Details about the Tree (perhaps more than you wanted to know)
This is the tree I've always wanted to do for Daniel. If there is a tree that truly screams "Daniel"... this would be it. I'm sure over the years we will donate other trees in his honor but perhaps none that so strongly remind us of Daniel. The idea of this tree emerged two years ago but I knew we wouldn't be able to do it the first year as we put that tree together in a matter of days and if we were going to do a "Lightning McQueen" tree, I wanted to do it well. Last year with us moving beginning of November to Oklahoma there was no way we could've pulled it off. I'm glad we waited till this year. When we realized that we were coming into Utah as frequently as we are, it became more and more of a reality that we could probably pull off doing the "Lightning McQueen" tree.
Back in July, I started researching over the internet for Christmas in July Sales. When I came across the 7.5" Ashley RED Christmas Tree at www.ChristmasMarket.com... I knew it was the one so I ordered it. I've been asked several times where you find a RED tree. The answer is: You can find almost anything on the internet. I knew if we were going to have a RED Christmas tree that we were going to have to decorate it right in order for it to sell.
Then I began to look for snowflakes that were made out of gears. I really didn't think I'd find anything that would work. To me, it seemed like a miracle when I happened to search "snowflake gears" at www.Etsy.com and found a shop called SplendidColors. I custom ordered laser cut Steam Punk styled snowflake gears and the Tree Topper piece from this shop. Thank you Kathryn Hedges for these beautiful pieces.
Upon showing my ideas to my family, my brother Jason piped in that he thought it would be pretty cool if some gears on the tree moved. He mentioned planetary gears. He'll be graduating in the spring with his Mechanical Engineering degree. I had no idea what planetary gears were but the search began. Again, I found something on Etsy that looked promising. I came across a shop entitled SteamyTech, owned by Lora Price, that made small 2.5" planetary gear kits that you could put together and display. They were not self-propelled moving gears so they would need to be modified. I ordered 8 of these and requested a custom order of larger 6" planetary gear kits. We didn't know what would work. The 2.5" kits proved to be too small to work with or see movement on so we ended up using them as stationary ornaments. Jason thought perhaps we could use ornament rotation motors that plug into the light strand. These typically hang vertically to spin an ornament but he thought if we attached these to the back of the gear in a horizontal fashion that perhaps we could get it to rotate the sun gear and the planetary gears would revolve around it. I thought sure... lets give it a try so we ordered some heavy duty ornament rotation motors (8x stronger than most) off of Amazon. After Jason and my dad Bry played around with the sample gear and motor, it was determined that the 6" planetary gear kits had potential to work so we ordered more.
The real work began when I got into Utah two months ago and started painting the planetary gear kits different cool metal color ranging from Silver to Gold. I modified the design of the gears by not using the typical propeller piece that keeps the gears together and instead making acrylic shields that would allow the movement of the gears to be seen better. That's about all we got done at that point and then headed back to OK for 3 weeks. Upon coming back into town 3 weeks ago the process continued. Over the last two weeks there have been many hours of modifying these gears to work. Trust me... there have been tears of frustration and almost giving up. I couldn't have done this without the support of my family, especially my mom Dee who aided by watching my babies who were quite sick. They just had to be so precisely placed, sanded, and smooth. They were close, but not quite when my brother Nate suggested using lacquer on the backside of the sun gear and planetary gears to make them smooth so they'd glide. This is what they needed to reduce friction. With a lot of determination and reworking, we finally got the Planetary Gears kits to work. I still think it is a miracle. We had a few extra ornament rotation motors so Dave thought we could use these on the back of four gearflakes to make them rotate. This added more movement to the tree. The moving gears really were worth the effort as they are the finishing touch on the tree.
Gifts Under the Tree
Although the tree itself only had a hidden Lightning McQueen and hidden Mater (along with a hidden ornament that said "Daniel" on it), the feel was definitely Disney Cars. Everything under the tree was definitely Disney Cars. Most were Cars toys, Micro Racers, and books like "Mater Saves Christmas". There were a few Disney Cars themed musical instruments like a drum set and guitar. The most awesome thing under the tree though was the Lightning McQueen Power Wheels Ride-on Car. Tyler tested it out in the front room after Uncle Jason put it together for quality assurance and it passed. Many of these items were purchased a few months ago and some can no longer be found.
