“I’ll never take for granted the air I breathe.” How many of us can say the same thing? Ryan Messinger, one of the amazing employees we have here at Artbeads, lives by the phrase, “Just breathe.” It’s what he and his family kept telling his sister, Amanda, when she was dying in the hospital. Just breathing was all she could concentrate on during those final days. Those two words were so important that Amanda even got a tattoo of the phrase. Amanda had Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening and chronic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog the lungs and airways of the body. This genetic disease affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. Two of those people were Amanda and Jessica Messinger. Here’s Ryan’s story of his two sisters:
Jessica Messinger was born on July 21, 1989 and Amanda Messinger was born July 21, 1990. Jessica was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was three years old. Amanda was diagnosed when she was four. Jessica and Amanda both had totally different personalities and it was Amanda who inspired everyone she met…Amanda had to see her sister Jessica die from a disease she had. Sharing birthdays just one year apart, they were like twins—best friends—and they shared everything together. They both helped each other emotionally, physically and spiritually. When Jessica’s CF got worse, Amanda adopted the role of older sister and spent most of her life caring for Jessica. Amanda really helped Jessica with everything: homework, meds, breathing treatments, getting dressed, cooking meals and helping her with her chores. Amanda always stood up for her sister when she was bullied at school for being different and obviously sick with CF. Even though Jessica was not as popular as Amanda they were both a little jealous of each other, but in a good way, just like twins are. Jessica passed away two months after her 16th birthday in 2005 from Cystic Fibrosis. The loss of Jessica took a great toll on my mom and she passed away at the age of 46 in 2010. Amanda passed away on New Year’s Day 2013 from Cystic Fibrosis. Family and friends who knew them will miss them dearly. Jessica, Amanda and Mom are no longer suffering. They sing and laugh in Heaven until we all can be together again. Before Amanda passed away, she asked her best friends and family members to continue to fight for her after her death by helping to find a cure. It was Amanda’s drive [that] pushed us to fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
Now, after suffering from personal loss and spending countless nights in hospital rooms, Ryan and the Pandamanda Foundation his family and friends started are fighting to make his sister’s dreams a reality and to make hospital experiences easier for the families and patients involved. “Spending the night in the hospital can be draining. Lights are turning on and off at all hours, it’s uncomfortable, [and it has] bad food,” Ryan explained. He and his father really needed a place to stay that was close to the hospital but that could also be their safe haven. The better their experience was, the higher their spirits would be, and in turn they could lift the spirits of their family members in the hospital. If they could rejuvenate their own souls they could be the rock for their loved ones.
The Pandamanda Foundation is dedicated to spreading awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and creating a home away from home for families affected by CF and other terminal diseases. Ryan and his team hope to raise enough money to buy a house close to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. The house would be a place where families could stay without having to stay in the hospital. They could cook their own food, sleep in a bed and enjoy the other comforts of home while still being close to their ailing loved ones. This house would be open to families with loved ones in the hospital for any reason, not just those affected by CF like Amanda and Jessica. Although they’re still in the beginning steps, the Pandamanda Foundation has found unique ways of raising money to achieve their goals.
Ryan has been making jewelry to auction off in an effort to raise more money. We’ve showcased Ryan’s astounding jewelry design skills in a previous blog post—so you may already know that he’s a natural designer. Ryan’s pieces are mainly seed bead designs, but he also likes to mix in Swarovski components when he can. Other team members are pitching in with jewelry designs, as well. Jade, a member of the foundation, is making jewelry with a little more bling, and foundation member Jolene has been creating jewelry with more earthy, natural elements. Artbeads Co-Owner and Chief Jewelry Designer Cynthia Kimura recently donated over $300 worth of beads so Pandamanda members can make more jewelry.
The pieces they’ve been making for this cause are now part of a collection—Just Breathe Designs. These designs will be available for purchase on the Pandamanda Foundation website (coming soon). “For a while, I never thought about why I made jewelry,” Ryan says. “Now I know. I now have a purpose for making jewelry.”
Every member of the Artbeads family wishes Ryan and the foundation the best of luck in their fight. We are certainly proud of him for his bravery and tenacity in fighting for a cure and the welfare of other families battling terminal illness. You can visit the Pandamanda Foundation on Facebook to purchase merchandise and learn more about their story.