This year for Christmas, my family decided to skip the gift-giving.


As the “kids” in our family have collectively become adults (despite our best efforts), we have begun realizing that our Christmas gatherings emphasize less the thrill of new gadgets and Knick knacks waiting under the tree Christmas morning, and more about spending quality time with each other. Year after year, our holidays felt more like a gift card or cash exchange between family members. As a family this season, we decided to step back and refocus on what Christmas really means to us. 

We decided to collectively give up our gifts and to instead give to a cause we felt represented something our Grandma Ann would be proud of. We chose River Discovery in honor of her; as a woman who battled cancer for more than a decade, she embodied the survivorship and resilience that River Discovery celebrates.

Our Grandma Ann lived most of her life in Mountain Home, Idaho and was the classic grandma figure who claimed she loved her grandkids more than anything else (except for debatably John Wayne). I remember her playing cards with her friends or my Aunt Sherri almost every night we visited, making the best pancakes that no one has been able to recreate since (sometimes thinning them out with extra water and passing them as taco shells for dinner), and loving time spent in her home next to Smith’s Creek in Prairie, Idaho. Prairie was home to the best barn dances around, as well as the perfect driver’s training ground for 8-year-olds. Our Grandma  Ann would challenge my brother Ty, cousins Kade and Arisha, and I to see which grandkid could score the best dollar store finds with a $5 budget, and she gave us a disposable camera and “memory box” for us to fill during our visits. I remember it being difficult to make time for such things between playing in the “crick” and picking pocket loads of fresh raspberries. Our Grandma Ann was gracious, generous, loving, and always reminded us to “get outside and play!”

In 2010, Grandma Ann passed away from her last fight with multiple myeloma. She would have loved to experience the kinds of adventures that River Discovery provides to survivors and their families, and the kind of community work the organization encourages. I think she would be proud of our family’s decision to support River Discovery this season, though we still need to uphold our last upstanding tradition of the infamous ornament exchange. 

Thank you River Discovery for all that you do!

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