Ashley is doing quite well right now. More details about her current condition in the next update. For now, let me catch you up on some of the fun stuff that Ashley has been able to participate in lately.


Ashley has become quite the starlet. It seems the TV camera really likes her. On one of our regular clinic visits in early November, we discovered after arriving at the clinic that there was going to be a special treat for the kids in clinic that day.

There is a really neat children's book called The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, by David Saltzman. From the book's liner notes:

"In this charming tale, the Jester awakes one morning to find laughter missing in his kingdom and he and his helpmate, Pharley, set off on a quest to find it. They ultimately discover that not only can laughter redeem a weary world, it also can provide the best tonic for anyone facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles."

His tireless search for laughter brings the Jester to a hospital in the city, to the room of a little girl who has a tumor. The Jester helps the little girl find her laughter again, and soon the laughter spreads all the way back to the kingdom.

The author of this marvelous tale himself developed Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer, and died 11 days shy of his 23rd birthday. His parents mortgaged their home to come up with the money to start their own publishing company and publish their son's book. Since then, the Jester has touched the lives of countless sick children, and helped them once again find their laughter, just like the girl in the book.

During the clinic visit in early November that I began telling you about a few paragraphs back, we learned that the mother of Jester-author David Saltzman was scheduled to be in the clinic shortly after we arrived, and she was going to read the Jester story to the kids. A TV news crew from one of the local network affiliates would also be there taping the event. We met the reporter and visited with her briefly, and she asked if Ashley would feel like being interviewed.

After Mrs. Saltzman finished reading the book, she gave each of the children a copy of the book, along with a Jester doll. That was really neat! Then the reporter interviewed Ashley. When the five o'clock news came on that evening, they aired the segment about the Jester story. They showed lots of the clinic kids sitting and listening as the story was being read. Then they introduced Ashley, and showed a segment of the interview where Ashley explained that the little girl in the story had cancer too, and the Jester helped her find her laughter again. It was very touching. (They even put Ashley's name across the bottom of the screen!)

We were still in the clinic when the news came on. Ashley was getting blood, so we were there most of the day. I went to a local office products store and purchased a pack of blank video tapes. We recorded the news story on one of the VCR's in the infusion room. Some friends of ours also taped it for us.

The Jester Has Lost His Jingle is a great story for all children, and especially for those who are sick. If you are interested in obtaining a copy and your local book store doesn't carry the book, you might check with some of the more reliable book dealers on the Internet, such as:

You can also write to:

The Jester & Pharley Phund
P.O. Box 817
Palos Verdes, CA 90274

Their toll-free phone number is: 1-800-9-JESTER.

The official web page for The Jester Has Lost His Jingle is at

(All contact information updated 9/7/2002)


Ashley's stardom didn't end with the Jester interview, though. It seems that was only the beginning. Some time back, one of the Child Life Specialists at Children's had asked Ashley if she would like to be in the Dallas Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 6. Ashley thought that would be great! This is the famous Neiman Marcus/Adolphus/Children's Parade that is televised in about 200 cities nationwide!

As a special attraction, Buddy, the basketball-playing dog who starred in Disney's recent movie "Air Bud", was coming to Dallas to be in the parade. The Child Life Department at Children's made special arrangements for Buddy's owner/trainer to bring Buddy to Children's on Friday before the parade to entertain the kids in the hospital. Ashley had been released from the hospital on that Thursday, but you had better believe we made another trip back to Dallas on Friday morning to see Air Bud!!

We arrived at the hospital about 9:30 AM and went on up to the playroom where Buddy was scheduled to appear. Ashley was the very first child to show up, and Buddy was already in the room! We got to meet Buddy's owner/trainer (a really nice guy named Kevin DiCicco), and Ashley got to spend about 15 or 20 minutes playing catch with Buddy and petting him. Kevin even told Ashley that she could get on Buddy's back and pet him and hug him. She graciously obliged!!


Soon other children began to arrive, and they too got to play with Buddy and pet him and sit on his back and hug him. Before long, the playroom was packed with wall-to-wall kids and parents and hospital workers and TV and newspaper reporters, photographers, and camera crews. Buddy put on quite a show: playing basketball, catching tennis ball cores thrown in rapid succession, playing goalie while Kevin tried to kick a soccer ball past him and shoot a tennis ball core past him with a hockey stick, and catching footballs.

