn Pablo’s current status. I felt totally invested in this little brave boy I had never met.

When I first started reading the blog, if I recall correctly, Pablo was in remission. He and his family were having all kinds of adventures and taking advantage of the relatively good health that Pablo was enjoying. They were hanging with Lance Armstrong, they were hiking—often with Pablo on Jeff’s shoulders— they were making the most of every moment and the grin on Pablo’s face showed he was digging it. Even grabbing pancakes was a special occasion. I’m sure the rest of the family was just as involved, but since it was Jeff’s blog, the entries focused primarily on the beautiful, unbreakable bond that Jeff and Pablo shared. Yes, they were father and son, but they were also such good buddies. 

Then Pablo’s cancer came back. Jeff didn’t shirk from writing about the roller coaster the family was on waiting for every test result or the total devastation they felt when the unthinkable happened: Pablo, six years old, died on June 27, 2009 surrounded by his family.

With a graciousness and generosity of spirit that I cannot imagine possessing, Jeff and his wife (and Pablo’s older brother Grady) took their tragedy and turned it into a organization to help anyone unfortunate enough to follow in their footsteps.  The Pablove Foundation's mission, according to its website, “is to fund pediatric cancer research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and improve the quality of life for children living with  cancer through hospital play, music and arts programs.” Pablove Foundation’s motto is “fighting childhood cancer with love.” 

One of Pablove’s biggest programs is Pablove Shutterbugs, which helps children with cancer develop their voice and express their feelings through photography. 
The Pablove Foundation has a whole phalanx of ways people can participate far and above donating money, including a bicycle ride across America (Jeff is a major rider), or joining a Pablove marathon team. For a small, parent-run non-profit, it offers an impressively wide array of activities and partnerships. 

As readers know, today is Chooseday Tuesday. A number of people suggested Pablove— another indication of how well loved Jeff and Jo Ann are and how quickly their charity reached a tipping point—but the first to mention it to me was Sheryl, a friend who is deeply committed to Pablove’s mission. I'm happy to make the donation in her name, but sorry that a charity like Pablove has to exist.

Feb. 12: The Pablove Foundation: http://www.pablove.org/

43 down, 322 to go!

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