Team captain Lindsay Kieckhafer tells us how her team, Pennies for Grandma came to be.

Tell me about yourself and why you created a team to run/walk Laura’s Smile Mile.

I am 30 years old and have been married to my high school sweetheart, Paul for 8 years now.  We have a 3 1/2 year old daughter, Marlie Hope (we chose Hope in honor of my mother-in-law, Sharon, who always said, “Never Lose Hope”).  We are also expecting another child in September and have a 3.5 lbs yorkie, Bella.  I’m not sure if any of that info matters though as my sister-in-law, Becky, is actually the one that started our team.  She lost her mother to Ovarian Cancer in June 2009, at age 53.  When Becky heard about this wonderful walk supporting ovarian cancer awareness, she emailed our family right away.   Since my husband and I lived in Milwaukee for 10 years, we were able to get a group together as many of our friends were thrilled to be a part of something so special.  They also loved my mother-in-law Sharon dearly.  So I guess you could say it was a team effort between my sister-in-law and I that created “Pennies for Grandma” :) When my mother-in-law was diagnosed in 2007, she was sadden to find out that there was such little awareness about Ovarian Cancer.  She did everything she could to “spread the word”, even if it only affected one family.  We knew that if she were still here with us today, she would be walking there with us supporting and encouraging other families.

What is the story behind the name, “Pennies for Grandma”?

My mother-in-law, Sharon Kieckhafer, always found a way to smile.  For years and years, whenever she would find a penny, it would make her day (as simple as it is).  All of her family and friends knew this about her. To this day, when anyone finds a penny, we know that is her way of reminding us that she is right there with us.  We have found pennies in such unusual places or during times that we are celebrating something special or even when we are nervous/scared about something.  I keep one of the many special pennies I’ve found, in my car with me and another sitting by our kitchen sink as a reminder to always smile and find something good in the day.

Sharon Kieckhafer

Here are a few other examples:

1. My family attended my daughters 1st Holiday Christmas Program in a huge auditorium at a high school.  When we sat down, right by our foot was a penny, even though there were hundreds of open seats.  It gave us chills knowing she was there and didn’t want to miss out on her 1st grand-daughters program.

2. When Sharons best friend found a penny the day after her daughter had a positive pregnancy test, she knew everything would be good this pregnancy after 3 years of trying and 3 miscarriages.  Her daughter is 26 weeks now and everything has been perfect thus far.

3. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law drove 5 hours to Minnesota to try a round of In-Vitro.  They were worried and stressed…hoping and praying that everything would go well .  As my sister-in-law opened the car door and stepped out, there was a penny.   They knew right then and there, that there was nothing to worry about….Sharon would be watching over them.  Their 2nd son, Nolan (my nephew), arrived healthy 9 months later.

4. My father-in-law was packing for his trip to Florida and as he opened a storage bin to pack his stuff, there was a penny.  He knew that this was my mother-in-law in saying, “I will be right there with you”

5. My sister-in-law & brother-in law visited my father-in-law in Florida.  After they left, my father-in-law started washing towels and there was a penny laying in the bottom of wash machine.  It was my mother-in-laws way of saying. “I was there with you guys the whole time”.

She looked forward to becoming a grandma after many many years of patiently waiting and to this day, whenever the grandkids find a penny, they know it was sent from Grandma up in heaven.  Marlie (3.5 yrs old), Mason (2.5 yrs old), Nolan (5 months old) and a 4th on the way.

One of her famous sayings was, “There is something good in everyday….look for it and embrace it”.  I live my life everyday by these powerful words :)

How many people will be participating with the team? Will you be doing something special like team t-shirts, signs,etc.?

We should have 15 adults and 7 kids (at minimum).  Since last year was our first year, we don’t have special shirts made, but we certainly hope to do something special in the upcoming years.   We will be wearing as much teal as we can (and possibly picture pins of my mother-in-law).

I want to take a moment to THANK YOU and the other coordinators for making this event possible each year.  Our family is from Oshkosh, so many of us will be traveling to attend this event and hope to continue doing so for many many more years to come.  It means a great deal to us and we know that my mother-in-law will be there right at our side walking with us.  She beat breast cancer several years ago and when she found out she had Ovarian Cancer, she never once gave up or thought about herself.  She did everything she could to educate as many women and families as she could.  She had a huge heart, always someone that could cheer you up and was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met!  She always had a special saying, quote or poem for everything and everyone.  Anyone that met her, loved her!  She touched so many lives!!!  I feel very fortunate to have had her in my life for 13 years and to have had a mother-in-law that I could truly call my “second mom”.  We all miss her dearly!!!

As you can see, I could talk about her for hours, days, and even weeks on end!!!  She was such an incredible person!

Thank you, Lindsay!

Teams that have registered by May 15 will have their team names published on the Laura’s Smile Mile website. Reminder that teams of 10 or more participants registered by May 29th receive a discounted registration rate-only $18 per person!