America’s Phone Guys employees regularly volunteer their time, skills and creative insights to help those in need. Whether helping out in simple ways or seeking solutions to global challenges, America’s Phone Guys employees help make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and have an enduring impact on the Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR communities where they live and work.
In February 2008, a friend Lois had worked with was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic cancer. The friend was Korean (born & raised) and at times had some difficulty with English communication, though Lois and her friend were always able to communicate easily. Lois asked if she would like her to attend doctors appointments with her to make certain she understood everything & that she was understood as well. The friend was happy to have Lois there as her advocate, and through that process Lois learned a lot about cancer and cancer doctors. The friend passed away in July 2008. During these few months Lois kept feeling she was being prepared for something.
In May 2009, Lois’ husband was diagnosed with stage 4 base of tongue cancer. She went to every doctor’s appointment with him and believed she was a much calmer sense of support for him because she had been through cancer with her friend the year before. Throughout his treatments they would often talk about how they couldn’t imagine a child having to go through cancer. How would they deal with all of the poking and treatments and the sheer horror of it? Once Caleb was through his treatment regimen and on his way back to good health, they talked about Lois volunteering for the CCA. But, she would have to find the time. When running a business with your husband, that’s not easy.
Almost 3 years later, Lois decided there would never be enough time, and she just needed to figure out a way to make it happen. She had to make it a priority. Lois didn’t know if she would make a good Chemo Pal, but figured the folks at the CCA would determine that. If not, she could volunteer in other ways. Lois is a pretty emotional person, and even so, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to be strong and supportive when times were tough. She loves kids though, and has never been blessed with one herself (other than her beautiful step-daughter Kalaya) so she wanted to give it a shot.
She was so happy she did! Lois was “matched” with a three & a half year old boy in December of 2012 and went to his appointments at Doernbecher every week with him. They played cars & legos, and watched videos and had such a good time. He cried every time he had his port accessed or de-accessed until she figured out things to help keep his mind occupied when that was happening. Lois felt like she really made a difference in his life that day! And all the days after that he didn’t even fuss were amazing to her! As a Chemo Pal Mentor, Lois’ goal was to bring JOY to children dealing with cancer or other life-threatening diseases. Mentors believe joy can help heal and Lois did too. Her Pal “graduated” in September 2013 and is doing very well. He even has a full head of hair back now!
She was “matched” with her next Chemo Pal in April 2014, this time at Randall Children’s Hospital. He was better at facing doctors at four years old than she is in her 50’s. This kid was a trooper! According to his mom, he looked forward to the visits when he knew Lois would be there. He always looked around the waiting room for her and ran over when he found her to see what was in her “bag of tricks” for their visit. Their favorite thing to do together was play with rocket balloons. She blew them up and he loved to shoot them and catch them as well as let the air out into her face and make her laugh. He was such a trooper, calling his port his Iron Man button, because it’s toward the middle of his chest. This Pal “graduated” in December 2015 and is also doing very well. Lois still goes to follow up appointments with him and he counts down the days until their next visit each time one gets close.
In May of 2016 she was “matched” with her current Chemo Pal, once again at Randall Children’s Hospital. This time her pal is a 3-year-old boy who calls her Louie and says she is his best friend. According to his parents having her at his appointments has made all the difference for him and he doesn’t start crying anymore when it’s time to go for his appointments, he’s excited to see Louie again. He likes his time with her so much that he is not afraid to let it be known when they are together that she is there for him & only him and everyone else should leave her alone! They love to do puzzles together, play with trucks, build Lego towers and especially make cakes with play dough. His treatments will be ongoing for at least the next two years and Lois is planning to be there with him every step of the way.
A Shui Life Dragon Boat Team
A Shui Life was established in February of 2007 by two Deaf women in Portland. This was a result of a passion for Dragon Boat racing, and wanting””keeping in the spirit of the outdoors recreational pursuits of the Pacific Northwest””to use the activity to provide a vehicle for their vision of growth and unity among the women of Deaf and Hearing communities. The team’s name shares the same acronym as American Sign Language, or ASL, to represent the usage of the language in our lives and practices. We have included the Chinese word “Shui” (water) in our name to pay homage to our sister city in Taiwan.
Last year was full of changes: it could have become chaos, but the members came together and pulled through a wonderful season. We were challenged by new boats with extra benches, a new caller, a new tiller, a new flag catcher, and new co-captains. We overcame those obstacles with vigor and worked hard with the goal of winning the tournament.
In this whirlwind of members working together, we surprised ourselves with the result: we won first place in Division II! It was a first for the team which been competing in the Rose Festival annually since 2007. We have been improving our skills, our strengths on the boat, aiming to reach the final race, marking a record in our team’s history. We did it. Next mark to make history: reaching Division I and landing into the top eight. Aiming high? Nah. We are DEAF. We are WOMEN. We are STRONG. We are SUPERSTARS.
This team has gone through a lot, providing support for the Deaf and Women community, giving women the opportunity to feel the unity of team spirit and improving their fitness level. Each woman who has competed has accumulated enriched experiences to carry through their lives.