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Pursue Your Dreams

A Fire from Within: Emily Anhalt Continues to Dream Despite Her Battle with FSGS

Emily AnhaltWhen I first met Emily Anhalt, I was struck by how calm she was. She was a very mellow individual despite all that had happened to her. Now more than ever, I know the strength of the neighborhood girl who grew up across the street from me.

Since she was two-and-a-half years old, Emily has been battling Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, a kidney disease that has put her through multiple surgeries and infections. Recently, she’s had an even greater stay in the hospital (since the beginning of this year). 

But Emily is a survivor. And a dreamer.

She has inspired the Waunakee, Wis., community. At the Waunakee Community High School graduation, the class of 2013 wore orange ribbons on their gowns in Emily's honor, since she couldn’t join them. There are orange signs in the front yards of many homes in Waunakee, with a kidney shape around the words “Orange4Emily”, the title of an organization started to raise funds for her medical bills and kidney illness awareness overall. 

My dream is to get Emily's favorite band, One Direction, to visit her at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis. The band is on a North American tour, and they’ll be coming through Madison sometime between July 13 and July 18.

The boys of One Direction wrote a book about their life stories and rise to fame. Emily is inspired by their stories and dreams of writing an autobiography as well. If she’s able to meet them, she’ll be newly energized to publish her story, and get her message out there for other kids fighting chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

By getting One Direction to Emily, I want to make sure another American Dream is met. It's also what my company stands for.

Emily’s dream is not just her own, but the dream of her family, her friends, the hospital staff and her community. Now we're taking that dream on as our own.

You can help! Use social media to share Emily's story. I've even written a few tweets you could send - and share with Emily's favorite band - One Direction:

Sometimes a dream passes from an individual to a community (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Help us help Emily reach for her dreams despite FSGS (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Survivors are beautiful. Em is a survivor. Beautiful people do not just happen (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Emily’s a BIG fan. She’d love to see 1D to help move her towards her dreams (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

RT if you know of Em’s strength and dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

One community, one family, one girl, one dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Send your tweets to these people to generate the buzz we need to bring One Direction to Emily!

@ModestMgmt (One Direction’s management company)
@paulyhiggins (One Direction’s tour manager)
@onedirection (the band)
@Harry_Styles (Harry Styles, band member)
@zaynmalik (Zayn Malik, band member)
@Real_Liam_Payne (Liam Payne, band member)
@NiallOfficial (Niall Horan, band member)
@Louis_Tomlinson (Louis Tomlinson, band member).

Tweet as many times a day as you want. Tweet at as many different band members as you want. My only request is if the band or its management show any interest in meeting Emily, please direct them to me at cjuergen@amfam.com.

Thank you so much for your support and tweets!

Let’s make Emily's dream come true. 

Editor's note: Learn more about Emily's story on the Orange4Emily website, Facebook page and Twitter account.  

Posted by Carrie Juergens on Fri, Jul 05 2013 1:07 pmCarolyn Juergens is a summer intern at American Family Insurance. She's currently studying at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Stop to celebrate summer's little moments

30 Days of SummerGrowing up in a family of five kids, you can imagine the kind of chaos that embarking on our summer camping trip created.

As my mother frantically filled our industrial-sized cooler with enough hot dogs and baked beans to feed a small country, my siblings and I scurried about looking for lost swimsuits, fighting over beach toys, and trying to coax our stubborn dog into the back of our ancient Volkswagen van.

“Bus is leaving!” my Dad used to holler, honking the horn as we scrambled to get in - fishing poles sticking haphazardly out the windows, and our dog naughtily sneaking nibbles from the picnic basket. This chaotic routine greatly amused our neighbors, along with our inevitable return to the house to retrieve whatever beloved stuffed animal someone had forgotten – and just couldn’t do without.

You’d think this yearly circus we went through to go camping would have gotten tiresome, but it never did. To me, it signaled the long-awaited start of summer – but more importantly, it was a rare chance for my whole family to spend time together. Whether we were relaxing around the campfire, hunting for frogs in the lake, or playing card games, these moments are the ones I will always remember and cherish.

Whatever your own, fond recollections of summer may be, the truth is this time of year has a wonderful, effortless way of bringing us closer to the ones we love. In this spirit, American Family invites you and your family to join us for our 30 Days of Summer celebration.

The American Family Insurance 30 Days of Summer Throughout the season, we’ll feature ideas for family fun and safety with our communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Whether it’s catching fireflies, a day at the ball park, or waiting for the neighborhood ice cream truck, 30 Days of Summer seeks to celebrate and protect the little summer moments that can inspire lifelong memories.

Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures!

Posted by Grace VanDeWeghe on Thu, Jun 20 2013 1:27 pm

What does Dad want for Father's Day?

What are you getting Dad for Father's Day?I've never been big on gift-giving for Father's Day. I'm pretty reserved and practical. I don't wear ties much. I appreciate the simple things fatherhood provides - like time and experiences with my family. 

The rest of the world seems to be different. Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day skew toward retail, using these special days to get us to buy the latest gadgets, ties or $19.99 flower bouquets that last a few days. 

This year, AskMen.com put together a list of the 10 best gifts for Father's Day. It's a fun and visual look at popular items for today's busy Dad. (I mean, who wouldn't want a new set of golf clubs?).  

But lists like these always ring a bit hollow for me. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate giving and receiving gifts - any time of year. But I'm more interested in what those gifts can create. Like No. 10 on AskMen.com's list - grilling tools. I love to grill dinners for my family in the backyard. Would new grilling items help? Sure. But the better part of that gift is how it enhances the time I get to spend with my family.  

