This is dedicated to Wayne and Ann Daniels. An extraordinary couple who has been influential in my life, in ways I never expected.
I met Wayne Daniels in 2006 when I started working at Los Cerritos Center (Macerich). He ran the weekly (yes, weekly) kids club event that was hosted on Wednesday nights. The whole kids club concept was so new to me that I was thrilled that Wayne and his team could run the show each week (not to forget I also had an awesome assistant at the time too). The following year or so a decision was made to discontinue the kids club program, which meant I no longer needed Wayne’s services. However, over the years I found ways to stay connected with Wayne and his team. We had at least two kid-centric events a year, and then in 2012 a new kids club platform was launched and we were back to a monthly basis. I was thrilled!
Wayne was a vendor. He fulfilled the center’s need. But there was so much more to him. I have never worked with anyone more passionate about kids and about creating fun, cool, new ways to help children learn and grow. The attention to detail was and continues to be amazing – very professional. And he loves what he does – you can see it all over his face and in his energy. Parents and children alike repeatedly left our events with smiles on their faces and hearts full of gratitude for the experience we created at the center. For the experience WAYNE and his team created FOR the center. He was called to impact children and he has in powerful ways.
This story takes a sad turn. In 2012 Wayne was diagnosed with cancer, and he continues to battle cancer to this day. When it first started no one knew. Wayne never let on that he was in a battle for his life. He never stopped working, never stopped giving each event his very best. His commitment was unparalleled. After awhile, though, he wasn’t able to continue attending each event so he sent in his lovely wife Ann. It has been an honor to get to know Ann over the last couple years. She proudly carries the Wayne Daniels Production torch in his stead. Wayne is still involved in the creative process, but Ann handles the day-to-day and events… while also taking care of her husband and beautiful little girl Norah.
I am sure by now you can see why I think this couple is extraordinary… and I haven’t even gotten to the best part! As we got to know each other more and more, we had one very important thing in common: God. Ann and I would talk about Wayne and his health, focus on God’s good plan, having faith, staying positive – you name it! After every conversation I would walk away completely blown away by Ann’s faith. Sure, things are hard but she has never lost hope. She has never expressed anger toward God (that I am aware of and even if she has that is totally normal!). She wonders why, we all do, but she trusts. She knows God will take care of her and Norah should Wayne be taken home sooner than expected. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Oh, and her positive energy is infectious!
I had a chance to visit Wayne this past weekend – such a rewarding experience. He is in home hospice and things are not looking great, but their hope remains strong. Wayne even said he felt like he might “spring to life” next week! Bring it on, Lord! As I chatted with Wayne and Ann, I was touched by their love for and commitment to one another. Life for them sucks right now, but they are not focused on that. They are focused on what God has in store for them, on what He has planned. It may not be what is wanted or expected, but they have no doubt that He is in control and truly works all things together for good for His children.
My visit was to lift their spirits, and I am sure that happened, but what I never expected was to walk away with my spirits lifted. Even in his weakest moment Wayne had encouraging (and some humorous) words to share. Wow. I aspire to be like Wayne and Ann in my approach to life and in my faith. They are amazing, and such a blessing to spend time with.
I ask that you please pray for them, however you feel led. And if you have anyone in your life that is extraordinary… please take a moment to tell them before that moment slips away.
I love you Wayne and Ann, and so does our Savior Jesus Christ!