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  • Writer's pictureJillian Heilman

Servicing Others by Sprinkling a Little Sparkle and Joy

The Halle Grace Foundation had the opportunity to partner with United Healthcare’s Service Heroes Program this March during their annual retreat. This partnership allowed me to share Halle’s story with 440 of their outstanding employees who were recognized for exemplary service to their clients. These Heroes not only heard Halle’s story, but joined in the mission of the Halle Grace Foundation as they spent one evening of their retreat, creating 500 Sparkle Bags that were then delivered later in the week to Orlando area children’s hospitals.

The Halle Grace Foundation launched this new initiative, Sparkle Bags, last Fall with a few small groups of volunteers. When Halle was in Hospice, I asked her how I would know she was around when she left for heaven. She thought for a minute and then tilted her head, and said: “don’t worry mom, I will send sparkle.” My girl loved her bling! The Foundation took her sign and created a way to sprinkle a little sparkle and joy on children who needed it the most. These bags are filled with all kinds of goodies; some items may include: books, toys, card games, stuffed animals, and more. Sparkle Bags are then delivered to local area children’s hospitals to be handed out to children who are receiving medical treatment.

This exciting collaboration with UHC Service Heroes began last Fall, when one of my high school friends, Jessica, recommended our small non-profit to the company she works with, as they were looking to partner with a local non-profit for their service responsiblity project at their annual retreat. Jessica shared Halle’s story with one person who then shared it with another and before I knew it, I was on Teams calls with the event planners. Over the next six months we brainstormed ideas, and developed a program that, not only created something for children in the hospital, but also allowed me the opportunity to share Halle’s story, our family’s story with these outstanding health professionals.

In one night with the Service Heroes, we were able to spread more sparkle than I could ever imagine! This was by far the largest collaboration the Foundation has ever ventured on and I was a tad bit nervous going into the event. Typically, speaking in front of people is no problem for me, but not this day. I arrived for the mic check and rehearsal earlier in the day. Gabriel, from the production crew walked me through the backstage run through and Nigel, the Emcee, made the rehearsal go smoothly. Why was I so nervous?

After the noon rehearsal, Neeley, who was home for Spring Break, spent a few hours with me to ease my nerves. My girl knows me well, she found a speakeasy at Disney Springs, that was hidden away under a bridge in the festive venue. It was a quaint and calming place that I know Halle would have loved. We spent the lunch hour talking about Halle and how much she would love that we were saying her name and continuing her legacy of joy.

When returned to the event hotel, Neeley took some time to do homework and I ran through my speech a few more times, but again the nervousness was getting to me more than usual on this day. As I walked back into the conference room and behind the production stage, I found Gabriel again ready to mic me up. He clipped the mic to my shirt and the battery pack on my hip but something was wrong. Mic #5 wasn’t working. It had been just a few hours ago…this was weird. Gabriel apologized for being in my face so much as he readjust the system. As we were nose to nose I saw it. I saw three pieces of gold glitter on his cheek. Each time he had to test my mic and adjust the battery, his face sparkled. Gabriel’s bling was a little nod from Halle, saying “You got this. It will all be okay.” I took a deep breath and let out a little laugh and nodded to Halle for again reminding her momma that she’s right there with me each time I share her story. Then out of nowhere, Gabriel said, its working again. We were all set. What he didn’t know was Halle was part of that team 😊

Before I knew it, Nigel was introducing my name and I was on stage in front of 450 amazing humans who received Halle’s story and our Foundation’s message with joy, laughter, a few tears and tons of sparkle. The next hour flew by. After sharing Halle’s story, we cranked up the music, played some trivia, and danced as we filled bags that would be shared with so many children in need. I was honored to walk around the tables and meet the many Service Heroes being honored that week. After having shared Halle’s story, these people shared their own. One woman had a son who was hearing impaired, another woman had a child missing part of their 7th chromosome, and another had

a grandchild with a chromosome anomaly, Lorelei, I think her name was. The room was energized as everyone was working towards a common goal, a goal that would benefit so many children in the hospital. Some in that room, knew firsthand the importance of the work they were doing and they trusted me with their stories. It was truly a powerful moment in time. At the end of the night, each group came to the front of the room and dropped off the bags they filled and danced around the room, all while Halle’s playlist was booming through the room. I was humbled to see so many of these people already wearing the “Halle bands” I had gave them after hearing Halle’s story.

A couple days later, I returned to Orlando to assist with the delivery of all those Sparkle Bags. As I waited in the lobby of the hotel for the loading to start, I had many people from the previous night walk up to me and point to their bracelet and say: “I won’t forget Halle.” “I already shared Halle’s story with others.” “Look, I am wearing her band.” As a mom who has lost a child, this meant more to me than they could ever know. I truly felt Halle with me that day.

I was so humbled that day. Humbled and honored, as several of those Service Heroes chose to spend their morning with me as we delivered 500 Sparkle Bags to Nemours Children’s Hospital and Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. Thank you to my delivery buddies and THANK YOU to everyone at United Healthcare Service Heroes Program who made those days so special. Please know that families were immediately being impacted by your kindness and generosity.

The day after the delivery, we already heard back from a family who received one of these Sparkle Bags:

Thank you EVERYONE who helped us spread a little SPARKLE in Halle's Name!

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