This year, my family and I are spending Father's Day together at a Major League Baseball game. I can think of few things more enjoyable on a summer day than going to the ballpark and experiencing the sights and sounds with my kiddos. (My only regret is not getting to spend some Father's Day time with my dad.)

This year, I appreciate the gift of game tickets and having the health and means to get there. But I will remember how my kids reacted to the day's events more. 

What does your dad want for Father's Day? Hopefully, you can spend some time together this year with the Dads in your life.

Leave a comment and win this cooler/grill combination!Editor's note: Leave a comment on this blog post, and tell us your best Father's Day gift idea. For doing so, you'll have a chance to win this grill-cooler combo (see photo to at right). This giveaway closes Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12 p.m. CST.  One entry per email address is permitted. We'll select the winner using random.org and announce him/her the following Tuesday, June 18, as an update to this post.  We'll notifiy the winner via email and ask her/him to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within seven days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected.

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Mon, Jun 10 2013 10:34 am

Getting my "healthy me" back

Amanda TillmanMost of us have goals of being healthy and fit. Unfortunately busy lives combined with convenient, less-than-healthy foods often contradict good nutrition and exercise.

I’m an example.

Growing up, I loved to walk, play tennis, rollerblade, snowboard and bike. I ate well, but didn’t pay real close attention since I was so active. In my late 20’s, things changed.

Workouts started getting lighter and food choices got a little lax. Along with that, my pants started getting a little tighter. I also began using food as a coping mechanism for stress.

I reached a point where I knew I needed to get my former “healthy me” back. I wanted to physically and mentally feel whole again. I met with my physician and after charting my weight for the past six years, it was clear I needed a change. Within the week I had an appointment with a nutritionist.

The first thing I learned was how to eat properly. I not only needed to burn more calories than I took in, I wanted to do it in a healthy way and be sustainable too. I learned how to measure my portions and track calories, fat, fiber and protein to ensure I was eating a balanced diet that was not only healthy, but would keep me satisfied. I kept a food journal to make sure I stayed on track.

The next step was re-evaluating my physical activity. Fortunately for me, exercise was always in my life even when I wasn’t focused on my weight.

I learned that camping out on a treadmill three to four days a week for 40 minutes wasn’t enough. So, I increased my workouts to five days a week for an hour a day. I joined a tennis league and started participating in boot camps, cardio classes and weightlifting. I added strength and cardio to get the best results, and the variety kept things from getting boring. Soon the weight started coming off – one to two pounds a week, to be exact.

I started my journey two years ago in April. I’ve lost 70 pounds and have kept it off for almost a year. It hasn’t been easy. I still carry my food journal and every day is a struggle. I had to find a balance between healthy food and exercise while still occasionally eating "fun” foods. Do I eat pizza, cheeseburgers and fries? Yes, but I’m smarter now about when and how often.

My newest challenge is running races. Not long ago, I hated to run. But I’ve discovered what an effective workout it is, and I like the competition. To date, I’ve completed several 5Ks, two 10Ks and am training for my first half-marathon!

Along my journey, I’ve learned plenty about myself. Even if I don’t always feel great every day, if I try to feel better and do better every moment, it’s easier to make my way to great.

If I can do it, you can, too. Once you make up your mind to do something, you can achieve anything.

Posted by Amanda Tillman on Fri, Jun 07 2013 10:10 amAmanda Tillman is a creative development administrator for American Family Insurance.

Have you thanked a veteran today?

Thank a veteran this Memorial Day weekend.I never grow tired of stories from those who’ve served in our Armed Forces.

As a young newspaper reporter, I met one of the last surviving veterans of WWI. Though 90 years had shriveled his frame, he stood tall and proud as I took his photo next to an American flag.

On another occasion, I interviewed one of the few surviving crew members of the U.S.S Indianapolis, the last American ship sunk by enemy forces in WWII. He recalled with vivid detail four days floating at sea until rescuers arrived.

And as a child, I listened intently as my father and uncle relived their war experiences from the Army and Navy, respectively. Though serving in a foreign land may not have been the optimal way to spend their youth, they never regretted the role they played in defending our nation’s freedoms.

I’ve met a good share veterans from my own generation as well – men and women who’ve served in numerous capacities, for many different reasons. Some, like me, were stateside in the Reserves, fortunate to have stayed out of harm’s way. Others weren’t so lucky – separated from their families for many months and by thousands of miles to serve our nation’s call.

As part of our 30 Days of Thanks, American Family recognized veterans for their service. We were pleased to hear from numerous people who have worn the uniform. Here are just a few comments we received: 

  • “I served in the Korean War on the front lines from late Feb 1951 until Dec 31, 1951, A VERY cold place – much like Minnesota – and we had no overshoes or winter sleeping bags....Brrr.”
  • Sometimes we’re all forgotten about, and what we give up for our country. Family, health and life.”
  •  "I am a veteran – 4 years active duty, Security Forces USAF. I show my appreciation to Veterans everyday by acknowledging them when I see or meet them."
  • "Yes, I am a Veteran of WWII – one of the few still alive.  I was a medic and worked in a large Veteran's hospital as a surgical tech, so I saw the terrible results of war. I also lost some of friends I trained with."
  • "Having served 21 years myself, I thank God everyday for these young men and women who keep us safe today.  We must never forget however, all our veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and all the other victories forged by our gallant men and women in uniform."

Thank you to all those who took the time write. And thank you everyone who has served in the Armed Forces – in war, in peace, at home and overseas. We live the results of your service every day.

P.S.: Want to thank a veteran? Leave a comment, or head to our Facebook page and post a message on our Wall. 

Posted by Paul Bauman on Fri, May 24 2013 7:25 amPaul Bauman is a web experience administrator for American Family Insurance. When not developing content for the company’s websites, he enjoys sharing the running trail with his thoughts, which move at a much faster pace.
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