Freeport, Illinois – It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I get overwhelmed with emotion. I’m not a reporter. I’m not a journalist. I never started Today In The Port and Freeport News Network to attempt to be one either. My career path started many years ago in marketing. I’m a marketing guy, if you were ever wondering.
As most of you already know but for those who do not, I started all this because I was tired of seeing all the bad news written and broadcast about my town.
Everyone, including the newspaper was leaving and no one had anything good to say about Freeport anymore. They lost hope, vision, sight, creativity, so, I decided to shake things up a little and do something about it. It’s an understatement to say that things have gone pretty well.
My skill, I can take a blank sheet of paper (or a town with no exciting news) and turn it into something amazing, beautiful and interesting. I paint with color. I’m an idea guy. I can make a big noise about a product, a business, an event, a person, or even – my home town.
I got excited about Freeport and started broadcasting the good here, the great here, the treasures here and most importantly, the wonderful people here.
As I knew it would, it caught on too.
The newspaper is covering more stories and news of Freeport than they have for decades. The editor of the paper follows Today In The Port and even friend requested me on Facebook.
Rockford news stations are in Freeport far more than they have ever been. They watch us too and, their news of Freeport is more positive. It’s working. The “feeling” of Freeport is changing.
The view of a positive, good community is becoming more of the “culture” of Freeport. It’s not perfect yet, it’s not there completely, but the news landscape is changing and Today In The Port and Freeport News Network and every one of you who tune in are the innovators of that change. They’ll never give us “the people” the credit, but we are.
There’s always a story within the story though isn’t there. There’s always another angle, viewpoint, outlook or behind the scenes view that is overlooked. It’s a failure of current news, aside from the blatant ways they try and influence people. A prime example of that is in the story of the Wiesenberg family.
See, Shaun and Michelle Wiesenberg have a nine year old daughter with epilepsy. They discovered it after noticing their daughter twitching her eyes a lot and not knowing exactly why, finally took her to the doctor only to discover Kendall had a form of epilepsy.
Now, I don’t know if you have a sick child or have experience with anyone who does, but knowing your child has epilepsy, or a heart condition, or is autistic or any other health related condition can be devastating. Everyone wants a healthy child, but when you add the emotional, physical and financial burden that comes along with having a child health problem, it can make matters even that much worse.
While all of us over the past two years have been dealing with our own lives, our own “issues”, the Wiesenberg family has been dealing with having a child with epilepsy. And there comes the emotion. See, there’s another entire story just in that thought right there.
Fast forward two years though, a few weeks back Kendall’s grandmother wrote us a message. She told us her granddaughter was having a lemonade stand to raise money for epilepsy, more specifically, Livy’s Hope and the Epilepsy Foundation.
So, on Friday morning, the first day of Kendall’s stand, I went out to cover the event and speak with Kendall, Shaun and Michelle. Here is the news piece I did.
9 Year Old Freeport Girl And Her Family Raise Money For Epilepsy. Today From 7-Noon.
Posted by Today In The Port on Saturday, July 30, 2016
The news piece had 7,300 views and reached over 13,000 people. A few days later Kendall’s mom Michelle wrote me a note. In her note, she thanked me.
“I just wanted to take a moment to say a huge thank you for covering my daughters lemonade for Epilepsy stand on Friday! Words cannot describe just how proud of her I am and we had absolutely no idea just how big this was going to be.
We are still waiting on a couple donations but by the end of the week we will have raised over $2,200 for Livy’s Hope and the Epilepsy Foundation!! We could not have done it without your help. We had so many people stop by Saturday and say they saw us on Today in the Port.
Freeport gets such a bad rap but I witnessed a wonderful, supportive community come together for a great cause. It doesn’t get much better than that! We enjoy your page so much and appreciate everything you do for our community.
I didn’t respond to Michelle.
I saw the entire family this past weekend at 4 Seasons bowling lanes in Freeport though. They were there taking advantage of the “Good Ole Days of Bowling” the 4 Seasons was putting on where you could bowl for 99 cents. Even grandma was there.
Shaun came up to me right away and shook my hand and said thank you. Michelle followed and said thank you again to me. I told her I did receive her message and told her that messages like that set me back a little. I didn’t really explain why at the time. I also saw Kendall and had a chance to congratulate her on her successful fundraiser. We gave each other high fives.
Even though I know the awareness I helped bring them and yes, I know Kendall’s story was seen by 10’s of thousands of people, to be the one saying thank you when you also are the one who endures the situation, I find incredibly revealing of the true nature of the people here. Once again, here is yet another story within the story.
Sure, I lent my skills to this family, but they’re the ones with the 9 year daughter with epilepsy. They’re the one’s going through everything and yet they thanked me. How do I say you’re welcome to that? Answer? I don’t. I don’t say you’re welcome.
In a similar conversation I had years ago with a close friend, we were discussing something of a similar nature. At the time my friend was saying how this particular situation we were talking about deserved a thank you, recognition and my belief then and now is still the same.
That belief is that there is no honor in doing what you should do anyway. There’s no honor in showing up to work on time. There’s no honor in giving a hard days work. There’s no honor in paying it forward, helping each other, doing what we can for someone else. It’s what we’re supposed to do anyway, isn’t it?
They do, right? I mean, the Wiesenberg family does, yes? They care for and love and provide for Kendall. Who thanks them? Who says, good job Shaun and Michelle? Thank you for raising a good child, a caring child, a child who despite her condition wishes to pay it forward herself? Isn’t that too deserving of a thank you? Isn’t that actually, more deserving of one?
While I am grateful for Michelle’s message to me, I don’t have a “you’re welcome” to return to her. I have thank you to return to both Shaun, Michelle and Kendall. I am humbled by your story and all stories like yours. I am humbled by 9 year old Kendall, the daughter who has the brightest smile, her entire life ahead of her and I’m humbled that she goes through that which most people never will.
While I love that Michelle took the time to say thank you, (and yes, it goes a long way) I must remind all of you that like Shaun, Michelle and Kendall you are the story of Freeport. I’m just here to tell it. I’m just here to listen to you and what I listen for is authenticity, heart, compassion, perseverance along with a few other “Greg” things.
To me, THIS is news. I am not protected by hearing about the person arrested for drugs; my children don’t eat any less (or more) if Blagojevich’s gets a lesser sentence and I really could care less if Bruce Jenner is a girl, boy, or a monkey. I don’t see color, beauty, fame or money so the news can stop trying to convince me to see all of them, because I don’t. Sorry mainstream news.
WE are the news. WE are Freeport. WE together are this community and if we could all just strip ourselves of a little pride, chop away at that self entitlement attitude and step down from the pedestal we all think we deserve to stand on, a community that helps, while at the same time does their part, is ripe for the taking.
As Michelle stated, “Freeport gets such a bad rap but I witnessed a wonderful, supportive community come together for a great cause.” She’s right, but I’ll add to that this parable which says, “honor comes not in covering the event, it comes from being asked to cover the event“.
Shaun and Michelle’s event is Kendall.