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From Sudan to Utah!

$13,466raised of $14,000 goal
96%

Organizer: Phoenix Ostermann Beneficiary: Edana Gama

Please help reunite this Mother and daughter with their family! Your gift will buy one-way plane tickets for Edana's husband, 5 of her children and her 2 grand children from Africa to Utah.

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Fundraiser Details

In 2008, Edana and her then 8 year old daughter Catherine came to Salt Lake City, Utah to get life changing surgery to repair Catherine's severe cleft palatte, leaving the rest of the family behind. Life in war-torn Karthoum, Sudan was hard enough without having a child who could not eat solid foods and did not speak until she was 5 because of her congenital deformity.

The Second Sudanese Civil War beginning in 1983 defined every struggle about Edana's adult life.  Held captive for 5 years after seeing her parents murdered, Edana was raped as a teenager by a soldier and gave birth to a son.  Soon after, she met her husband John who promised a better life.  They went on to grow their family and do the best they could for them.  When the opportunity to join relatives in Utah to get a much needed operation for Catherine came about, Edana was the best candidate to bring her here.

Once here, Catherine received her operations through the generosity of Operation Smile and life was looking up. However, the 2 of them faced many struggles in the beginning, including homelessness. Nevertheless, life was better in Utah than in Sudan where her 2 oldest daughter's fate sadly mirrored her own. The teens were both raped by soldiers within 6 months of each other and both gave birth to daughters 3 years ago. With the help of a lawyer, Edana sought Political Asylum for herself and Catherine and recieved that status in 2010. Edana's central focus became having her family reunited in Salt Lake City.

Now enter the amazing Utah Health and Human Rights and the International Rescue Commity (IRC). Without these 2 extraordinary organizations, Edana would not be the english-speaking, hard-working, person she has become today. And without the IRC, I would not be telling you this story of her life.  After a training session, I became a 'Family Mentor' volunteer for the IRC in the Summer of 2011. it would take 3 months for me to be matched up with Edana and Catherine and I can honestly say that my and my family's life is forever changed since befriending this family.

Catherine, now 13, is a regular fixture in our home, coming over often to play with my 3 chidren. She readily passes for an american teenager singing along to all her favorite pop songs on the radio declaring "my bad" when she mixes up the lyrics.  She has had six surgeries to date that have transformed her face and quality of life. (AUGUST 5th UPDATE: Catherine had her 7th surgery, this time reconstructing her upper lip.)

After 5 years apart, this family will now be reunited. The hard work of the IRC office in Salt Lake City has paid off - the U.S. handed down the final approval just a week ago to come as "Derivative Assylees". They just need a way to get here.
  • AUG. 9TH UPDATE: Phase One of this fundraiser has now allowed 4 of the 8 family members to fly to Salt Lake City.  The two oldest daughters and the two grandchildren HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED and the tickets were paid for with the first $7,300 raised. There was an urgency for the grandchildren to arrive before August 15, when their Humanitarian Parole was to expire.
  • AUG. 14th UPDATE:  Phase Two is underway! With the help of BridgesToAmerica.org and $2,500 in gifts from supporters, the 4 remaining plane tickets have been purchased for $4,850.  The reunion will happen Sept 6th.
  • SEPT. 9th UPDATE:  The 10 have been reunited!  Edana's husband and 3 remaining displaced children arrived in SLC on Sept. 6th.  Any gift made from today forward will go into the hands of this family to help with rent for a bigger place, winter clothes, groceries etc.)

Now it is your turn to forever alter the path of this family.  Your gift will secure the one-way plane tickets for Edana's husband John, her daughters Lina, Nelly, Rose and Carlene, her son Samuel, and her granddaughters Emanuela and Helda.  A Christmas fundraiser was held for them in December. That money allowed them safe passage in May out of South Sudan to and lodging in Kampala, Uganda in May, where they await today. (THEY ARE NOW IN SALT LAKE CITY!!  PLEASE HELP US REACH OUR ORIGINAL GOAL OF $14,000!)

If this story touches you, considering sharing it with friends and family. Thank you.

(The deadline of this fundraiser has been extended to September 10th so that all of the supporters can stay be updated with the news and photos of the family's Sept. 6th arrival)



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Updates

Updates

09/10/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

COMING TO A CLOSE:

 The end date for this fundraiser was arbitrary from the start and it was a date that kep getting pushed back to accomodate milestones.  Today will be the last day that I will officially be raising money at YouCaring.  

 The coverage done by Deseret News did generate one generous gift from a stranger. The article also did as it was meant to - touch many people as understood by this data found on the online version: 

Share

 

36

 

 

Facebook

 

26

 

 

Twitter

 

10

 

My hope was that Edana's story would seep into the hearts of many and it would have an infinite ripple effect. I feel like that is happening.

The time and energy that I have put into this fundraising campaign was a labor of love.  I will however miss the feeling that I am not doing this alone.  I have felt your love and support through the ether as you read these updates and as I watched the supporter list grow every day. There is still much to be done for this family and the best gift I can give them is empowerment. The less I do for them now the better, which feels counter intuitive to my heart, but I know this to be true.  

My friendship with Edana has taught me many lessons and many things about the complexities of life. Throughout this process, one of my daughters has struggled with feelings of injustice: How is it that we want for nothing and this family HAS nothing, is the basic gist of her inner dialogue. Every day I try to point out the things they do have ('eachother' is a big one) as to help her make sense of something that really doesn't make sense. I am pretty sure that 99% of the way our lives turn out has to do with where we are born.  And what I tell my daughter is that we don't have to feel guilty about the fact that have it better than so many people.  The real key is to take our abundance and spread it around.  

