A Divine Intersection: Behind the Scenes of “The Color of Rain”

As many already know, the Hallmark Channel is turning our story, “The Color of Rain” into a Hallmark movie in 2014. Filming took place in Vancouver, Canada last month and we’re excited to see the finished product (Will air sometime between December 2013 and June 2014). The experience of being on a movie set was a thrill for our family. We enjoyed sharing photos on Facebook and tweeting with movie stars. But there is a “less public” side of this story that needs to be shared. It’s a story of how one generous sacrifice can lead to a lifetime of memories.

It began more than a year ago when the movie producers, David Permut and Dan Paulson, agreed to let us auction off a “walk on” role or cameo appearance, in “The Color of Rain” at our annual fundraiser benefitting our nonprofit, New Day Foundation for Families. We were thrilled to have such a unique experience for our live auction. Not many auctions around here can offer that!

The night of our gala event, just prior to the live auction, Theresa Kull shared her cancer journey with nearly 300 foundation supporters and passionately explained how the New Day Foundation for Families blessed her family in their time of need.

“I read “The Color of Rain” just a few weeks before my cancer diagnosis, not knowing what my family was about to go through. After I was diagnosed, Michael and Gina came to our church to speak and I felt as if God was letting me know everything was going to be okay. That was the day I learned about the New Day Foundation. It was just a few weeks later we started receiving much needed help with our monthly expenses, and the foundation even threw a wonderful birthday party for two of my kids that summer. It was truly a gift from God.”

When it was time to auction off the walk on role in the film, bidder paddles went up, and up, and up! There was a couple, sitting not too far from Theresa, who was outbidding everyone in the room. I had never met the couple, but knew they were guests of our friends and sponsor, Mike and Joeanne Gauthier, from Save On Everything (the coupon books you get in the mail regularly)

When the bidding went over $3,000 things really started to get exciting! This unassuming couple seemed determined to have a cameo appearance in a Hallmark movie.

As the auctioneer was shouting, “Can I get $4,000? We’ve got $3,750 over here, can I get four?” Sure enough, the quiet couple raised their paddle and the crowd started cheering. With that, the winning bid was called and Vince and Lisa Asaro from Rochester we’re the winners. Or so we thought.

Just minutes after outbidding the room for this one of a kind auction item/experience, Vince and Lisa informed me that they wanted to give Theresa Kull the walk on role in the movie. They gave it away and walked away empty handed.

Through their Asaro-Guzzardo Family Foundation, Vince and Lisa out-bid everyone in the room in the name of generosity and kindness. But it didn’t stop there. They also offered to provide travel expenses for Theresa’s entire family to join her in Vancouver on the movie set, which meant another $2,500 on top of the $4,000 they so generously donated to the foundation.

In the aftermath of the event, I’ve come to believe the Asaro’s walked away perhaps the most fulfilled and grateful people of all. Certainly, Theresa and her family were blessed and grateful for the experience and the memories it created, but it’s compelling to recognize how a selfless act of kindness, a pouring out of self, will cause us to overflow with the riches of God’s love. Our souls seem to grow deeper roots and grow more robust fruit of spirit with each act of generosity.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

It’s not dollar amounts that matter. It’s about the spirit within us that compels us to share our resources, time, money, space, life, and our very hearts, with others in need.

Those blessed enough to afford a ticket to this beautiful party and auction at Meadow Brook aren’t attending for the purpose of walking away with something. We attend for the purpose of providing for those less fortunate in our community and burdened by the horrors of cancer.

It’s a party with a purpose hosted by a love your neighbor as yourself organization! Come, and walk away enriched and blessed!

To attend our events in September, please click on “Events” above or visit www.FoundationForFamilies.org.

 

The Kull Family with actress Lacey Chabert, star of "The Color of Rain" Hallmark movie

Theresa Kull, New Day Foundation recipient, in a scene with actor, Warren Christie, on the set of "The Color of Rain" Hallmark movie

Theresa Kull, New Day Foundation recipient, with the actress playing Colleen in "The Color of Rain"

