Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Out of tragedy comes brighter life for many

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An Oakbank family is holding a fundraising run to honour their late son and to support a children's charity.

Porter Francis was born on March 3, 2008. When he was four months old he developed a rare immunodeficiency. His older sister Hudson donated her bone marrow in a last-ditch effort to save the infant's life. The donation took but it was too late for the baby.

Porter died on August 28.

"You would give your life for your child," says Tannis Francis, Porter's mother. "I remember being confused that my love for Porter was not strong enough to save him."

In his last days, Francis had reason to believe a miracle had happened.

"The doctors said his death was likely imminent. I remember not being ready to say goodbye. I just wasn't ready. His heart started pumping again. I thought my love was strong enough to save my kid.

"It doesn't seem fair."

Awash with grief, the devastated parents were forced to pull themselves together for the sake of their now almost four-year-old year old daughter.

"Right after Porter died, I was outside on the lawn playing ring around the rosy. I didn't want to get out of bed. But you have to. You have to put one foot in front of the other.

"Losing a child is unimaginable but we were lucky to have a healthy one. You owe it to your child."

While they are still grieving, Tannis and Ryan Francis decided to build a legacy for their son. They asked their friends and family to make donations in Porter's name.

The Children's Hospital, Wolseley Family Place, West Broadway Youth Outreach and Plessis Road Family Resource Centre were early recipients.

But they wanted to do more.

As Tannis Francis explains, one of the hardest parts about losing a child is that people stop using his name.

"People don't know what to say. I think one of the reasons we're having the run is just so people can say his name out loud. You speak someone's name and they're alive.

"It's so comforting to know he won't be forgotten."

The idea for the run came from Greg Lehmann, Tannis Francis' brother. He's an Ironman athlete and wanted to honour his nephew.

Without telling the couple, Lehmann and his partner booked a date and began searching out sponsors for a five-kilometre run or walk at Birds Hill Park.

"They told us all we had to do was show up and be ready to run."

The event takes place on August 15. Registration can be done online at www.runwithporter.com. There's a $30 registration fee with all proceeds going to the Sunshine Fund, a charity that sends children to camp.

"During the two months he was in hospital we watched the summer through the window. We'd tell him what wind feels like and what we liked to do in the summer. We would have gone camping with Porter. Now other children can go camping because of him."

Three hundred people have already registered for the event. The couple is hoping for 500.

They expect to raise $10,000 for the Sunshine Fund.

Sponsors have donated their services. The August 15 fundraiser starts with sunrise yoga and an organic breakfast for participants and volunteers.

"We'll be thinking about him and celebrating life and love and nature."

Young Hudson, Porter's sister, has her own way of remembering her baby brother.

"She believes Porter makes rainbows and that's how he smiles at her."

The family still grieves deeply but they've managed to take their sorrow and bring joy to the lives of other children. It's a remarkable act of compassion.

In addition to their joy that the fundraiser is already a success the Francis family has another reason to celebrate.

Tannis Francis is six months pregnant.

Happiness is coming to their lives once again.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2009 A2

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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