Please don't hesitate to contact me in the future if you want an update about the family: phoenix@hotwaxmedia.com

Thank you everyone from me and from Edana and her family.  I wrote down all of your names on poster board so they could see how many people made their reunion happen and they display it proudly on the wall of their apartment now for all of their visitors to see. You did good, everyone!

Most sincerely,
Phoenix Ostermann





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09/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
FRONT PAGE NEWS!!!

Thank you to Marjorie Cortez of Deseret News for this wonderful full-circle article! http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865586038/A-second-reunion-leads-to-new-life-in-America-for-Sudanese-family.html

Be sure to scroll through the 17 wonderful photos taken by Kristin Murphy.

Enjoy and pass it on!
Phoenix
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09/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
I wanted to let you all know about a fundraising event happening this evening at City Creek Center that will benefit Bridges to America - the organization that was so instrumental in bringing our second group of 4 here.

Here is all of the necessary info: 

Join Bridges to America at a charity event with one of the coolest and most positive retailers out there, Alex and Ani http://www.alexandani.com/

Stop by and browse or buy during the event and help us raise much needed funds to reunite a family of four from Kenya in late September. You will be amazed by this family's story. My entire family will be there and members of the family just reunited Friday night from Sudan will also be there. Love to see you there!

If you CANNOT MAKE IT you have two options:

1. Find something at their online store http://www.alexandani.com/ and message me your order. I, or my daughters, will find the item(s) and buy for you and you can pay me back;
2. Go to http://bridgestoamerica.org/donate/ and support us with whatever size donation you can make.

A generous 15% of all sales made during the event go directly to Bridges To America.

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09/08/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

What a wonderful, cooling, cleansing rain we're having in Salt Lake City this morning. I must admit that my emotional exhaustiion got the better of me yesterday and I spend most of the day in bed and today's weather gives me permission to continue yesterday's pace.

I haven't talked to Edana much since Friday night except during her break from work yesteday.  We dropped everyone off at Edana's apartment around 10pm (though we DID get to have Helda and Emmuela at our house!). I am sure they were up late because of all the friends and family that were already at the apartment when we got there.  Despite this excitement, Edana dutifully rose at 4:30am the next morning to ready herself for work. She said that everyone got up with her to give her breakfast and to send her off!  That's love.

I hope to see everyone today and then I will have more to report.  All I know is that the beautiful 3 kids who arrived, Rose, Carlina, and Samuel, were FULL of smiles Friday night.  

I think it is a good time to start collecting your offers of donated items.  I will make a short list here of what I think the family will need and you can send me an email with your offers at phoenix@hotwaxmedia.com.  (Hang on to this address if you ever want to have another update from me after this webpage goes down later this week.)

- Winter items for one adult man, 2 adult women, 2 teenage girls (15 and 17), a 9 year old boy, a 4 year old girl and a 3 year old girl.
- 3 dressers
- A book shelf for organizing misc. items
- A double or queen bed and matress
- A couch
- Kitchen table and chairs
- Living room chairs
- Cleaning supplies
- Toothpaste, soap, towels
- Smith's gift cards for groceries

Also, a big thank you comes your way from John, Edana's husband.  He is just so grateful and overwhelmed at everyone's generosity that got him and his family to Utah. This week I plan on writing down everyone's name who has been associated with this campaign in a card and give it to the family so they can begin to fathom the efforts and love that went into getting them here. 

Thanks everyone!
Phoenix


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09/06/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
They made it! And what a beautiful homecoming it was. I will update you and post photos tomorrow after a good night's sleep. 
Thanks everybody,
Phoenix
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09/06/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
SO FAR SO GOOD:

Edana's husband and 3 kids made their plane out of Brussels and are heading toward Philadelphia where they will have 4 hours and 45 minutes to get through Customs and find the domestic terminal - I am confident they will make it, but I will continue to keep you posted.

Phoenix
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09/05/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
UP IN THE AIR!

Well fellow humanitarians - WE'VE DONE IT!  Edana's husband, 2 daughters, and son are on the plane now - bound from Belgium, thier first stop. I will be tracking them the best I can to make sure they make each flight.  If you plan on coming to the airport tomorrow night you can track their last flight tomorrow evening:  US Airways #555.  They are due to land Friday night at 9:14pm.

Since I last wrote, I have had someone come forward pledging the first 3 months rent for a second apartment. YUP - You read that correctly - 3 MONTHS RENT.  That was the motivation Edana needed about letting go of her fear of being responsible for 2 apartments.  And it was the motivation that I needed to ask for what we really needed - enough money to pay for a 6 month lease up front so there would be NO fear and it would buy us time to look for a permanant solution to this housing dilemma.  So I did ask, and it worked.  We now have enough money pledged today to pay up- front the full 6 months rent.  Now we wait.  The rental company should get back to me by Monday to let me know if the application was accepted.

This weekend Edana may try to cram everyone in her place because they will all want to be together.  With any luck, she will let my family take the 2 grandchildren, Helda and Emmanuela, for the weekend ;)  That will give them all a little more space and a some peace from all of their adorable energy.

As I type, Edana is busily preparing an African feast that will feed her family and visitors for the next week.  She was contemplative today, rather subdued if you ask me.  How would it feel for me if I knew that the impossible dream of being reunited after all this time with my husband and children was about to come true?  Surreal, I guess.  Have Edana in your thoughts, as I know that all of us are in hers.  She said over and over today how she feels like God is working through all of us who have helped her and her family so much over the past few months, and she thanks you.  Whomever or whatever is working though you, I thank you too.  

Phoenix




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09/03/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES

Incredibly, since August 28, $425 in NEW donations have come in - moving us that much closer to the overall goal!  Thank you new gift-givers!! This is a lot of money that will be so helpful to this family in the coming months.

