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Women Helping Women concert

by Alison Qualter Berna

My unbelievably generous mother-in-law, Dr. Maria Boria, started a women’s health clinic on the Eastern Shore of Maryland 10 years ago this month. Over the last 10 years, she has worked entirely for free, providing health care to the poorest of citizens, mostly to the uninsured and to many of the immigrants who work the farms in her rural community.

Dr. Maria Boria with granddaughters, Madeleine and Sydney Berna
Her selfless acts prompted Carla Massoni, a big hearted art gallery owner in town, to organize a benefit concert 10 years ago at The Garfield Center for the Performing Arts in Chestertown, MD. The proceeds each year have gone to basic medicine and supplies that are needed to continue the clinics.

This past Wednesday, Mach 18th, we celebrated Maria’s incredible spirit at another sold out event, the 10th annual Women Helping Women concert. Our daughters Madeleine and Sydney were extremely proud to be an integral part of the ensemble of 25 musicians and artists who played music, read poetry and sang original songs.

Sydney Berna performing "Rainbow Connection"

Madeleine Berna performing "Stay"
I’m super proud of my two girls who, at 9 years old, walked up on that stage without sheet music and played and sang as if there weren’t hundreds in the crowd. The songs they chose to play and sing brought hope and soul to the event, and I sit in awe of them! 

To see Sydney play and sing The Rainbow Connection, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jj_zYinZU4

To see Maddie play and sing Stay by Rihanna, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOfw7mkbYXA

The event ended with the benefit’s theme song written by Pam Ortiz, reminding us that angels don’t always have wings…they are often right here with us, with two feet firmly on the ground.


5-Year-Old Hoops Phenom with One Hand Dreams of Playing at UK for Calipari

by Alison and Allison

Our friends Rachel Roberge and Skip Connors are raising one incredible boy. Jackson Connors is in kindergarten and loves to play basketball. Missing his right hand hasn’t stopped him from dribbling, passing, shooting and playing with the elite players in this country. Knowing his parents as well as we do, we KNOW that this is because of their unconditional love for him, and their ability to focus on what Jackson can do, rather than what he can’t do. We believe Rachel when she says we are all perfectly imperfect…and to embrace the gifts we have been given in our lives.

Watch this beautiful story about our little apple seedling Jackson, and share it widely…it’s a powerful message.


WOMEN HELPING WOMEN - the 10th annual benefit concert in Chestertown, Maryland

by Alison Qualter Berna

On Wednesday, March 18, my mother-in-law Maria Boria Berna will once again be honored at the 10th annual Women Helping Women benefit in Chestertown, Maryland.

Ten years ago, Maria started two clinics in rural Maryland, without much pomp or accolades. This incredible woman simply opened the doors of a local church and invited the poor, mostly Guatemalan immigrants, and those without healthcare, to come in and receive her free medical services.
As an OB/GYN, she saw mostly women in those first few years. Yet in time, word got out about her open mind, her empathetic spirit and her generous way. Soon, men were asking to see her to check on an illness or an injury, and a full scale general practice was born.

Maria’s only concerns are the short and long term well being of the patients she serves. She works many hours and drives quite a distance, to Marydel, to give of herself every week. She even changed the hours of activity to be more available to working people, which means she often works at night. Diabetes has become an epidemic among the population and thus she focuses on educating patients on a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Did I mention that Maria is 85 years old? She defies age and gives me, my husband and our children, hope of what our lives can be when we focus on the well being of others. Her life’s lesson is to be grateful for what we have and then share those gifts with those around us.
For that, we are forever grateful.

The concert on Wednesday night will include talent from all over the Eastern Shore, including our very own children Maddie (playing and singing Stay by Rihanna) and Sydney (playing and singing The Rainbow Connection).
Every year, it is a magical, musical night.
Proceeds from the concert will go to basic medical equipment and medicine to help those most in need and cannot afford care. To support this amazing cause, visit http://www.garfieldcenter.org/gcaevent/women-helping-women/

We will send an update next week!