My sister Emily helped me shop for quite a few of the ornaments. The snowflakes made out of metal and the starbursts were perfect additions. My mom Dee also helped out in this process and trimming the tree with deco mesh and ribbons. The night before Decoration Day mom and I worked on wiring and gluing hangers on ornaments so they'd be ready to place on the tree. I didn't sleep till after my dad Bry and I delivered the tree on Decoration Day on Monday at 7 a.m. I then headed back home to sleep for a few hours. At 12:30 p.m. I headed back over to meet my team of elves. My mom, sister-in-law Beth Fewkes and good friend Jen Atwood helped in the decorating and tedious wiring process as all ornaments must be wired down for transport to the purchaser after the Festival is over. We finished decorating around 5:30 p.m. but finished check off at 7 p.m.
Donated Rocky Mountain Raceway Tix
I'd like to thank good friend Anissa Call who was able to get 4 tickets to any 2014 Rocky Mountain Raceways event donated to go with the tree. It was a last minute phone call and she made it happen. Daniel so loved going out to the Raceway and watching the cars race. It was like being there in real life and watching a live Lightning McQueen race. They made sure he got VIP treatment out there. Thanks to Mike Eames, General Manager of Rocky Mountain Raceways, for donating the tickets to go with the tree. It was the icing on the cake :)
Tuesday night was Bidding Night. It is always an exciting night. There were so many people that were intrigued by the tree. We are thrilled that the couple that purchased the tree is in love with it. They are so excited that they get to take it home after the Festival. The Festival of Trees really is an amazing event!
Thanks to my Elves
I just want to take a moment to thank all those that helped make this possible. I have an amazingly supportive family. You each played an important role of making this become a reality. Thank you to my husband Dave who is always supportive of my many ideas. We are so blessed to have so many people that love and support us. We feel blessed that we were able to create a beautiful tribute to Daniel and give to a good cause such as Primary Children's Medical Center at the same time.
Make a donation to CaringBridge to keep Daniel’s site up and running.
Thoughts on Daniel's Tree
This is a tree that I had wanted to do two years ago but knew we couldn't pull it off last minute. I knew it was going to take some time and planning. I'm grateful that we held out because I really feel that this tree is the perfect tribute to Daniel. He would be in love with it. He'd love that EVERYTHING Lightning McQueen is under the tree but he'd also love that the tree is RED with moving Gears.
There are so many people that collaborated on this tree to make it what it came to be. The inspiration for it came from a Lightning McQueen Xmas gift bag that had artwork of gears in the shape of snowflakes on it. When I came across a RED Christmas tree, I knew that was the one. When I showed my idea board to my family, my brother Jason (who is graduating as a mechanical engineer in Spring) mentioned that he thought it'd be really cool if we had some gears on the tree that actually moved. He mentioned planetary gears and so the idea was born. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in to as there was nothing out there that existed how we envisioned. The gears are custom made and there is some definite ingenuity used in order to get decorative gears to actually work with a motor. We used ornament rotating motors that typically are hung from the tree in a vertical manor and rotate ornaments. These motors were attached horizontally on the back of the gears and connected to the sun gear, which rotates and thus the planetary gears move around it. (More about all of the details of the tree coming together in another post to come).
When it is all said and done, the tree is what I was hoping for. It accomplished the near impossible of being Lightning McQueen themed and yet a classy tree that would appeal to adults also. The tree itself really has only two hidden Cars ornaments on it of Lightning McQueen and Mater and there is also a hidden ornament that has Daniel's name on it. Other than that, the rest of the tree has both moving and non-moving gears on it. Snowflakes that are made of gears, metal snowflakes, and cool metallic colored balls ranging from variations of silver and gold. I'd say it almost has a steam punk feel to it.
Now that it's all said and done, I can't tell you how happy I am that we did it. Daniel would love it and I couldn't help but get a bit emotional at bidding night and, again, yesterday when I went with Dave and the children. It hit me a few times while getting ornaments and planning for the tree, but it really hit me hard when the tree was set up at the Festival and on display. I don't know if I can even put into words the flood of feelings and emotions. I am so glad that we are able to do this in memory of our Daniel and at the same time benefit other children... what an amazing thing!