It is good for me to count this blessing before I update you on all the rest that has happened. 

The house that Edana and I were so counting on working out for her and her family fell through today after hours of phone calls, faxes, emails, house tours, and more phone calls.  And I really should have known that it was not going to work.  It came down to one simple conversation the rental company had with the home owner.  No, he would not accomodate a family that size, no matter the curcumstances. Which led me to call her existing landlord to see if the family could rent a second apartment in the complex but not sign a year long lease.  Of course they can - they can sign a 6 month lease, but then of course, the rent on an identacle apartment would be higher. (*Sigh*)

As for Lina and Nelly, they have been getting help from the Asain Association Refugee Immigrant center for obtaining their identification cards and getting social security numbers.  It was discovered that Nelly's name was incorectly listed on her I-94 immigration form, apparently filled out at customs at the airport.  A civilized person would think this would be an easy fix.  Maybe even involving a pink erasure.  But no.  This is a problem that could take up to 6 months of corrective paper work to remedy, according to the case worker (An incredibly helpful and compassionate  human being who has NEVER come across this error in all the years he has been doing this).

You may ask, "what's the big deal?" Well, with no ID card or social security number... NO JOB. 

Sorry, I feel a big one coming on...*SIGH*.

SO...the takeaway from these revelations is two-fold: It's really hard to come here seeking a better life, and, I can only do what I can do about any of this. I need to let go and trust that everything will work out the way it is supposed to work out. In the meantime, I need to focus on my children and the way they are processing all of this. It's the little things for them that are important right now, like making welcome signs for John, Carlena, Rose, and Samuel, who are arriving in 3 short days. Hope to see some of you there.

Phoenix



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08/29/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

Today is a good day.

I want you all to know the gift that you have given to Edana's family goes FAR beyond resettlement. There is one thing I have not talked about that I now want to share with you all. Edana's biggest indignity is that she was never educated. She cannot read or write her own language. She is like so many girls born into this world (66 million actually) who are not given the opportunity at an education. The cycle is perpetuated often times by poverty. School is not free in over 50 countries, including Sudan. Edana's 2 oldest girls were not allowed an education because they needed to work to help the family.

The main reason Edana insists on staying in her neighborhood is so that Catherine can continue on to the beautiful middle school we went to for registration. Just walking in the doors, Edana saw opportunity. She sees opportunity for her other girls now too. There is much talk about getting her oldest daughters enrolled in English classes as soon as possible and I have heard Edana proudly announce several times to people that her grandchild Helda will attend kindergarten next year.

This is because of you. Because of your gift, this terrible cycle has been broken for the girls of this family.

Thank you for the new contributions today. Thank you for your encouraging FB messages.
Just thank you.
Phoenix


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08/29/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
I wrote yesterday's update relatively late last night when I was WAY too tired and today I see lots of typos (cringe). One mistake I wrote that I want to set straight however,  was that I said that the original goal was based on the average cost of 10 plane tickets - I meant to say 8.  Four have come already and 4 more are on their way.  I didn't want to confuse anyone.

I called the Management company again who manages the house Edana is interested in AGAIN, (I've called a minimum of 8 times already to make sure they all understand the situation) and layed my personal plea on VERY thick.  They absolutely will not rent this house to Edana with her income being what it is.  I have let them know we have a couple of months supplementary rent (above the $675 she's used to paying) raised and I even emailed a link to the KSL story to the woman handling the application and I have assured them over and over that her husband will begin working ASAP.  I am pulling out all of the stops.  All that remains is for them to verify her employment and for me to continue to convince her current apartment manager NOT to charge Edana for breaking her lease and to not disparrage her because of this when they fill out the Landlord Verification form.  Can you all understand why I have had a stomach ache for the last 5 days?  

Anyone want to take over the lease on a lovely 2 bedroom aparment at Park Place downtown?
Send me and Edana positive thoughts and vibes today everyone,
Phoenix
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08/28/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Home may be where the heart it, but darnit, when it comes to finding a home for a family of 10 - one really needs to needs to focus on square footage!

Only 9 days until the rest of Edana's family arrives!! Edana's existing apartment would not comfortably house them all, and besides, her management company has given her a huge finger-wag to the mere idea, even in a 3 bedroom. Beside the challenge of wiggling out of the 5 months left on her existing lease, Edana really needs to stay in the same, central neighborhood, find something big enough for not a lot of money, and it all needs to happen REALLY FAST.

When I took the first initial stab at finding a new place for her, I struck gold!  Just 3 1/2 blocks from her place is a great little house with big bedrooms for a reasonable price.  I took Edana there today to take a tour and she really lit up when she saw it.  

Now, we just cross our fingers that all of the planets align and the management company sees Edana as an eliglible tenant.  There is of course the concern that she is the only one currently with a job.  The donation from Salon O will fill in the holes of the first 2 months rent - and the plan is to get Edana's husband and 2 oldest girls working for the Deseret Industries by November 1st.  But, in the meantime, I have been making personal pleas to everyone involved to be compassionate and take a chance on this family.  (I feel really good about this house.)  

Also, I have been in touch with Adam from Bridges to America, the organization that came through with half of the plane fare for the last 4 family members.  He is so excited to be present at the airport on Sept. 6th for the big homecoming. Bridges to America is also working on reuniting a Kenyan family at the end of September.  You see, Edana is not alone.  So many families from all over the world are separated and displaced by atrocity. Thank you all for taking a chance on Edana and making this reunion happen.

Catherine, the daughter with the congenital palette deformity, went back to the hospital today to have her lips seperated after being sewn closed from 2 weeks (!!)  She has done amazingly well during this time and her fortitude continues to blow us all away.  

