When I talk about founding 365Outside, I often refer to our family’s “rough autumn” that led up to January 2015 when we started our first 365Outside Challenge. I rarely go into any more details. For one, the details have never been relevant; Little Bear was sick, and that was that.

But recently I have been thinking about this time in our lives a lot, reflecting on how it has shaped us, and how it shapes others who are suffering, too.

Little Bear

Let me start off by saying this: we are the lucky ones. We have healthy, happy children, and we have never experienced the pain of an uncertain tomorrow. Even in our lowest moments, we knew that it would mostly be okay. Maybe not normal, maybe not easy, but always okay. We never had to wonder about that. We are the lucky ones.

Little Bear’s birth was as peaceful as they get. He was beyond due, and I was beyond ready in mind, body, and spirit. I put Junior to bed that night, and then proceeded to catch my new baby in the bathtub less than three hours later. We felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude.

Little Bear

But when he was just a few weeks old, Little Bear got a fever. When I brought him to the doctor that day, I had no idea the wormhole we were about to go down. Later that afternoon, when I walked into the E.R. cradling my tiny son, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t step outside again for weeks. Little Bear spent two weeks on IV antibiotics, first at our local hospital, and then at Boston Children’s Hospital where he was transferred by ambulance when his IV line failed for the umpteenth time.

At first we thought his infection was a one-off. But the next winter he couldn’t shake recurring ear infections, recurring pneumonia, and recurring impetigo, all of which would clear up on antibiotics and then return as soon as he finished the course. Before he was two, he’d spent 10 months of his life on antibiotics.

We were shuffled around from infectious disease doctors to immunologists, and back again. Ultimately, we learned it was something he would eventually grow out of, as his immune system caught up with everyone else’s. It was good news, but it was a tiring journey.

Starting 365Outside in the midst of this was both literally and figuratively the breath of fresh air that we all needed. Getting outside was the medicine our family needed to heal. Rediscovering our wild selves was the salve for our wounds. And by all counts, Little Bear has flourished.

A Long Term Hospital Stay

I thought I’d put this all behind us, until recently I visited a friend in the hospital. My best friend is pregnant with her first baby. It’s a boy, and I am so excited to be boy-moms together, to pass on hand-me-downs, and to play auntie to a new, perfect little human.

Visiting my bestie.

When her fluid began leaking at 26 weeks, my friend and her husband prepared for the worst. She was admitted to the hospital and told that she’d need to stay there until the baby arrived. That was nearly nine weeks ago. Next week she’ll be induced and hopefully welcome a healthy little trouble-maker.

Visiting my friend reminded me how isolating hospitals are. She has been inside those walls for nine weeks. Can you even imagine? She has been living in the hospital for more than two months so that her baby will arrive as healthy as she can make him. She’s missed birthday parties, holidays, everyday life, even her own baby shower. But of course she doesn’t think of it that way; she just puts her head down through the hard times and does what she knows she has to do. I am so proud of the mom that she is, and her baby isn’t even here yet.

Penny Thornley

Anyway, one of the fun, unexpected parts of 365Outside has been the families I’ve met along the way. It’s been so fun to touch base and trade tips with families from around the country and abroad who share our values and understand our lifestyle. Though we’ve never met most of these people, we consider them our friends.

Penny with her doting big bro.

So it was with a gut-wrenching heartache that I read about Penny Thornley, the daughter of fellow adventurer-photographer-wildhearted-mom Sachi. Penny loves to play outside. Her parents bring her on all sorts of crazy, beautiful adventures. They love to hike, camp, and rock climb. Her mom’s Instagram account is basically a stream of beautiful people doing inspiring things outdoors.

Until it wasn’t.

These days, the pictures of Penny aren’t of a fearless conqueror of the outdoor world. They’re of a scared little girl with a brain tumor. It’s heartbreaking and seems doubly cruel for a family who thrived in such an active lifestyle.

Penny has a long road ahead, and the family has been thrown into a whirlwind of hospitals, surgeries, and medical jargon. Their new normal is something that I can’t even imagine.

But there are a few ways we can help. First, there is an Instagram auction happening now. It closes on Sunday at 7pm MST. Some amazing artists have donated some gorgeous goods. Check it out and bid generously at Pennies for Penny.

There is also a GoFundMe set up to help with the astronomical expenses, which will soon include relocating the family to Seattle where Penny can receive the best care. Head over to Positive Vibes for Penny! to contribute.

If you aren’t able to contribute financially, I’m sure the family will appreciate your good thoughts, whether offered through prayers, vibes, or juju.

You can do it, Penny.

Penny Thornley with her mom, Sachi.