Christmas is a special time for the Rich family of Bellingham. They're celebrating their own trifecta of birthdays: Mary Cris was born Dec. 26 and named for the holiday, Tony was born Dec. 25, and son Kiyan Gregory was born Dec. 24.
Tony manages the meat department at Sehome Haggen and Mary Cris is a phlebotomist for PeaceHealth Laboratories. They met when they both worked at the Barkley Haggen.
The family birthday party this week will celebrate Kiyan's second birthday.
Courtney Carlson, daughter of Karlene and David Umbaugh of Bellingham, shared a holiday memory about growing up with a brother with autism. She and her brother Cameron Carlson are 20 years old and grew up in Bellingham and went to Bellingham High School. Courtney is a psychology undergrad at University of Washington and works as an applied behavior analysis therapist in home settings. Cameron used to work at the Ershig Assistive Technology Resource Center at Western Washington University.
"Growing up as a sibling to a brother with autism was often difficult. From going out to restaurants, grocery shopping, and going on vacations; dealing with the behavior challenges and the attention my brother required made these activities a challenge.
"I knew that my brother was different and that he needed attention for those reasons, even if I didn't understand why. I knew my parents loved me but it was hard to watch my brother constantly in the spotlight.
"Inevitability, the holidays always brought chaos. Between going to family parties and opening presents, there was never a calm moment.
"But despite this, the holidays have always been a time that I felt the same love and attention as my brother. We would tear into our presents to find just what we asked for. Our parents would cheer as my brother opened his presents to engage him in the experience, and I beamed over the attention I got as I unwrapped each gift. I couldn't tell you what my presents were or what I had asked Santa for. All I remember is being with my family and the joy we all felt.
"My brother and I were both important on Christmas. It was the perfect time for me to see that our parents loved us both so much. I never felt more equal to him than I did those Christmas mornings.
"Now the holidays come around and I think about how things have changed. I look at my brother all grown up and realize how fast time is going by. But as things change, the holidays are a reminder that my family will always be there with unconditional love for both my brother and I. And that is the greatest gift I could ever ask for."
REAL HEROES HONORED
The Mount Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross held its 16th annual Real Heroes celebration Dec. 5. The event, sponsored by BP Cherry Point Refinery, raised $105,000. Here are details from the chapter:
"During the event, the Mount Baker Chapter honored 11 community members who saved lives, performed exceptional rescues, provided ongoing support to those in need, and dedicated their careers to the service of others. Each hero was nominated during the year and then selected by a panel of community leaders as the award winners.
"Over 300 guests attended the event to support the heroes being honored and to support Red Cross services in Whatcom County and Skagit Valley. Local businesses also donated at various levels helping to raise needed funds for emergency services throughout the year."
To donate, call 360-733-3290, go to redcross.org/mtbaker, or mail your donation to the American Red Cross, Mount Baker Chapter, 2111 King St., Bellingham, WA 98225.
Out and About is published Mondays in The Bellingham Herald.
Reach Executive Editor Julie Shirley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2261.