On Saturday, my family had the priveledge of having Catherine, and her 2 little nieces over for the day.  The highlight was when my friend Carolyn and I decided to take all the kids to the neighborhood park.  Once we got there, we noticed a group of three 20-somethings busily installing what can only be described as the world's largest Slip-n-Slide on the park's tallest and longest hill.
In no time, they had rigged the city's sprinklers to come on and had them aimed right at the slide. Carolyn and I knew one thing:  Every child was going down, litterally.  Helda and Emmauella were very hesitant, but when they saw Catherine go down happily they ran off to join her and my girls.  They all must have gone down and run back up the steep hill at least 6 times.  It was a day full of smiles and magic for sure.

One last thought to share with you all.  I am going to begin the last big push to get our campaign fully funded.  The original goal of $14,000 was based on the average cost of 10 plane tickets from Uganda to Utah.  When I realized we were not going to need all of that money, I began to shift my thinking to all of the good cash would do for this big family as they all get settled.  So, I want to reach that goal.  It might be the Capricorn in me, but somehow, I won't be able to see total success until I see that little green bar on the homepage fill all the way in. SO LET'S DO THIS!

I bet you have told this story to some of your friends and family who were touched in some way.  Please now consider asking them to make a contribution, however small.  We all know a ten people who could spare $10.  Think of the impact if 100 of you supporters were able to make that happen!
I know. Blah, blah, blah. It's hard to hear over and over to give money.  Guess what? It's even harder to ask. Thanks everyone.

Phoenix
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08/22/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

UPDATE ABOUT EDANA AND FAMILY: It's been awhile since I updated you all - I think I have been holding out for today's good news! Remember last week when I told you that Salon O on 400 South pledged a portion of weekend retail sales to this fundraising effort? Super-star owner of Salon O, Falecia Wilson, let me know on Monday that they had a HUGE check for Edana!! How amazing is this?

So today, I piled the whole crew - Edana, Catherine, Lina, Nelly, Helda, and Emmauela - into my car and drove them to Salon O so Falecia and all of her stylists could meet the family they were so generously helping.  It was a wonderful moment for them all.  THANK YOU Falecia and SALON O!  

Once I had them all in the car, I couldn't resist taking them to my favorite look-out spot way up above the capitol building to show the new girls what their new city REALLY looks like.  Nelly and Lina's favorite part was seeing the airlplanes take off and land, making them think about their reunion at the airport all over again.

The day's outing would not have been complete without a visit to my awesome partner-in-crime, the one and only, Mike Bates.  He recently moved HotWax Media onto Main Street and I knew the girls would love riding the elevator up to see Mike.  Gathered around his conference table, we reveled in the wonderful day we had together today. 

Thank you everyone for your continued love and support.   Just 15 days until the other 4 family members arrive! 

Happy day to you all,
Phoenix

PS - Look for the newly uploaded photos on this site!





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08/17/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Good Saturday morning!

Adam has probably finished up his half-marathon in Park City by now. For those of you who don't know, Adam's non-profit organization, Bridges to America, filled in a huge money hole we had to help us purchase the 4 remaining plane tickets and this morning Adam ran to gain awareness for his organization and to turn others onto Edana's story.  Thank you Adam! (bridgestoamerica.org)

20 days remain until Edana's husband, 2 daughters, and one son arrive in Salt Lake City.  My Mabel thoughtfully made Edana a paper chain for the family to use as a visual count-down. So exciting! 

Also, many have written with generous offers of furniture and clothing donations.  Please hold on to these needed items for now.  Edana will be moving into a bigger apartment soon enough and then we can accept these gifts.  Otherwise, I am afraid they would all end up in my living room and I know a few people who may not be okay with that ;)  So, be watching for a wish-list of needed items in the coming weeks and please just hold onto any items you may already have to give them.

On Friday, my girls went over to Edana's to play with Catherine, Helda, and Emmanuela. One of Edana's friends, Dedi, who was at the airport for the reunion with a video camera, has given Edana the footage he captured that afternoon on a dvd and the family has been joyfully watching it on a continuous loop!  The granddaughters dance along to the women singing and love watching it over and over.  Also, as Nelly and Lina, Edana's daughters, get more comfortable in their new home and less and less shy, it is revealed that they do know some English!  I am excited to get them into English classes as soon as everyone is settled.

Remember, any gifts contributed from here forward goes directly into the hands of the family. To date, we have $121!  Thank you to you all and continue to tune in for new updates!

Phoenix



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08/13/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
What a way to start a day!  My morning with Kerry, Bill, and Gina from X96's Radio from Hell went realy well and I was so excited to get the story out to a new group of people. Follow this link http://www.x96.com/radiofromhell.php and find the Podcast button about half way down the page.  If you fast-forward to about 30:00, you can hear how it went for yourselves.

I spent part of my day helping Edana get Catherine enrolled in middle school, a very exciting day when you consider how far Catherine has come!  Catherine really didn't want to go at all and at first I thought she was feeling self-conscious about her mouth, but it came down to her not wanting to leave her sister home, so Nelly tagged along. When we got to the school, I had trouble printing out some necessary paperwork and asked a volunteer for help.  This volunteer looked over at Edana and then back at me then back to the computer and I could tell she was listening to my conversation with Edana, until finally she blurted out "I think I saw you in the paper!" Sitting beside me was the woman who posted on our Supporters page that her (5) children donated 2 weeks of thier allowance and she and her husband matched it!!  Well, it didn't take much for me and Edana to burst into tears.  And then Edana had the priveledge of introducing her to Nelly. That was a wonderful moment.  Basically, for the rest of the registration, we were rockstars.  There were hushed whispers, pointing and LOTS of knowing smiles all around. What an experience! 

