Through our work with the Marketplace Events home shows in Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg, we meet a ton of amazing people. From partners to contractors to exhibitors and beyond, there is never a shortage of team players to help celebrate our collective success when another show wraps.
When we began working with the Calgary Home + Design Show (now called the Calgary Fall Home Show) in 2013, I met the show’s brand-new stage emcee, Jessica Janzen Olstad. From the second I met her, I knew Jessica was someone special. She radiates such charisma, positivity, and life that everyone around her clamours for her attention. She is truly one of a kind. Since then, I have become fortunate enough to call Jess a dear friend.
Shortly after last year’s Winnipeg Home + Garden Show (where she also serves as the stage emcee), Jess gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Lewiston James on May 25, 2016. It was only a few months later that Lewiston was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA), an inherited condition that causes nerve cells in the lower part of the brain and spinal cord to break down and eventually die. The prognosis was not good: in all likelihood, Lewiston would not live to see his first birthday. There is no cure for SMA, and it is the #1 genetic cause of death for children under two.
Instead of bending to the grief and anger of hearing this news, breaking under the strain of preparing to lose a child, Jess and her family stood up. They started a blog, Love for Lewiston, to educate followers about SMA and shed light on their story. During this time, the Olstads received an outpouring of love and support through the blog and social media, with hundreds and thousands of followers from around the world sharing their own personal stories of loss and grief. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $65,000 to support the Olstads in their time of need, while fundraisers including a silent auction, a ‘Cheers to Lewiston’ cocktail campaign at local Calgary restaurants, plenty of fitness classes, and the sale of branded merchandise including sweatshirts and stationery to support the Olstads and SMA research.
Lewiston passed away on November 22, 2016, just shy of his six-month birthday. Even in the midst of unspeakable grief, the Olstads refused to give up – instead choosing to run towards the roar, in Jess’ words, to honour Lewiston’s powerful legacy. We are beyond proud to offer our support for Lewiston’s Birthday Party, a special event to remember a little lion that left a big legacy, and an opportunity to raise money for SMA and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. It will be a night of celebrating, memory making, and dancing – not to mention the very first official fundraising event hosted by the newly-minted Love for Lewiston Foundation.
Tickets are now available online for $95. If you’re in Calgary next week, please join us in your support to raise funds and awareness for SMA while celebrating Lewiston’s short but mighty life.