So many people would stop and comment on it because it was Lightning McQueen... they'd never seen a red tree and the motors moving was the finishing touch. It was fun to see how excited people got over the tree. I think it along with a few others definitely stood out. If you have the chance, I recommend seeing the Nemo Tree, the Monsters University Librarian tree, the Retro Tree, the Mickey Tree with included Mickey Playhouse, to name just a few unique trees. There were beautiful ones too like the Ballerina tree, Stand in Holy Places tree and soooo many more.
Daniel... we lovingly dedicate this tree to you. You who taught us to love with all of our hearts and to "Love Each Other". May we remember this always but especially at this time of year. We miss you... we always will but we are grateful beyond measure for the memories that you gave us, the love you showed us, the courage that you radiated, and the knowledge that we will see you again. We know you watch over us and we can still feel your continual love.
Festival of Trees opens Today!
The Festival of Trees is open to the public starting today Wednesday December 4th through Saturday December 7th, from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily. It is held at South Towne Expo Center 9575 South State Street, Sandy, UT.
Every penny raised helps children at Primary Children's Hospital.
Today Wednesday December 4th is Family Day. A family ticket is $15 and will admit up to six immediate family members. Tickets are available at the door for $5 - adults, $4 - senior citizens, $3.50 - children (ages 2 - 11). Discount tickets, which are $1 off, are still available at many Zion's Bank locations.Cash and Check only. No Credit Cards; however, there are ATM machines available at South Towne Expo Center.
For 43 years, the Festival of Trees has been a "Gift of Love" to children. The Festival is organized by a volunteer board of 85 women who enlist time and talents from thousands of individuals, organizations, businesses and families throughout Utah and beyond. Over $33 million has been raised for children at Primary Children's Hospital through the Festival since 1971, with $1,871,546.91 raised last year.
- Christmas Trees: Over 700 beautifully decorated and donated trees done by church groups, families, individuals, businesses, civic organizations, and clubs.
- Playhouse Plaza: Child-sized dream houses, dollhouses, rocking horses, and children's furniture.
- Centerpieces and Collectibles: huge variety of centerpieces and home décor decorated and donated.
- Gingerbread Village: creations made with gingerbread, icing, and candy
- Quilt Block: Beautifully made quilts in a variety of patterns, colors, and sizes.
- Aisle of Wreaths: Wreaths for the holidays and all seasons, door and mantel decorations, and outdoor displays.
- Gift Boutique: A shop filled with a variety of items, many of which are handcrafted such as quilts, toys, baby gifts, not cards, Christmas décor, jewelry, articles for the kitchen and home, neighbors gifts and so much more for sale.
- ELF Emporium: A new shop designed for kids of all ages. Warm bread, lollipops, toys, and gifts.
- Kids Korner: Activities for children including a giant bubble machine, face painting, Dial-an-Elf, and much more!
- Friendship Cards: Handmade Christmas cards to purchase and inscribe in honor of someone special.
- Santa Land: a visit and photo with Santa.
- Sweet Shoppe: Fudge, divinity, caramel apples, chocolates, and a variety of baked goods.
- Scones and Sweet Rolls: Festival favorites - hot scones and sweet rolls!
- Entertainment: Singers, dancers, and instrumentalists entertain each day.
We have now lived in Ardmore, OK for just a little over a year; however, I don't know if you'd even know that we ever left UT. In May this last year Dave landed a moonlighting job at Utah Valley Regional Hospital. Initially, he was only working one week out of the month in Utah. The great thing is that traditionally hospitals will cover the flight, car rental, and hotel stay. Being as we have family in town that we can stay with, Dave asked them if they'd be willing to trade the hotel for extra flights for both me and Tyler. They agreed! So Tyler has had his own seat on all flights and at age 18 months started racking up his own flight miles, if you can believe it. It's wonderful because it's free flights back to visit family.
