25 Years of CDH International – 2003

2003 was a slow year for us as our secretary, Judi Toth, had to step down due to illness from surviving the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Our President, Dawn Ireland, was grieving a family member and a divorce. No volunteers stepped up to take the helm and so things slowed but still operated. It was a slow year for research as well.

CDH Medical World News for 2003

No big research news for 2003.

CDH International News for 2003

  • Member Ebay Auction fundraiser is held.
  • CHERUBS Australia National Member Get-together is held.
  • CHERUBS United Kingdom National Member Get-together is held.
  • Ohio member picnic is held in Columbus, OH.
  • Member picnic is held in Texas.

Newsletters and Publications

Words from our President

2003… what a hard few years.

Personally, my world started falling apart when my only child died in 1999. 6 months later, I lost my father figure, my grandfather. Then shortly after that, my baby sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just 2 years to live and passed away in 2002. She was a single mom of 3 little ones and suddenly, CDH wasn’t my priority anymore. In the middle of all this, my marriage to Shane’s dad, my high school sweetheart, fell apart. By the time 2003 came along, I wasn’t even 30 years old and life had been very hard. In all honesty, the charity was too much for me at the time. I was struggling just getting my life together, running a company, helping with 3 toddlers and doing a whole lot of grieving. I needed help running the charity too and no one picked up the baton to help run it, even though we had many great volunteers at the time.

When Shane died, Judi was the second person that I called after my parents. She drove from DC to North Carolina and helped with everything. She took over all the charity work, she helped with the funeral, she was my dearest friend. Then 9/11 happened and the woman who gave and gave, needed help herself. As I write this 17 years later… Judi is now disabled and unable to participate in the charity anymore. The strongest woman I know, the Army officer and alpha female who mothered everyone… isn’t physically here at the charity anymore even though her mark is still very deep. I never would’ve made it through those few years without her. She kept the charity going. There would be no CDH International without her.

During this time, everyone got a bit quieter. When the leaders don’t lead, the charity doesn’t buzz. The more active we are, the more active the families are. And we let the families down. Even though we had to survive ourselves, the families felt abandoned.

It was because of this that the first splinter groups started to form. Rather than volunteer and help, a few dissatisfied members decided to start their own charities… and attacked ours to recruit members. I look back at those years as a “medieval” era in the CDH community. Still in it’s infancy, learning and growing but not yet matured and then the internet… and the invention of blogs and social media with MySpace… and suddenly everyone had a platform and personal, public attention. And suddenly a few wanted their “own group” instead of helping the whole community grow together.

For years, I blamed myself for the dividing of the community…. if only I could have juggled it all. If only I had just pushed myself harder. If only, if only… It took years for me to see that this was a common problem for all charities and causes at that time. And the community hasn’t been the same since.

But we have matured and grown and reemerged stronger than ever. Those splinter groups don’t exist anymore. We are now CDH International. There are many other CDH charities and most of us work together in the Alliance of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Organizations (ACDHO).

Our growing pains were worth it all in the end.

– Dawn (Torrence) Ireland, CHERUBS Founder, CDHi President

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