Monday, May 30, 2011

Empathy...

Over the last two months Gates’ experience has been the catalyst of many things.  It’s forced most, if not all, of us to remember what’s really important in life.  His experience brings thousands of otherwise “strangers” together in daily, unified prayer and Gates’ experience has shown the masses how an upbeat, faithful frame of mind will work miracles in the life of a single person.

Gates’ trial has also prompted others, who have had similar life challenges, to act as a theoretical “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Over the next few Sundays, I intend to publish the stories of those individuals, who have stepped forward, with words of encouragement, communicating through the most powerful transfer of emotion I could imagine:  Empathy. 

The last eight weeks blessed me to learn of several extraordinary people, one of which I am excited to introduce to you tonight, followed by various others in the weeks to come. 

Tonight, I introduce to you, Julie Jorgensen

But first… 

Gates, as you’ve learned, is a magnet of people; his disposition not only draws you towards him but also obligates you to enjoy some of the small pleasures in life while in his presence. 

This past week his independences allowed him to board the Trax Train at the hospital, venturing downtown and finally to The Gateway Shopping Plaza.  It was there, in the abnormally cool May temperatures, he zigged and zagged through the water fountains, bringing smiles and laughter to onlookers, as the frigid waters drenched him, hoodie and all.

Julie Jorgensen, in her words:

"I was a high school athlete in Oregon.  I lived in a small farming community but our little high school girl's basketball team garnered the State's attention in the early 80's as we set the high school record for most games won in a row.  We went 79-0 over the course of 3 years and we won 3 state championships in a row.  I was fortunate to start and play in every one of those games.  My hope was to walk on to the BYU basketball team at some point.

"I was scheduled to leave for college in early September of 1983 and on August 21st I was driving a friend's son, who was 12 years old, outside of town to change his sprinkler pipes.  Just outside of town, on a two-lane highway, a pick-up truck pulled out in front of me, headed in the same direction.  I decided to pass him and as I pulled out to go around him, I saw his brake lights go on.  I was in a small, compact car and I instinctively knew something wasn't right.  I slammed on my brakes, but he didn't see me and turned into my car.  He caught the back of my car and I rolled 1 1/2 times and landed in the bar pit with the driver side down. I broke my back and was paralyzed from the waist down. I had crushed my L1 vertebrae.

"I was flown to Seattle, WA where I spent the next two months in Harborview Medical Center. They put Harrington rods along my spine and those were removed a few months later.

"I regained the use of some of the muscles in my lower body, but not all of them. I am fortunate to be mobile, but I was never able to play ball again. I wear lower leg braces and I have some internal issues but I have a great life.

"I made it to BYU eventually and met my husband. We own a ranch and I am the mother of five children. Two of my sons will be playing football for BYU this fall. One of my sons is on a mission and will return home this fall as well.

"The journey Gates will be taking is very hard, but he will learn things about himself that the Lord wants him to know. He will find strength and comfort through family, friends and even strangers. I hope he remembers that he was trusted enough by our Heavenly Father to go through this trial. There are great blessings in store for him."


1 Year Ago - Julie Jorgensen's Oldest Son's Wedding

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Out of the corner of my eye...

Tonight, while sitting in a busy Atlanta airport, I exchanged emails with Brian about various topics; he mentioned Gates had another “good day” and shared “his right arm continues to get stronger.”  


Out of the corner of my eye I could see a monitor flicker with scenes of the devastating tornadoes in Missouri.  Ironically, just beyond the television is an advertising poster showing a member of the Red Cross, cleaning up after the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami in Japan; as if on cue, a new email, the sender I didn’t recognize, popped up in my “inbox.” 

The email told the story to an interested party, me being copied on the message, of the efforts of our little community in Bountiful (Utah) in behalf of Gates and gave instructions as to how this person could help. 

I started thinking again about the “May Day” event, the friends and neighbors who have sacrificed their time (putting their own life challenges on hold) and the resolution of individual people to come together in common purpose.