Thirteen Years of Marriage, Seven Years Later…

Matt had a theory about how to tell if an album was good. “You have to listen to tracks three and seven,” he’d say. “It’s Biblical.” According to Matt’s theory, if tracks 3 and 7 are worth the time it takes to listen, the album is usually pretty good. It’s entirely subjective and unproven, but it worked for him. Matt would say, “In the Bible, three and seven are symbols of completeness or perfection” and that was it. That was Matt’s simple rationale for determining if an album was worth keeping. Given that he had over 1,200 CD’s at the time of his death, I seriously question how often he employed his own theory! Regardless, to this day, I still listen to track 3 and 7 of every album I buy or think about buying. This is the quirky stuff that sticks with me after seven years without him. These are the unique and precious qualities of Matt Kell that captivate my thoughts. These are my personal treasures, the little things, uniquely Matt, that I tuck away in my mind. But there are a host of treasures, many still undiscovered, that are more universal in nature.
I miss him. It hurts deep. He is with me every day. Our boys epitomize him. Our foundation memorializes him and ensures his beautiful legacy. And daily, I make new discoveries through every experience I shared and didn’t share with him. Glorious transformation! Beauty from ashes. This is why I write. This is why I speak publicly. Perhaps my clarity can be a catalyst for you.
A treasure is defined as “a concentration of riches, often one which is considered lost or forgotten until being rediscovered.” Relationships, especially marriages, are filled with buried treasures that can remain undiscovered, smothered in our desire to win, take one another for granted, and hold fast to our expectations. But when a relationship is rocked by tragedy, severed by death, it’s breathtaking and even suffocating to see what’s been hiding right before our eyes. Clarity rips through the veil of pride and fear. Why couldn’t I see it before cancer? Perhaps worse yet, even when I could see it, why didn’t I appreciate it?
My reflections and remembrances about my life with Matt before he died, and since, deeply influence every relationship I have today. Losing him has given me new eyes through which to see this beautiful life. It’s been a solitary and personal expedition (with Christ), yet I deeply desire to share my riches with as many people as will listen. My life with Matt was filled with many treasures, yet many were buried deep or even undiscovered until cancer and death unveiled them. I have regretted the circumstances that became the catalyst for transformation in me. I would have preferred that I had actively consumed myself with the pursuit of being a better wife and mother, sister and friend, before such tragedy entered my life, but sometimes it’s the people who think they know the most who often require the most refining! Through my experiences, I have gained some fresh insight. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I am answering a call to get back to writing. It is my hope that I can offer nourishment to those who hunger for a better life, better marriage, better self. Christ fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Anything is possible!
I hope you will join me as I spend the coming months seeking purpose in the every day, using my relationships and experiences, past and present, to draw upon. I hope you will engage here and comment freely. This is your blog, a community of friends who can call on one another for answers. I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring to each of us.
Thanks for remembering Matt with me, celebrating his life and rejoicing in the birth of a Savior who brings clarity and purpose to every relationship and circumstance in our lives.

Coolidge Avenue

Gina (far right) and “Santa’s Helpers” at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI

Coolidge Avenue runs North and South through suburban Detroit and is a mostly-straight, unremarkable stretch of road that could exist in just about any town.

Almost seven years ago, on a clear and cold morning, I drove a little too fast along Coolidge Avenue trying to get to Beaumont Hospital where my beloved Cathy battled against brain cancer. Within hours of my arriving, she would lose her battle.

This morning I found myself once again driving a little too fast down Coolidge Avenue heading for Beaumont. This time however, my mission was different. The social workers there organize an annual “Adopt a family” program for Christmas. Each department in the hospital “adopts” a family who, on top of going through the horrors of cancer, also are facing severe financial distress. While this is always a difficult situation, it becomes especially sad at Christmas time. So the good folks at Beaumont adopt a family in need and shop for them, and give them a Christmas to remember. When we at the New Day Foundation for Families heard about this program we wanted in. Then, when we mentioned this in casual conversation to our friends at LJPR, Inc. in Troy, they said they wanted to be a part of this as well and they adopted a family too!

There are thousands of little “programs” like this all around this country. In churches and hospitals and corporations and schools. Wherever two or more are gathered… The spirit of giving is alive and well and I just wanted to point that out.

Today I drove a van full of toys and gifts and clothes and diapers… and even wrapping paper and tape so that the parents could share in the joy of wrapping Christmas gifts before giving them out to their kids. I had nearly nothing to do with this. I didn’t pay for the gifts – the generous donors to the New day Foundation did that. Gina shopped for most everything. As the delivery man I simply got to reap the infinite blessings of the smiles and the hugs. That makes for a pretty good day.

I thought of Cathy and Matt. I thought of the literally thousands of people who have given from their hearts to our foundation. I thought of the families I’ll never meet who will, for one day anyway – Christmas Day – have something to smile about.

And I thought… Redemption is real.

So for one day anyway, driving a little too fast down Coolidge Avenue, on a clear and cold morning, was worth it.

Merry Christmas.

CrossTown Charity Bowl

Last Spring Gina and I were approached by the folks at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester, Michigan. They wanted to hold a charity football game against their rivals at Adams HS (who’s claim to fame is that Madonna attended in her pre-Material Girl days) and they wanted the New Day Foundation for Families to be the beneficiary of the proceeds raised.

