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Stories from 2020 influenced Gracyk

| December 23, 2020

Maddy Mahon is pictured with her mom Tiffany Dalzell Mahon. (Submitted)

2020 has definitely been a difficult year in so many ways, but along with the craziness we have all experienced, there have been some heartwarming, encouraging and uplifting reminders we can take away and start the New Year with.

As a new writer with the Beacon this year, I remember interviewing Danyelle Darr with Dany’s Pizzeria for my first story. We were both nervous because she did not have experience being interviewed and I did not have much experience interviewing. Actually, I did not even know what questions to ask for the story. However, I think with it being something new for both of us it made it special and helped calm my nerves some. I remember sitting across from her in her office feeling very relieved and grateful that she was as nervous and inexperienced at this as I was.

Plus, Danyelle and her workers were so patient and understanding and kind. They were very appreciative and added to the experience and the story by posing for pictures and sharing openly. I cannot think of a better group of people to have shared the experience with.

It was Danyelle’s husband Terry who inspired, encouraged and motivated her to start the new business. He believed in her and essentially helped her believe in herself. Her story is a good reminder of the influence we have on others. We can impact people in negative or positive ways; the choice is ours, but the impact can change a person’s life for the better or the worse. It is also a good reminder of how important it is to support and believe in those we love. We really do have more influence than we realize.

One of my most recent stories is also dear to my heart. Staff and students at the Opportunity School worked together on a community service project called Dress Up Main Street. They gathered coats, hats, scarves, gloves and socks for the homeless and needy in the community. They wanted to give back but also keep themselves and others safe; that meant being creative and thinking outside the box. And they rose to the challenge and conquered it well. They worked together and got 96 jackets with accessories hung from trees on Main Street for those who needed them to take.

It was a great reminder of the importance of thinking of others and putting others before oneself. In addition, it was a lesson in thinking outside of the box and allowing one’s creative juices to flow. Plus, the project allowed students to see the impact and difference one can make in a community, and hopefully it encourages those students to step out and continue to try to make a difference.

These stories were each special to me in their own ways, but there is one story I must admit is my favorite from 2020. It is near and dear to my heart and still causes me to cry when I read it. This story has so many lessons and good reminders in it. It was not a story about a business, an event, or a project. It was a story about a very dear friend of mine; a story about a family I have been very close to for at least 20 years.

When I was asked if I knew any cancer survivors for a breast cancer survivor story, Tiffany Dalzell Mahon and her family immediately came to my mind. I remember when they found out she was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the devastation and fear they all felt. I can recall how tirelessly they all worked and sacrificed and how they gave of themselves during that battle. I remember the countless hours I listened to each of them share their hearts, their struggles, and their fears. I knew their story; I knew it well. However, I was not sure if they would be willing to share their story, but I knew I had to ask.

That they were each willing to be interviewed and share from their perspective was a blessing and goes to show the hearts behind this family. They shared willingly, openly and thoughtfully. And the fact that they trusted me to share their story will forever be an honor and a privilege of mine.

Tiffany Dalzell Mahon’s breast cancer survivor story is a story of perseverance and hope, and it beautifully illustrates the power of family. How her family rallied together and made her fight with cancer a family affair was inspiring. Instead of battling it alone, she was surrounded by family and friends who pitched in and helped out and went above and beyond. We often say we will be there for our loved ones, but this family showed up and did not quit, and it is because of them that Tiffany did not give up.

2020 may not have gone as we had hoped or planned, but we have survived, we have learned and grown. My hope is that we will take the lessons from these stories and apply them to our own lives and allow them to motivate us to be better versions of ourselves in 2021.

Editor’s note: This column was written by freelance writer Tara Gracyk.

Category: People & Places

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