When I didn't think this day could get any better, a Facebook friend of mine announced that her salon, Salon O, will be donating 10% of their sales this weekend to "From Sudan to Utah"!  WOW.  Seriously, the generosity I have seen in the past few weeks has given me so much hope for this world.  Thanks everyone!

My BFF Quinn from ITT Travel is keeping his pulse on the best tickets for us.  It's looking good people, REALLY GOOD!  Stay tuned!

Good night,
Phoenix
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08/12/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

Tune into KXRK X96's Radio From Hell program with Kerry, Bill, and Gina - TOMORROW MORNING!  The plan is for me to go on at 9:45am and I am not sure how long I will be on - so don't be late!  

Thank you for the new supporters today.  Everyday we are creeping toward our goal.  I looked into plane tickets 4 weeks out and the prices drop by almost half, so we will reach our goal sooner rather than later.  And there are good things on the horizon that I will be filling you all in on very soon...!

This morning I talked to Edana on the phone and some point, she put arabic speaking Helda on and made her parrot, "Good morning" and "I love you" and it was about the sweetest words these ears had ever heard. <3

Phoenix


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08/12/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
What really warms the soul is when a friend and her 2 children arrive on your doorstep with a jar full of quarters, the children's entire savings, meant as a gift to this fundraiser.  And that friend was the absolute FIRST person to make a donation on this site.  THAT'S awesome.
Thank you friend.

Phoenix
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08/11/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

WEEKEND UPDATE: The Deseret News feature and the KSL broadcast brought in $185 in new donations, which is less than I had hoped, but I am however very grateful to those of you who took the leap to help complete Phase 2 of this family's renuification.

My girls, husband and I stopped by Edana's apartment yesterday to check on them all. Apparently visitors streamed through the tiny apartment all Friday evening, the last of which left at 12:30am.  Edana said that everyone slept very well after. Helda and Emmanuela were a bundle of energy and happiness yesterday.    Edana cried when I brought copies of the paper over and had her watch the KSL converage on my smart phone.  I also shared the good news of the gifts that came in after the media exposure and Edana was thrilled.  Edana has called twice already today to tell me how happy she is and how much the little girls miss my girls and how they want to play again with them soon.

Friday's sweet homecoming of daughters Lina and Nelly, and the granddaughters Emmanuela and Helda still burns brightly in my mind.  But today is a new day - and I am focussing on new fundraising strategies. So many people saw the images from the airport and saw a complete family.  But for those of you following the story closely know that we are only HALF-WAY THERE.

When tickets are purchsed four weeks in advance, the prices drop to around $1000 each, which means another $3K or so to go. (Of course any amount raised over the price of the tickets will be used for resettlement) This amount feels attainable, but it will only happen if this story reaches a new set of hearts to be turned on to this story.  

I am gearing up for my 15 minutes of fame on X96's Radio from Hell on Tuesday morning. I am counting on the listeners that morning being moved by the story enough to contribute. In the meantime, please continue to share this fundraiser with friends and family.  

Thank you,
Phoenix


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08/10/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
A big thanks to KRCL for helping us spread the good word:

http://playlist.krcl.org/event/fundraiser-bring-refugees-sudan-utah
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08/10/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Edana made the FRONT PAGE of the Deseret News!  See the article here:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865584443/Utah-friends-help-Sudanese-mother-reunite-with-daughters-grandaughters.html

This is just the boost our efforts need.
Phoenix
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08/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
EPIC DAY OF GOODNESS: The link to the segment that aired on KSL local channel 5 this evening has posted to their website! They did a very nice job, and I am so grateful for the added exposure. (And thank you cute family standing so near our group welcoming thier own, totally different family member to Utah...It made our group look even bigger!) 

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=26367095&nid=148&title=sudanese-family-reunited-after-5-years-with-help-from-volunteers&fm=home_page&s_cid=queue-2

Enjoy - and do me a favor - please go to the comment page and leave a suggestion that they post a link to the YouCaring webpage on the KSL website. (Copying and pasting the homepage of this site would be helpful as well.  Thank you!)

Merci beaucoup to Natalie and Lyn from the IRC who were at the airport today! This amazing reunification started with the hard work of the IRC and their role should NOT be understated. Short of hiring an expensive immigration attorney, this family never would have gotten the asylum approval without the IRC. And also of great importance - Natalie and Lyn brought adorable stuffed animals for Emmanuela and Helda and they were CLUTCH in getting tiny smiles out of very overwhelmed and exhausted little girls. ;) <3 <3 

Also a thank you to supporter Kimberly who also came today with her children, (bearing gifts!), and was a lovely representative of all of you who don't know me or Edana but who has been so touched by this story and was moved into action. So happy they were able to share in this experience.

And lovely Marjorie Cortez of the Deseret News will have an article about this reunion and the importance of support for this family in tomorrow's issue of the paper (which should include the web address to this fundraiser...crossing fingers) - can't wait!!

And lastly, thank you to all of our new supporters - and WELCOME to this very cool group of awesome humanitarians!

I am still processing what I was so priviledged to witness today, so give me a day or two before I recount the details.  And remember, we are only half-way to our goal.  PLEASE continue to share this story.
SO JOYFUL TODAY! 
Phoenix
PS - I uploaded a few photos from today to this webpage. Sorry if some appear sideways...
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08/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Quick! Tune into Channel 5!
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08/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
PHASE ONE COMPLETE!  Edana's 2 daughters and 2 grandchidren arrived safely in SLC this afternoon and are now spending time together at home! The reunion was something I will never forget being apart of.  It was a very emotional homecoming for us all, including all the random passersby, one of whom asked, "Can someone tell me why I am crying?".  It was that good. 