We were stunned, thrilled, humbled and excited all at once. We had heard of the Charity Bowl game the previous year and that it had benefited the American Cancer Society. While this is a tremendous cause, we were really pleased that this “hometown event” would be benefitting real families with real needs right here in the Detroit area. (For more info on New Day visit the web site here…)

After months of planning, meetings, volunteering by parents, students, athletes and the community in general, the game was help on October 21, 2011. A perfect Friday under the lights with two rival teams playing their hearts out for a good cause. The Stoney Creek stadium was packed with people from all over Rochester, all coming together to cheer for their team and help their neighbors in need.

Last night, during halftime of the Stoney Creek/Adams varsity basketball game a check for $35,070 was presented (by Larry Garolski and Kevin Cumming, principals of Stoney Creek and Adams) to Gina and I on behalf of the New Day Foundation. This check puts New Day over their stated goal of raising $100,000 raised in 2011. the year end total was a little more than $130,000!

Our sincerest thanks to everyone involved: The CrossTown Charity Bowl committee, the student and parent volunteers, the local businesses who donated, and to the athletes and coaches. We are proud to have been a part of this great event.

Selfishly Giving

I did a selfish thing today. It felt so good and I smiled so big that when I walked into basketball practice last night, two people asked me what was up. It was something I hope you do for yourself soon and I want to tell you about it… First though, let me tell you about my new friend, Melissa.

Melissa’s husband is gravely ill. Riddled with cancer, he also is in renal failure and has advanced diabetes. Late last week, he suffered a heart attack – something the doctors attribute to the relentless assaults on his body. Melissa’s daughter is keeping up a strong front as she goes to school each day. She wants to feel normal, like the other kids in her class. That is hard though, not just because her daddy is very sick, but also because now her mom is falling behind on the bills too. The car needed repairs last month and, with all of the trips back and forth to the hospital (which, because they live in a very rural area, is a LONG way from home) she went through a lot of money. The rent was late. The car payments were three months late. Last Saturday, Melissa called and told us her electricity was shut off.

What selfish thing I did today…? I got to call Melissa and tell her not to worry about these financial things right now.

After receiving her application and other documents in the mail, the New Day Foundation for Families (created in honor of Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn) has stepped in. The first phone call went to the electric company. Within a few hours the power went back on at their home. Next, we caught the family up on their car payments and rent. We will be walking along side this family for the next several months to get them back on solid ground financially and to make sure that their daughter understands that she’s not alone and that God has a plan for her.

It is important to remember though, this isn’t “move that bus!” time at Melissa’s house. This isn’t time for parties and Disney vacations… She still has to turn around and deal with a husband who is dying and a little girl who doesn’t understand. But for today, for now, they can take care of each other while we take care of the little stuff like the bills.

A long time ago, I was a cynic out on the rocks of Newport Beach, CA, thinking that crashing surf and beautiful sunsets were all I needed to feel close to God. I was wrong. I was missing the good stuff. The parts of life where we connect with one another. Where we take each other’s hands and hearts and walk together.

My new friend Melissa cried today on the phone as she heard this news. I told her I was sorry for making her cry. She said, “These are the first happy tears I’ve shed in a long while.”

I can’t tell you what it feels like to do this work.

I am relentlessly blessed.

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To those who continue to support The New Day Foundation… Thank you.

To join them, visit the web site below.

www.FoundationForFamilies.com


The Best Gift I Ever Survived

Some of you have seen this video before. Others may be seeing it for the first time. Either way, it is worth the three minutes eighteen seconds it takes to watch it – for the first time, or the hundredth. Stacey Kramer is the speaker and she talks about how an unwanted experience – frightening, traumatic, costly – can turn out to be a priceless gift.

Our non-profit foundation, The New Day Foundation for Families, gives us the chance to meet others who are experiencing this “gift”and walk with them while they get used to their new day. It has greatly blessed our lives.

In Honor of Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn

The two people in the photo below are Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn. Their extraordinary lives and shared love of Christ provided the inspiration to create the New Day Foundation for Families in their honor.

The New Day Foundation serves children who have lost a parent to cancer, providing financial relief, counseling referrals, basic emergency needs for the family during their most difficult times. 

Each Fall, the Matt Kell Memorial Golf Outing is held and serves as the primary fund raising event for the foundation. It is our hope that additional events can be held throughout the year to benefit this worthy cause.

In the meantime, I encourage you to keep this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in your prayers. And if you are so moved, please donate online at www.FoundationForFamilies.com


Below is a video put together for the folks who attended our most recent golf outing.
It offers a glimpse into the families who have been helped by the foundation.