Over the Summer Tyler and I stayed in Utah for six weeks while Dave flew back and forth. This gave Dave some unobstructed study time for the Medical Boards that he took middle of August, which he passed. End of July we all flew back to OK and brought my mom Dee back with us as this was the last possible time I could fly being 34 weeks pregnant. On August 20th at 1:32pm a baby girl became part of our family. We named this sweet angel Alexis Bree Allen.
Working at Mercy Memorial Medical Center in Ardmore, OK, Dave works one week on and one week off. In September he started working all off weeks at Utah Valley Regional Hospital in Orem, UT. So he now works every other week in UT. For the first six weeks after Lexi was born, we didn't fly with Dave. We don't always fly with him. Sometimes we stay 3 weeks in OK, sometimes we stay 3 weeks in UT and, of course, sometimes we just fly in and out with him every other week. The children travel well and we love that we get to see family as often as we do... perhaps even more as we stay with my parents when we are in Utah. We really feel like both places are home. It's kind of a strange lifestyle, but it works for us for now.
We won't be able to do this forever, of course. We'll either do it till this opportunity dries up or Tyler is in school. With the kids being so young, we are able to travel pretty easily. So why don't we come back to Utah? Well, Utah doesn't pay too well. Because he is moonlighting, he makes time and a half which happens to be his normal rate in OK. It'd be hard to turn that down. Dave loves his job in Ardmore, OK. It really is his dream job where he is able to be a Hospitalist and also do ICU care. But for now traveling back and forth, is helping us get out of enormous debt (school loans) incredibly fast. We feel very blessed.
Tyler just turned two years old on November 3rd and Lexi is now just over 3 months old. The time has flown. Daniel has been gone a little over two years now and, naturally, we still miss him. The children have kept us very busy but there are moments here and there that it hits us that someone in our family is missing. We are grateful for the gospel as it truly makes it that we are able to move forward with strength.
I thought it appropriate to give an update on us before I write an entry about the Festival of Trees. We were able to enter a tree this year that is dedicated to our Daniel. Bidding night is tonight but I'll write more about it in the next entry :)
Where has the time gone?
It is now a little over a year ago since we discovered that Daniel's cancer had returned and that it would soon take his life. There are times that that moment in time feels so close and yet at other times it seems like a lifetime away. So very much has happened in such a short amount of time. Daniel is very much a part of our lives and he always will be. We reminisce often and share our memories. It was just the other day that Dave brought me home a breakfast burrito from McDonald's and I said, "Thank you for the Mean Burrito" while fist punching the air. We had a good laugh. Daniel left us with so many Danielisms and memories that make us smile. He saw life differently than the rest of us and lived each moment with joy. He looked for ways to make others smile.
A few weeks ago Dave and I encountered a gentleman whose daughter passed away 12 years ago from a genetic disorder. He shared with us that he and his wife have struggled for 12 years and are only barely starting to move forward. I felt for this man. It is never easy to lose a child no matter what the circumstances; however, I do have to admit that some ways are more traumatic than others. I feel for those who have lost their children to traumatic causes. I consider ourselves very blessed for so many reasons. There was no one to blame. You can't really blame "cancer"... it just happens, as unfortunate as it is. There is no one to hold a grudge against; however, this is where many blame God. We never lost faith or questioned Him. We may not completely understand His plan but we trust that His wisdom is greater than ours. We were given the amazing gift of foresight. We knew that our time was short and we were able to live those moments with no regrets. I consider this the most precious gift that we were given. This is what has made it that we are able to move forward. We needed that and in many ways I don't think it was by accident that we found out the cancer had returned when we did. Not everyone has the opportunity to prepare themselves for the passing of their loved one. I thank Heavenly Father for giving us this generous gift. Oh how my heart aches for those that lose a loved one instantly in tragic circumstances.
People deal with grief differently and in their own time. I believe that the reason Dave and I have done as well as we have is because we had the last six priceless weeks with our Daniel to put everything on pause and just focus on what mattered most. But perhaps it is more than that. Our faith in the gospel and the eternal plan has given us strength. I am so grateful that we have not lost sight of this and that we have stayed connected as a couple. We communicate often, we share memories of Daniel, and we look forward as in the near future we will experience many changes.