More to come,
Phoenix
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08/09/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
I have confirmed that our travelers made it onto both planes today! For those of you who want to be at the airport, it looks like the plane is delayed a bit and will land at 12:45pm.  
See you there!
Phoenix
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08/08/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
NEW FLIGHT INFORMATION:
The 4 members of Edana's family missed the connecting flight out of DC however, they are now re-booked on a flight leaving DC early tomorrow morning, flying to Chicago, switching planes (nervous...), and arriving on UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT #5581 in SLC AT 12:19pm. It already looks like they could land as early as noon, so please track the flight for yourselves.  Hope to see some of you there.

The interview with KSL/Deseret News earlier was emotional but went very well.  I am so happy to get Edana's story out there and turn the SLC community on to the refugee/asylee population.

Thank you for the new gifts that have been posted to this site since yesterday.  We are getting closer and closer to being able to get the other 4 to make this journey here.

Phoenix


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08/08/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
STAY CLOSE:  Our 4 travelers did NOT make their flight out of DC to SLC.  I have been on the phone for over an hour mostly getting nowhere and feeling helpless.  For now the welcome party is being postponed - stay tuned.
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08/07/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
As I write today's update, our little travelers are on their way to Frankfurt, Germany.  The layover is 6 hours and I am trying to picture them being in a strange, European airport with all of the new sights and smells they are bound to encounter.  I imagine there will be some amount of fear, but I imagine the excitement of being reuited with their mother will win-out.

I heard from the International Rescue Committee today and it was confirmed that they will indeed be at the airport and the woman organizing their role in the homecoming assured me that is the best part of their job at the IRC - seeing families arrive in their new homes and to see families be reunited.  

And thanks to an established connection the IRC has with KSL/The Desert News, Edana and I will be interviewed tomorrow for an article to appear in the newspaper AND KSL will be at the airport tomorrow evening with a news crew!  THIS is what I have been trying to channel all along - to have the greater SLC community hear this story.  Once Edana's story is out there for all to see, that little green bar on the homepage of our fundraiser will shoot across the page in no time. And it will shed such a positive light on the refugee community that is most often an invisible one. Fantastic. 

Edana is busily preparing food in her tiny apartment - that's what she does best - feed people!  I love it.  Also, Edana told me that Catherine's doctor insisted that she stay home with Catherine for 2 weeks for her recovery, which means she is excused from her job during that time.  This equates to a loss of income, but honestly I am SO relieved that she doesn't have to get up at 4:30 Friday morning and trudge off to her job to leave her newcomers home right away. So, the surgery that I was so sure had such bad timing, turned out to be the best timing ever.  I really do need to accept that everything is happening just as it is supposed to...

As for the arrival - United Airlines flight #645 is due to land at 8:22pm tomorrow, Thursday, August 8th.  I hope to see you ALL there!  My kids have been busily making terrific posters to hold up for them for the big arrival - SO MUCH EXCITEMENT AROUND HERE!!

Phoenix
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08/07/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Miscellanea: 

To all who have supported this fundraiser and all who will, you are making GIFTS, not donations. Your support is NOT tax deductalbe, we are NOT a non-profit.

A HUGE shout-out to my Sister and brother-in-law and thier kids who came to Utah last Saturday for a week long vaction with us in Snowbird. They have more than graciously accepted and embraced my insanity and distraction that is this fundraiser. They have been incredibly supportive are now just as excited as we are about the impending arrival!

The IRC has been informed about this arrival and they are thrilled! They are scrammbling to get a welcome party together and have notified 2 news outlets about being at the airport to report on the 4 landing in SLC. It is just a matter of time now before the greater community will get on board and my FB firends can breath a sigh of relief when I stop begging them for money. (Can you hear the collective 'PHEW'??)

STAY TUNED!
Phoenix



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08/07/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Edana confirmed that someone from the Embassy got the 4 to the airport and they all got on the plane. I guess her son Samuel is most attached to big sister Nelly, who boarded the plane, and he cried and cried for her.  John, her husband, reassured him that they will be together again soon and that he referred to MIke and I as his sister and bother and he told Samuel how hard we are working on making the second phase of the reunion happen. 

For all the locals who have supported this fundraiser, if all goes well, they will land in SLC THURSDAY NIGHT ON UNITED AIRLINES(UA) FLIGHT #645.  You can track the flight as I may not be able to update in the hours leading up to the arrival.  My plan is to make sure they make thier flight out of DC because the window for going through customs and getting to the domestsic terminal is rather tight.  I will post an update about that tomorrow early evening.

And keep Catherine in your thoughts as her recovery is not fun.  The plastic sergeon very cleverly cut some of her bottom lip and twisted it and flipped it up and attached it to the top lip.  SO...she cannot open her mouth and ony has a small corner of her mouth in which she can fit a straw.  She has pain and did not sleep well last night and there is the struggle that she cannot open her mouth and cannot talk.  Edana cannot read english or Arabic, so Catherine cannot even write down her requests.  ARGH.  I cannot imagine that frustration. 


Have a joyous day picturing these 4 flying through the air getting closer and closer to Edana and Catherine.



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08/07/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
9 minutes to take-off!!
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08/06/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
THE COUNTDOWN IS ON! The tickets for Edana's 2 oldest daughters and 2 grandchildren have been purchased and the the US Embassy in Uganda will be preparing the necessary papers in a few hours to hand off to them.  The trip ahead of these girls will be long and scary, but they will be keeping their eyes on the prize.  (Entebbe, Uganda - Khartoum, Soudan - Addis Adaba, Ethiopia - Frankfurt Germany - Washington DC - Salt Lake City!  That is one hell of an itinerary)

Today's other new developements incude phone calls today from 2 local radio stations.  KRCL's DJ's will be periodically mentioning this cause on thier shows and pointing thier listeners to thier website where the link to this fundraiser will be found.  AWESOME.  And...Sounds like this girl will be spreading the good word about Edana and Co. on Tuesday morning on X96's Radio from Hell morning show! (Keep posted for more details) With the help of these popular stations, the greater community will now have the opportunity to make the difference you have all chosen to make.