Chefs for Kids' Cancer

by Alison Qualter Berna

Last Thursday night, Craig, Allison and I attended the Chefs for Kids' Cancer event, an annual event hosted by Cookies for Kids' Cancer, an organization the four of us care deeply about. We supported our dear friends Gretchen and Larry Witt and watched their team put on an outstanding evening… a night to remember. More than 40 of New York City’s most renowned chefs took part, each one cooking for their own designated table. We did not know who was cooking for us until we arrived, and the chef’s surprise factor was simply a cherry on top of the incredibly delicious 4-course meal that each table got to uniquely enjoy. Allison and Craig enjoyed cooking by Chef Justin Smillie of Upland, and we ate food from Ryan Hardy, Charlie Bird’s talented culinary artist. We were joined by friends and fellow apple seeds families including Rachel Roberge, Lillian Lin Schlein, Pat Fieger, Mary and Colbert Cannon, Amy and Derek Stoldt to name a few…and we were in awe of Emily Fowler, Nicole Fiehler and the tireless Cookies team that put on the entire event with a smile.

The best parts of the night for us?
A video produced by Allison’s long time friend Ken Druckerman of Left/Right production company. “Why We Are Here” premiered at the event and it made us both cry. To see (and share) the video, visit http://youtu.be/R6YRGOK8EJY

Another favorite was the jar of cookies that each of us got to take home… pastry chefs from all over the city baked hundreds and hundreds of cookies for the guests (and they happily ended up in our kids’ bellies).

Finally, the part of the night that stood out the most was the memory of Liam. Liam’s energy was renewed as each person came to understand a bit more about pediatric cancer...and what they can do to help.

Here are the facts:
  • Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of children in the U.S.
  • Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute's budget goes to all childhood cancers combined.
  • Two-thirds of pediatric cancer patients will develop long-term side effects, many life-threatening -- a result of the treatments that "cured" them.
  • Only four of the 12 most common types of childhood cancers have average survival rates over 80%.
  • 13,500 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year.
  • There is ONE THING that can truly change the facts of childhood cancers forever -- FUNDING for research to find new, improved therapies.

There is still time to support Cookies for Kids' Cancer and add to the $1.1 million raised that night. The link to the online auction is STILL GOING if you would like to bid or donate! www.biddingforgood.com/cookiesforkidscancer

Love Like Liam.


Play is crucial for your child's brain development

by Dr. Amanda Williford, Child Psychologist, Research Professor, UVA

Your child’s play is critically important for his or her learning and development. Young children’s brains are rapidly growing and brain development is dependent upon high quality play opportunities.

Imagine the scenario: you stop and stare at the living room you just cleaned a half hour ago. How is it possible that your child could create a disaster of this magnitude in such a short period of time? You get ready to say “You need to clean-up this mess right now” but in your pause of disbelief you realize that your child has carefully orchestrated this play environment and is completely immersed within his imagination. Checkers are people, the empty snack bowl (crumbs included) is a boat, and everyone is sailing across a mighty ocean that was very recently your child’s blanket “lovie”. You think to yourself “Wow, that’s impressive, I would never have thought of that!”

Children need to explore a variety of experiences and be encouraged to fully engage in their play. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy a lot of toys. You want a reasonable variety of toys that can be used in multiple ways.

More important is that children need freedom of movement. Sometimes, we are tempted to leave our young children in a stroller, highchair, or even a playpen (especially if they seem content being there) because it’s easier to keep our eye on them, but this may limit their potential for play. So, get your child out of that seat, even if they might get into a bit of trouble! Another great way to stimulate play (and the brain!) is to encourage children to play with your safe household objects. It’s tempting to turn on the TV for 25 minutes to entertain your toddler while you cook dinner, but your child will be better stimulated if you allowed some of your pots and pans to become rockets and fairy houses.

So, next time you walk in on your child engaged in some serious play, take a few minutes to sit down and carefully observe your child. What do they get excited about? What do they do when things don’t work the way they expected? Join in, but let them lead the play. You can do some parallel play (if your child is stacking blocks, you can stack some blocks too) and see how your child responds. In paying attention to how your child plays, you will learn a lot about how play contributes to your child’s development.

3 take aways:
  • Your child’s brain development depends on high quality play opportunities!
  • Take time to play with your child.
  • You will learn a lot about your child by paying attention to how your child plays.
Amanda Williford is a child psychologist, professor at the University of Virginia and contributor to Please and Carrots, an expert approved subscription service of toys, books, and activities for children ages birth to 3 years old. 

SPECIAL OFFER: apple seeds members now receive 20% off subscriptions with the following code: appleseeds20. Visit the Please and Carrots site to take advantage of this great offer!

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