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"Colby was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma in 1994 when he was 2 years 8 months old. It was a long 2 years of multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. The hospital was home for Colby and me as we were there more than home. His little body and spirit went through a lot, but he didn't complain. No matter what he went through, he always enjoyed and loved the people who took care of him. Whether it was his doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, x-ray techs, Child Life workers or our Social Worker, Greg. They all became our family. Before Colby relapsed, there was a 6 month period where he was able to play without worry, and just be a kid. He was able to go to preschool and make new friends. When I asked him what he would do if his cancer came back, he said "make new friends!" When we found out he had relapsed, he had less than a week and a half to live. He relapsed immediately after THON in 1997. This was the only THON he made it to, in the White Building. He was 5 1/2 when he passed away. Colby was a wise old soul. His life was short, but it was large! He was an amazing teacher of how you can live your life.
Our love story with the Arnold Air Force Society began in 1994 when we were paired with them after being diagnosed. They have not only been our organization, but part of our lives and family ever since. Believe it or not, I still have contact with our original AAS Thon chair from 1994 through social media. Through the last 26 years, we have met and become close to so many wonderful souls in the Arnold Air Society because of THON. And, because of Colby! I can humbly say that our relationship and bond could be the role model for what a family/org pairing is all about. It's not just the fundraising, or the money raised. It's the loving bonds that are formed and kept for years to come. That's what it's all about deep down inside.
About 15 years ago, a special group of Arnie cadets made their way into our lives, and that set the bar high for the Arnies to follow. Going forward, canning trips and visits were like holidays at our home. Our girls grew up with our Arnies and THON. Our Arnies kept in touch and made sure that we knew they were our family, and not just that we were "their" THON family. There's a big difference. In the years to follow, we became increasingly closer to the group, members ever changing... and yet still the same. At one point, I gave them a chance to apply for another family. I told them I would let them go and not request them as our org, so that they could have a live child. I thought it was important for them to have that. They said no! As the years followed, we stayed tight with our kids, new and old. And if you can believe, we grew even closer to the kids in our org. Almost daily contact, as they checked in with me. Canning trips and visits to our home have always been filled with a lot of home cooked food, games, dancing and love...lots and lots of love! Wonderful memories are made every time."
- Judy Hoch