Edana remains excited but also a tiny bit heartbroken that her whole family will not be coming together.  She is most worried about 9 year old Samuel - it sounds like he is scared about his 2 big sisters and 2 young cousins leaving without him.  

I have very high expectations for Phase 2 of this fundraiser.  I can't imagine that the rest of the family will be far behind.  I have total confindence that this plan and the way this has all played out is the way it is all meant to happen. (At least that is what Mike keeps telling me, and he is a super level-headed guy.)

Thank you for the many friends who have shared this story on FB  - some over and over and over.  Thank you for the fantastic donations that came in today,  including the HUGE mystery one...) Thank you for the offers to show up at the airport Thursday night. (More to come on this subject tomorrow when I figure out my own logistics about having my whole family be there.)

Keep the good vibrations coming our way you good people, you!
Good night,
PHoenix


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08/06/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
WE STILL NEED DONATIONS! We do not have quite enough funds to cover this round of tickets( $7800), and Mike and I will fill in the hole as we can. (I am now going to refer to this fundraiser as Phase I. I will be putting Phase 2 into place by the weekend with a renewed effort to raise funds to bring the 4 remaining family members.) Consider emailing a link to a friend today.   Thank you all! Phoenix
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08/05/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE:  One of our dear supporters, a stranger to me and to Edana, sent me a FB message mid-mope-day today suggesting I check out a website that specializeds in selling group tickets.  She had gone out of her way to try to find an avenue we had not yet explored. There was nothing to loose, so I wasted no time in contacting an agent on the phone and set him to work.  The assignement was to find 4 tickets on any flight out of Uganda from Aug. 7 through Aug. 13.  The agent told me it would take 25 minutes or so and he would call me back.

After 45 minute I was beginning to doubt the authenticity of this website when my phone rang. My new BFF Quinn at ITT Travel had good news - 4 seats on Ethiopian Airlines.  BINGO. 

What an emotional rollercoaster this day has been!  I will keep it brief tonight and will provide more details tomorrow, but all you really need to know is that Edana's 2 oldest daughters and her 2 grandchildren WILL BE IN SALT LAKE CITY BY THURSDAY NIGHT 

So, a shout-out to my other new BFF, Charlotte. I don't know how to properly thank Charlotte for her incredible gesture today, but I hope she is proud of what she has done for this family.  Thank you Charlotte.

Lastly, as if this day couldn't get any better, Catherine's reconstructive surgery on her upper lip went very well. There is a 4 week recovery ahead of her, which means she will miss the first week of middle school, but keeping it infection free is key. 

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all of you who sent me supportive, loving messages today. And thanks to MIke who continues to rock my world and keep me from losing my mind during all of this.  Get ready to join the party at the SLC airport Thursday night people!!
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08/05/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Well, all you humanitarians out there - today feels like a very low day for our cause.  I have tried hard to remain positive and optimistic, but I am going to allow myself one day to mope.

The Embassy emailed us and now says that reapplying for Humanitarian Parole is less than desirable so Mike and I decided to go back to the plan of sending only the grandchildren with their mothers.  

What a difference 8 hours make.  The few flights Mike and I could see late last night that would have worked dwindled to flights that only have business class seats or are totally booked or are oherwise totally out of our price range.

So today is a limbo day in our efforts.  I am awaiting a call from Edana to hear how Catherine's surgery went and I will then have to tell her about the current situation, a conversation I am not looking forward to. Stay strong for me today friends and send me your good vibrations.

Phoenix and Mike
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08/05/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
BIG UPDATE: The midnight call to the 8am US Embassy in Kampala, Uganda went very well, after a fashion. I made my husband Mike do all the talking, because he's good at talking, and I was there for moral support. It was very tricky getting through to the proper person, but Mike persevered and finally reached a person familiar with the case and this family.

In short, the Embassy would be happy to receive a finalized itinerary for flight plans and contact the family directly for us in order to have them totally prepared to leave Uganda with the proper documents. This was all wonderful, reassuring news.

The next crucial part in our grand plan for the night went less well. The flight we had in mind for Wednesday is no longer an option. The next best flight would have them depart on August 13, which would be good timing, but the ticket price is higher.

It is not so easy buying 8 tickets with $4500. It does not go very far. Mike and I were resigned to making up the difference ourselves in the hopes of keeping the fundraiser going until we had enough to reimburse ourselves. ...Maybe it's because it is 2 in the morning and we are exhausted, but that all feels too scary to us now. We have our own family to support first.

So I am afraid we must explore having the 2 grand children's Humanitarian Parole expire and have Edana and her family pay to reapply, which we found out tonight, is an option. The rest of the family has 4 months to travel and we will have to trust that little ones will be granted another visa in that amount of time. That will give me more time to go out into the greater community to seek help. 

This has all been so rushed and frantic feeling. I think this is the best we can do for now. Don't despair! This is not over, it has just been delayed. I will extend the date for this youcaring fundraiser. I want all involved to be able to get regular updates.

Thank you for the donations that have come in today!!
Phoenix
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08/04/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
I have uploaded a photo which demonstrates the longdistanced relationship Edana has maintained with her family in Africa. The photo is of the thousand or so calling cards she has used and saved as a reminder to herself and proof to all of you of her only connection with her far-away family.

