This was written by David Washburn, who was instrumental in making Mary's dream of meeting the Jills Cheerleaders come true.
Mary is an older woman with Down Syndrome as well as many other debilitating diseases. She is small in stature but mighty in fortitude, and wants to live a full life. In a recent conversation with her, I learned that she had several dreams she wanted to complete in her life.
One of Mary's life-long dreams was to go on a roller coaster, which made me curious if she could meet the height requirement. The staff took Mary to Darien Lake and she rode all the different roller coasters there. She grinned ear to ear as she told me of how the staff didn't fare too well, but she could have ridden all day! She became quite animated as she boasted about her accomplishment.
Another dream Mary shared was that she wanted to play pool. Toward the close of summer, a staff member took Mary to a place where she played pool. "I won all three games, I did!" exclaimed Mary. Being legally blind, this was quite a wonderful time for her to be able to complete this dream.
I marveled at her excitement in the retelling of these events in her life. Then she shared that she was saving her money to buy a cheerleading outfit. Since Mary often uses a walker to navigate her way around as she goes on such adventures, I was curious as to what kind of cheerleading outfit she was interested in. "Why the Buffalo Jills Cheerleader's outfit, don't you know?" Mary replied.
It has always been her dream of dreams to one day meet the Buffalo Jills, do a cheer with them, and use an official pom-pom while doing so. I asked Mary, "What if this could really happen?" She sort of melted into the furniture and when her voice returned, she quietly said, "That would be the best Christmas gift ever." Then a wonderful smile emerged from beneath her hands which had been covering her face.
Later that evening, when I returned home I contacted my dear friends Jeff and Snjezana Fisher. I knew that in the recent past they had worked with the Buffalo Jills. I shared Mary's dream with them. Two weeks later (snow storm goofed up our first try) we drove Mary to meet the Fishers. When I explained they had arranged for us to attend a Buffalo Jills practice, Mary continued to think I was joking…until we pulled into the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse…sort of. As we entered the building, Mary still was not certain of the reality. Then, Stephanie, Jills cheerleading director, warmly greeted Mary and introduced her to the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad!
As we stood in the end zone of the practice field, Mary watched in awe as the cheerleaders practiced a routine without music and then with the music. The excitement of the moment captured Mary's emotions and she momentarily cried as she began to realize the reality: we REALLY were watching the Buffalo Jills practice their routines!
When invited to join them for a team picture, Mary did not need a second invitation. As they assembled around Mary with questions and "Jill talk," she recovered from her shyness, relaxed and broke out into a million dollar smile. She demonstrated her own cheerleading skills as she showed the Jills how the Wiggles danced.
Mary posed with the two uniformed Buffalo Jills captains. The two captains were so very kind, understanding, and encouraging with Mary, which generated a multitude of incredible smiles and laughter. When they gave Mary two official Buffalo Jills pom-poms, Mary was uncertain about accepting them. She didn't want the team to be without pom-poms for the upcoming game. After warm assurance that they had other pom-poms like hers, she agreed to accept them. Mary was also quite concerned that the cheerleaders would be cold because their uniforms didn't offer much protection against the elements. They assured her that they would be wearing their winter uniforms and boots similar to Mary's boots. Reassured that they would be okay, Mary relaxed and thanked them for allowing her to meet them.
As we prepared to leave, Stephanie presented Mary an autographed poster of the Buffalo Jills. It was a spectacular moment for Mary…a dream of dreams that came true…a Christmas gift of generosity, kindness, and hospitality from the Fishers, Stephanie, and the Buffalo Jills that no amount of money could ever purchase.
Our drive home was blessed by the happiness that beamed from Mary's soul and a smile that defies description. It was a very, very special time and moment for Mary and a gift that she (as well as we) will always cherish. Acts of hospitality, genuinely being present to another, and kindness…that is what the Christmas season should become for all of us…and regardless the state of the economy, we all can give those things away.
Thank you Jeff, Snjezana, Stephanie, Nichole and all of the Buffalo Jills!