“As families nurture and strengthen individuals, so also communities nurture families, providing a setting within which they can become and stay strong.  Families are both protected and assisted by strong communities.  Strong community organizations, including schools, churches, councils, service clubs, and so on, supplement and complement the efforts of parents, not only making their work easier but often making the difference between success and failure.  Without denying in any way the paramount importance of the family, the old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child has much truth in it.” – Elder Alexander B. Morrison

What a wonderful and astounding community we have here.  Please recognize, I don’t refer to that of a geographical area, as people from all over the world have donated of their substance, be it time, money or just well wishes to bless the lives of the Hunsaker Family.

 One good neighbor referenced straws on a camel’s back when she said “we can remove the straws placed on this family’s back, even if just a little, to relieve them from the burdens they face.”  Another good Sister in the ward said, with emotion felt by each present person, “you never know which straw it is, you remove, that will save this family.”

“…When the community learn(s) to work together, and are agreed in a common purpose, what is it that they cannot accomplish?  Union is strength.” - Elder Erastus Snow (May 1874).

My heart is full, sitting on this crowded plane, thinking of each of the charitable acts performed (those seen and unseen), removing one-by-one, the straws from the back of this Eternal Family.

John Winthrop, first Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts, shared with fellow Puritans aboard the Arbella on their voyage to what has evolved into the United States, “We must be knit together in this work as one. … We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labour and suffer together … as members of the same body.”

I am humbled by the all the acts of Christlike service.  How impressive are those, who impart of their own comforts to bring consolation to any who are in need; whether in Missouri, Alabama, Japan, Members of the Military, Bountiful and of course, our little community here:  The Gates, Hope and Miracles Community.

Here are some of the events taking place this weekend (May 27th & 28th).  If you’re in Bountiful, please go out and support these businesses as they support Gates.

  • Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt (both locations):  When a customer donates into the Gates can, Orange Leaf matches the amount donated on a gift card for the contributor.
  • Garden Day Spa:  $10 off service for every $10 donated
  • Firehouse Car Wash:  $10 off service for every $10 donated
  • Parson's Bakery:  Every $5 donated, a $5 gift certificate is issued
  • Jay's Tire Pros:  For every $10 donated $10 gift certificate is issued
    • Jay is also matching the total of all donations, up to $1000
  • Cutler's:  Still creating their contribution
  • Woods Cross Football:  Straight money donation
  • Costa Vida:  Food vouchers directly to the Hunsaker Family
  • Taco Time:  Still creating their contribution

Finally, again, Gates reads your comments.  Please - know him or not - if you have words of encouragement, things that have touched you or want to share, please do so (you can even be anonymous).



Friday, May 20, 2011

Simple yet prodigious...

Gates’ improvements are subtle yet true demonstrations of increased strength and stamina.  In therapy, they practice extensions with his triceps and biceps.  Last week was more about enduring the treachery of therapy; this past week he took steps forward in becoming more independent.  He was able to balance a piece of pizza, on top of his closed hand, and take a bite.  Gates brought a mug of water to his mouth without assistance.

Simple yet prodigious.

Doctors performed an MRI and X-Rays on his neck which showed his injury is healing, however, it also showed there is still a tremendous amount of swelling in his spinal cord. 

It’s actually counterintuitive to think swelling is good, yet the fact he has the mobility in his arms, the feeling in his hands while the swelling is still so immense, gives hope.  As the swelling subsides it will relieve certain pressures on his nervous system, hindering his mobility, and with a prayerful heart I write... give him more motion and strength in his wrists, triceps and hands. 

Gates’ endurance has increased as well, where sitting was painful and exhausting, he is now upright for long periods of time, pain free; he’s mastering the transition from bed to chair and visa versa. 

“As the Savior’s mortal ministry came to a close, He experienced the most difficult trial of all time—the incredible suffering in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. This preceded the glorious Resurrection and the promise that all our suffering will someday be done away. His suffering was a prerequisite to the empty tomb that Easter morning and to our future immortality and eternal life.

“Not one of the trials and tribulations we face is beyond our limits, because we have access to help from the Lord. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.” – Elder Paul V. Johnson

One thing you will see quite clearly in the following video:  Gates’ fun loving spirit sustained no permanent damage.



Also, our prayers are with you Elder Millward, serve hard!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Christ did not just speak about love...

“Christ did not just speak about love; He showed it each day of His life. He did not remove Himself from the crowd. Being amidst the people, Jesus reached out to the one. He rescued the lost. He didn’t just teach a class about reaching out in love and then delegate the actual work to others. He not only taught but also showed us how to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.

“Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result. “If we are His hands, should we not do the same?”

“As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.” - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Our hearts have been touched by Gates Hunsaker’s tragic accident. There has been an amazing outpouring of loving friends and neighbors who want to find a way to help assist Gates and the Hunsaker family as they face some extraordinary life-changing challenges.

This family has incurred (and will incur) sudden and daunting expenses (several hundred thousand dollars) from this injury. These expenses include home remodeling, transportation, in-home care and rehabilitation.

To make a donation to Gates and his benefit please send donations to the Philanthropy Community at:

The Philanthropy Community
P.O. Box 261
Bountiful, UT 84011

100% of your money donated will go directly to Gates; the charity is not spending any funds, donated for Gate’s benefit, on fundraising or administrative expenses.

Any donations to The Philanthropy Community in the amount of $250 or more will be evidenced by a written donation receipt.

We emphasize that none of these offers have been solicited or requested by the Hunsaker Family. 

For questions, please contact Dennis Heiner (dgheiner@gmail.com / 847.687.7232), Jim Larson (jimlarson@comcast.net 801.641.4554) or Deon Steckling (dsteckling@mac.com / 801.230.5599).

We feel grateful and humbled to be a part of such a loving community.



“The Lord regularly sends wake-up calls to all of us... All of us have been touched with feelings of sympathy for others we don’t even know... I have seen the blessings that come to the person in need who receives help and to the person who seizes the opportunity to give.

“I pray that He will grant you the blessing of seeing the fruit of your labors in the happiness of those you have helped and with whom you have helped for the lord.

“I pray that we may seize our opportunities to ‘lift up the hands [that] hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees..’” - President Henry B. Eyring

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gates' May Day

















Thank you to EVERYONE who participated and contributed, whether financially or through moral support.  Thanks to those who came and helped in the event, donated gift baskets and gave of their time.

A special thanks to the organizers!
  • Susie
  • Rick
  • Dan
  • Barbara
  • Ciera
  • Margaret
  • Spencer
  • Leah
  • Garrett
  • Chase
  • David
  • Mountain Hymns
  • The Spins
  • The Old World
  • Holy Water Buffalo
“Charity has been defined as ‘the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love,’ the ‘pure love of Christ … ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [him].’” – President Thomas S. Monson

Finally, Happy Mother’s Day, Cherie!  We express our appreciation and love to you for raising such a good young man; a son who has blessed, and continues to bless, the lives of others.  For this and so many other reasons, we again say, we love you!

Be Still My Soul...





Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You might have missed it...

Gates rolls his eyes at me, at least once, each time I frequent his hospital room.  He doesn’t do it for any other reason than it’s his only ability to display a form of humility. 

As hard as I try not to do it, I end up gushing over how well he’s doing, how much he motivates me to “buck up” in life; that’s the trigger sending his eyes heavenward.

Anytime I get an email telling me to “turn my speakers up” before I open an attachment, I know I’m in for an embarrassing piece of audio.  I’ve learned; I never turn my speakers up. 

I give you my word, the audio which I’m going to request you listen, will not plague you with some attention causing prank, however be forewarned, it will definitely stir up emotion.  This is not a new video, but I’m confident you will experience it in a whole new way. 

Turn your speakers up:


If you were distracted at all, you might have missed it.  As his physical therapist walks away, following an attempt to hold his weighted arm, Gates, frustrated with his performance, says the words:

“Do it again.” 

When no one expected more of him, he expected more of himself. 

During my last visit I thanked Gates for his attitude towards is current plight.  His response:

“You’ve gotta look at the little things.  The fact I can lift my arms is a huge blessing.  I’m way grateful for that.”

Gates really doesn’t understand why what he’s doing is so uplifting to those who watch him.  It’s second nature for Gates; any discussion otherwise is indiscernible to him.

Today Gates had practice.  Yet, this was a totally different practice than he had while playing football or swimming.  This time he practiced getting in and out of the car.  A task each one of us, who drive, does multiple times daily, all by habit and without conscious thought.  The reason Gates rehearsed over-and-over again:  To prepare to see his friends and supporters at the “Gates’ May Day” event this Saturday.



"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."   ~Theodore Roosevelt