My job today is to contact the US Embassy in Uganda and find out the best way to go about getting the plane tickets. The Embassy will not release their passports without them having proof of the purchased tickets... Sounds complicated and my head is spinning. All hail the Internet!

My faith in humanity is fully intact today as I see new donors coming through for Edana everyday. Old college friends, FB acquaintances, and total strangers are among some of new supporters. Thank you everyone.

Please keep Catherine in your thoughts tomorrow as she goes in for another surgery at Primary Children's Hospital to reconstruct her upper lip.  Stay tuned everyone!!



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08/03/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann

THIS DAY IS ON FIRE WITH EXCITEMENT!

Edana just called me on her lunch break at work and I told her about the urgency to talk to her family.  When I told her that her family may be boarding a plane in 5 days after nearly 5 years apart she was trance-like, repeating 'Bless you, bless you' over and over.  THE 'YOU' IS ALL OF YOU SUPPORTERS!

There is a possibility of us getting a loan for the necessary remaining amount so we can secure the tickets on Emerites Airline in the next 24 hours. Having the fundraiser stay open until we reach $14,000 will guarantee a reimbursement. 

If this all works, then we won't split the family up and we will have them all come together. THEN the fun really begins. My husband has been channeling scene from Edie Murphey's 'Coming to America' to keep the atmosphere light around here. Good stuff.

Thanks everyone,
PHoenix


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08/03/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
A question has come up by a donor and I thought I would post this to clear up any confusion.

When I organized this webpage, I needed to have it linked to Paypal which is linked to a savings account at my local bank.  My legal first name is Julie and that is how the bank knows me - so when you get to the stage in your donation and 'Julie Ostermann' pops up as the recipient, rest assured that it is going to the proper account.  Thank you!
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08/03/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
My brilliant husband had the idea this morning to just get Edana's family in the country and then put them on a bus to SLC.  With the help of the awesome website, skyscanner.com, it looks like the best flight will have them leaving Kampala NEXT WEDNESDAY (5 days from now) and arriving in San Francisco for $1600 (Much better than the $2200 I found this morning).  GAME ON PEOPLE!  NOW is the time to share the link to this site with your compassionate friends and family. Thank you all for your continued love and support,
PHoenix
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08/03/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
For those granted Refugee status, the US Govt. pays for your flight to your new home and you pay them back over time. For those granted Asylum like my Sudanese friends, it's all on you. The price of the tickets is slowly creeping up...
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08/02/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
WHAT A DAY! When HotWax Media made their big announcement, the Supporter page here on YouCaring was on fire. Before HotWax kicked down, you AMAZING people donate $955 TODAY!!  So with the HotWax gift of $500, the total for the day was.....DRUMROLL PLEASE....$1,455!  That is almost enough for a single plane ticket!!

On another note -The local media is not jumping on board as I had hoped, with the possible exception of my beloved KRCL 90.9FM - I should know more in the coming days.  My brilliant husband thought of hitting up Delta for help with airfare.  Turns out they are normally open to the possiblity but they need a 3 months head's up.  Bummer.  I tweaked out at one point today and tried to email Oprah Winfrey to see if her Angel Network would support this cause.  Turns out, it's really hard to find her email...But don't worry - I sent her a FB message instead.  I am sure she's reading it right now.

Anyway - You should all be super proud of yourselves for jumping on board with this cause and I know Edana will be over the moon when I tell her tomorrow. Stay tuned!
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08/02/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
GREAT NEWS: Local business HotWax Media will match any donations made today (up to $500 total) to our "Sudan to Utah!" Fund! Make you dollar count DOUBLE by donating TODAY!
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08/02/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
With 11 new supporters since yesterday morning and $1,650 (!!!) in new donations, this day is looking good.  I can honestly say that this compaign has taken on a life of its own, thanks in large part to my dear friends who have shared the story with thier friends, for which I am very grateful. Edana called me 3 times yesterday to tell me how happy and thankful she is about how this is coming together.  She said over and over how God is working through every person who has helped reuite her with her family. PLEASE keep sharing this story and keep the conversation going. 
Love and gratitude going out too all the supporters today,
PHoenix Ostermann
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08/01/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
This is the news the IRC office got from the US Embassy in Kampala this morning:  

"The humanitarian parole authorization for the two children (Edana's grandchildren) expires August 15, 2013.  They must travel before that date.  The rest of the family has several months on their visas."

Worst case senario, the family will have to split up.  The 3 year old grandchildren can obviously not travel alone, so 2 adults will have to travel with them, leaving 4 behind.  My goal continues to be to have the family travel all at once.


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07/31/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
Edana's family went to the US embassy in Khampala today and they were told that they have to arrive in the US by August 19th otherwise their visas will have expired. We need to secure the plane tickets by next week, so I have pushed the end date of this fundraiser up to Augusts 7th. This is a confusing and difficult process of which I know little about and I feel very helpless right now. If you have considered giving to this cause and haven't done so yet, please give today!
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07/31/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
I got a panicky call from Edana early this morning after she spoke to one of her daughters on the phone.  Aparently the window of time when the travel visas they were granted can be used expires next week. I am looking into this further with the IRC - so please stay tuned.  WE MAY HAVE TO STEP THIS FUNDRAISER UP A FEW NOTCHES AND REACH OUR GOAL SOONER RATHER THAN LATER!!  I will keep you all posted...
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07/30/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
16 people have chosen to change the course of this family's life for the better - some of whom don't even know Edana and Catherine personally!  I thank each and every one of you and I am heartened by how we are inching toward that goal more and more each day! Thank you everyone!
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07/27/2013
by Phoenix Ostermann
We are off to a good start!  Thank you to the Day 1 donors!
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