This is Tessa. She is 8 years old and fighting against Stage IV Neuroblastoma.

This is Tessa. She is 8 years old and fighting against Stage IV Neuroblastoma.

A few years back, I received the news that Brian Thomas, a friend from my childhood, was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. Everyone was in shock and looking for ways to pitch in and help. Cancer is ugly, but it's also an expensive beast to fight. I thought, "What if I had an open house at my projects and asked for a $5 donation to go to Brian?"

Our first open house was at the 4th Street house in Minneapolis. There was a horrific snowstorm and I worried, "No one will show." Imagine my delight when, an hour before the official start time, the line was already around the block. I stood outside for 4 hours taking money and saying thank you.

My friends volunteered inside, and we knew we were onto something great. Everyone gladly donated, and most people gave a lot more than a five dollar bill. Since that open house, we have done the same thing at every house for different families. I'm so proud that through this "idea," we have helped ease the financial burden for these friends. Brian, who was told he had maybe a month or two to live, is now going strong and went on to form his own foundation to help children with cancer.

Our open houses are now absolutely off the charts. Tessa, pictured above, captured my heart, and our last open house was in her honor. Fans from all over the country flew in and waited in line for up to 5 hours! Over 4000 people came through---and not one complaint. 

Be sure to mark your calendar for the next one...I promise, it is a a huge testament to the power of kindness. You will have the time of your life, and I recommend bringing a cooler and lawn chairs. With each open house, we have two lines: one for the elderly, the disabled and small children and another for everyone else. If God has blessed you with good health and legs, you get the long line :)

AND ABOUT OUR SWEET GIRL,

I wrote this last Summer, our hearts are still broken & we thank all of you for your love that has been sent...we continue to fight through the Love, Team Tessa foundation set up in her honor by her mom and dad.

Seven weeks ago, on a stormy, Saturday night at 8:25 PM, Tessa passed away. The past few weeks have been a blur for all of us. I've met a lot of children in my 40 years and of course, have two of my own, but this little one was such an old soul. Her smile, her laugh, it was completely captivating. To say that none of us expected this is an understatement. I can't even add up how many procedures, surgeries, treatments, etc that she endured and came out swinging every time. If I had to put my money on someone beating the odds, it was our girl. I laid with her the Thursday before she passed and she said "nicole, come closer" I just remember thanking God for giving me the honor of loving her and held back my tears as I talked with her. She had recently picked out a scooter for my little one's birthday gift and I was telling her how much he loved it, without skipping a beat, she lifted her oxygen mask and said "send me a video". I told her I loved her, I kissed her beautiful bald head one more time. In all that I've seen, all that I've done, I will never understand, accept children not having the opportunity to grow up. I hope that all of  you take a moment to visit her Facebook page and share the story of #welovetessa. By telling her story, awareness will be raised and when that happens, money starts to flow the right direction to finding a cure, because we need these babies and we miss Tessa.