{Passion Projects} Before FOF Shirley Enebrad’s son died, he made her promise just one thing…

“People don’t want to hear that kids die from cancer. They just want to cover their ears and pretend it’s not happening.” – FOF Shirley Enebrad, Candlelighters of Western Washington

FOF Shirley Enebrad’s son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1980. He was three and a half years old. Before he died, at age nine, he made her promise one thing: “Cory asked me to help other parents going through cancer treatment,” says Shirley. “At that time, chemotherapies and treatments were evolving, and the idea of emotional support wasn’t important,” she says. “With 85 percent of marriages not surviving chronic illness diagnosis, it can be extremely isolating. I wanted support.” But, there was not much support to be found in the Seattle area at that time. Shirley started some support groups on her own, but felt a whole organization should be dedicated to the cause.  That’s when she discovered Candlelighters, an organization with the mission of giving emotional support to families facing childhood cancer. “It [the mission] wasn’t really happening though,” said Shirley. The organization was working to build Seattle’s first Ronald McDonald House, a very important cause, but not Shirley’s vision of direct, hands-on support for parents and families coping with cancer. Shirley became president of the Candlelighters in the early 90s and helped refocus the organization. Today, the Candlelighters of Western Washington donates 100 percent of the funds it raises towards helping families directly. This includes funeral and emergency funds for financially devastated families, support groups, bereavement retreats and care bags. “Many of our board members have gone down the same scary path and are ‘lighting the way’ for those unfortunate people who have been forced to follow us,” says Shirley.Our needs are not as fun as a kids’ camp…or as exciting and hopeful as research, but for the families whose children are suffering right here and right now, the needs are very REAL.” Shirley just recently “passed the baton” to a new president but continues to stay active as a grief counselor for the Candlelighters. She has also  just written “Over the Rainbow Bridge,” a book about how Cory lived his life to the fullest despite his diagnosis. “I get tired but yes, I think I am fulfilling my promise to Cory,” she says.

Find out more about the Candlelighters of Western Washington and how you can help.

{Dating} She married her best friend…30 years after they met!

FOF Elizabeth Larson and Steve Steele met in Minneapolis in their 20s and dated briefly. Although the two broke up and lived miles apart (Elizabeth moved to Denver and Steve stayed in Minneapolis), they remained best friends for almost 20 years. After losing touch for 13 years, they reunited in 2009 and married in 2010, both were age 52. Read their heart-warming love story, below:
(Waterproof mascara and tissues recommended!)

In 1986, 28-year-old Elizabeth Steele was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. She underwent rounds of unsuccessful treatment. Defeated, Elizabeth decided to leave her life in Denver and move home to be with her family in Wisconsin.

Her best friend Steve (living in Minneapolis), flew to Denver and drove a terrified Elizabeth home to Wisconsin. “Despite the gravity of the situation, we had a grand time,” says Elizabeth. A few months later, as a last resort, Elizabeth opted for a bone marrow transplant, a new and extremely risky procedure at the time. “The odds of survival weren’t in my favor,” says Elizabeth.” Again, Steve flew from Minneapolis to be by her side. He spent the weekend with Elizabeth, which she thought might be her last. “[It was] a last hurrah,” she says.

Elizabeth survived the treatment (“a miracle,” she says) and at that point she knew Steve was more than her best friend. He was her true love. Steve knew it also, and Elizabeth moved to Minneapolis, the two married and lived happily ever after…

Wait, not so fast. Life is more complicated that that… After Elizabeth’s treatment, she did move to Minneapolis to be with Steve. They tried to make it work but it was the wrong place and the wrong time. “The job market [in Minneapolis] was bleak, so I applied for and was offered a job back in Wisconsin. I accepted it and moved.”

More distance, another failed romance… but again, Elizabeth and Steve remained friends. Elizabeth became engaged to another man. Her fiancee, jealous of Elizabeth’s friendship with Steve, urged her to cut off communication with him. They lost touch for 13 years.

In 1996, Elizabeth terminated her engagement. “[It was] for many practical and serious reasons,” says Elizabeth. “But the greatest one was that he wasn’t Steve.” Still wondering about his whereabouts, Elizabeth searched for Steve to no avail.

Then in 2009, Elizabeth found a man’s profile on Facebook, she believed could be him. “It sounded like his humor, so I took a chance and asked him to be friends,” said Elizabeth. “Within minutes, he responded: ‘I had to hit the “accept” button because they did not have a “you bet your ass button!”‘” “I was certain he was married with kids,” she says.

He wasn’t. And after a few visits, getting to know one another again, Steve told Elizabeth that his past relationships had always been missing something. They didn’t measure up to his relationship with her. Elizabeth told Steve she felt the same way.

“I never believed in a million years that I would marry the man I loved and dreamed of for most of my life,” says Elizabeth. The two had a small wedding celebration in 2010. “I look at my wedding ring and still can’t believe it. Steve has commented on how well I sign my new name (Elizabeth Larson Steele). I tell him that I’ve been practicing it for decades!”

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