Buddy is a beautiful Golden Retriever, is excellent about letting kids love him and play with him, is extremely well trained and well-behaved, and is quite a talented athlete. Oh, and there is one other thing about Buddy that makes him especially remarkable. Buddy has cancer. Soon after making the movie "Air Bud", Buddy had to have his back right leg amputated because of cancer. Kevin said that Buddy never looked back, and never even seemed to miss his leg. He just kept right on going and doing the things he loves to do: playing basketball and other sports. Buddy has cancer too, but he is making the most of his life in spite of this horrible disease. What an incredibly inspiring story for kids who are also battling the cancer monster.

After Buddy had finished performing, people were milling around the room, kids were playing with Buddy, and Kevin was answering questions and granting interviews with TV news reporters. One of the reporters asked Ashley if it would be OK to interview her. She also interviewed Susan, and Ashley and Susan both appeared on the six o'clock news that night! Below is a picture of Ashley with Channel 8 (Dallas) news reporter Sonya van Sickle.


As I mentioned earlier, Ashley was one of the patients from Children's who was chosen to ride in the annual Christmas parade co-sponsored by Neiman Marcus, the Adolphus Hotel, and Children's Medical Center. This is a huge event, drawing thousands of spectators who line the streets of downtown Dallas, plus countless others across the nation who watch the parade on TV.

We arrived in Dallas about 8:15 Saturday morning. It was a very cold morning, with lots of excitement in the air. As we were walking toward the building where we were to register, we saw numerous familiar faces from the hospital. Just ahead of us there was a small crowd gathered around a Dalmatian, looking at it and petting it and talking to the man who was apparently its owner. I was pushing Ashley in her wheelchair, and she wanted to see the dog. Though we were already running a few minutes late to register, we stopped so that Ashley could pet the dog.

As it turned out, this was no ordinary Dalmatian. This just happened to be another movie-star dog. This Dalmatian had played the part of Pongo in Disney's recently-released live-action re-make of the classic tale "101 Dalmatians". There were actually four different dogs used for the part of Pongo in the film, and this was the one that did most of the action scenes. As Ashley and Justin were petting Pongo, the dog reached up and licked Ashley right on the lips! About this time, a cameraman from one of the Dallas TV stations asked if we could leave Ashley sitting there for a minute, because they were about to do a live feed for their pre-parade coverage, featuring Pongo. So, once again, Ashley was on TV!

After the kids were finished petting Pongo, we went on inside and registered. To our delight, we learned that one of the hospital personnel assigned to stay with Ashley during the parade was Sheryl, one of Ashley's very first nurses at Children's. Sheryl is an incredibly wonderful and sweet person, and we have grown to love her dearly. We were excited to know that she would be with Ashley throughout the parade. We were also delighted to find out that Ashley had been assigned to ride in an antique car with Buddy the dog!

After registering and hanging around the registration area for a little while, it was time for the kids to start loading up on the floats and in the parade vehicles. Susan and Justin and I walked several blocks to the area that had been reserved for families of the children in the parade. They had set up bleachers along the side of the street. It was great!

The parade started. There were numerous huge balloons (just like in the big New York parades!), marching bands, clowns, floats, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, two of the stars from the TV show "Walker, Texas Ranger", Mickey and Minnie, Elmo and Cookie Monster, the Cat in the Hat, Pongo, Air Bud ... and Ashley! Susan and I both got teary-eyed when Ashley rode by. She was sitting up high on the back of the car and waving, with a smile on her face bigger than we have seen in a long time. She was waving to the crowd, and obviously having the time of her life!! It was medicine to my soul to see joy radiating from her smile the way it did that morning. Thank you, Lord, for bringing back Ashley's happiness!


After the parade, there was an exclusive party for the parade kids and their families at Planet Hollywood in Dallas' historic West End. Several of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were there and signed autographs for Ashley and Justin. Spiderman was there also. There were three huge TV screens on which they were showing the video of the Dallas ABC affiliate's parade coverage. We watched the parade all over again while we were eating. We were getting excited as the Air Bud car came closer. Sure enough, there was Ashley, this time on NATIONAL TV, smiling and waving!

We went home tired, but what an incredible day! This had been one of those days that we will never forget.

(To Be Continued . . . )

I have posted pictures from the Air Bud event and the Christmas Parade in my O'Rear Family Photo Album.


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