Lately we have been fixing up the house and getting it ready to sell. The house is finally what I had envisioned 6 years ago when I moved into it. Funny how that happens just as you are leaving. I've been quite preoccupied with little fix ups. Dave has been helping out where he can in between working. We only have three months till he finishes Residency and we pack up and move to Ardmore, Oklahoma where Dave is taking a position as a Hospitalist at Mercy Medical Center. His class graduated June 30th but he owes a few months back from time he took off for Daniel. We consider ourselves fortunate that Dave's Residency program allowed him time off during crucial moments over the last few years. Despite how difficult the last few years have been, Dave has impressed many of his Attendings with his courage and strength during immense stress.
Daniel's little brother Tyler also keeps us quite busy. He is a very happy baby that loves to laugh and smile (he has the cutest giggle and dimple to go with it). He is now 8 and a half months old but the size of an 18 month old (no, I'm not joking). He is 24 lbs and 30 inches tall. He is in the 90th percentile for both height and weight. Dave jokes that Football recruiters are already knocking on our door. Tyler is a healthy boy. His temperment reminds us a lot of Daniel. He is easygoing and so happy. He adds joy to our home and we are so grateful that we have been entrusted with raising this sweet little spirit. We indeed have been very blessed.
Today Daniel received a feeding tube. With his new chemo treatment, he has struggled with his appetite. Food just has not been that appealing. The company that makes the pumps is called Kangaroo Pumps and the pediatric version is called a Joey. Daniel is very proud of his Joey and likes to show people it. He thinks drinking chocolate milk through his nose is pretty silly :-)
Site created on August 15, 2010
View YouTube Videos: http://www.youtube.com/laniallen79 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YbiGWzy4tU)
Daniel, who is now 7 years old, was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma (brain cancer) on August 20, 2009. He was initially treated with surgery, radiation, & chemotherapy. At that time we were told that the prognosis was 70-80% cure rate with a planned treatment course of approx. one year.
Unfortunately, on June 30, 2010 we found out during a followup MRI that his cancer had returned during treatment. His prognosis has gone from a moderate risk to high risk... with expected cure rate of approx. 40%. The plan of action was changed and he underwent a new chemo regimen from July through December 2010.
SMALL MIRACLES DO HAPPEN
September 21, 2010 Daniel received a follow up MRI scan that came back with significant improvement (almost undetectable) and the lumbar punture showed no visible signs of cancer cells. This made it that we were able to move forward with the new proposed plan. In December he received High Dose Chemotherapy with Bone Marrow Rescue (where Daniel will be his own bone marrow donor). This was followed by a repeat course of 15 doses of radiation. The Bone Marrow Rescue was followed by 100 days of radiation. All MRI's since have shown no cancer present.
Daniel's July 7, 2011 was supposed to be the final MRI before being on maintenance. It was supposed to be the MRI that said we were done with treatment after 2 years. However, the scan came back showing that the cancer had returned. It is aggressive and resistant. There are no more treatment options left. Daniel will have a few weeks to 1-2 months left with us.
Despite all of this Daniel is a fun-loving, caring, silly, and happy boy. He reminds us daily how precious each moment is.
MAKE A WISH
Daniel was selected by the Utah Chapter of MAKE A WISH to become a Wish Kid. Daniel received a key in the mail that unlocks the Wish Tower. On August 18th Daniel got to place his wish in the wish tower. He wished to meet Lightning McQueen from Disney's Cars. At the end of September, we flew to Orlando, Florida to Disney World to meet Lightning McQueen. We had an amazing once in a life time trip that we so desperately needed. It was wonderful to see Daniel be a kid and have more fun than imaginable.
Daniel joined Hope Kids, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses to participate in activities as a well-needed break from the continual medical treatments. So far, Daniel has been able to go to Arcade Madness at the SkyBox, The Dino Show at the Utah Natural History Museum, Thriller, and seen Nanny McPhee Returns and Rio in a reserved theatre, Journey to Bethlehem, the Renaissance Festival, and the Living Planet Aquarium.
Keep In Touch
Send me emails on supporting a friend in tough times through stories, articles, videos and more.