Jessica Janzen Olstad
Jessica is the founder of the Love for Lewiston Olstad Foundation, based out of Calgary, AB. The Foundation was established after Jessica suffered the loss of her infant son, Lewiston to Spinal Muscle Atrophy – Type 1 (SMA). This interview is not just about loss but about “Love After Loss”. Through the interview and video links (below), you will experience the beautiful love story between Jessica and her husband, Ronnie. A story of how loss impacts the family dynamic, especially within marriage. You will be touched at how through their love and faith they not only overcame inconceivable tragedy but they have also come out stronger because of it. Their story is an amazing example to all of us of what unwavering faith and true unconditional love looks like. God was and is in every touchingly beautiful detail of their inspiring story. They truly inspire others to “Live Each Day With Purpose” and they are “Making a difference one day, one life at a time.” Jessica, Ronnie, and their daughter, Swayzie have created their Foundation to carry on Lewiston’s legacy by raising awareness and working towards finding a cure to fight SMA.To learn more about the incredible work they are doing, please click on their Foundation’s link here: loveforlewiston.ca
Also to get a better glimpse into the life and legacy of Lewiston, click on the video links below:
Lewiston’s Celebration of Life:
I hope after reading my interview with Jessica you will be inspired to:
Choose Movement. Bring Joy. Spread Love.
The Love for Lewiston Foundation was born of a position the Olstads embraced to spend their son Lewiston’s first birthday not as a pity party, but a celebration of his short but influential life and the life lessons they desired to pass on to others. They felt the community surround them in their darkest moments and encountered so much light and strength in sharing their burden that they wanted to keep spreading joy and love to others like it was so generously offered to them. They believe to their core that Lewiston’s message of “squeezing a little tighter, loving a little deeper and dancing a little longer”, is meant to be extended to the world.
With 7 weeks to the date, they rallied their close friends, organized and hosted their first official Lewiston Event on May 25, 2017 – it raised just over $42,000 in one night. To make everything legit as a foundation, the paperwork was prepared during the planning phases but not expected to be completed for months. Jessica received a call the morning of the party, Lewiston’s first birthday, declaring the paperwork had been processed, approved and certified. This was all thanks to an amazing accounting team at Pinnacle Accounting and Finance to help push through the paperwork and ensure every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. The Love for Lewiston Foundation is now officially a non-profit currently working to achieve its registered charitable status. Please ask us about tax-deductible receipts for your donations.
The Love for Lewiston Foundation exists to create awareness, bring joyful experiences spreading love and directing money to local families, and ultimately raising funds focused on treatments and finding a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy through SMA Research and The Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.
In an instagram post, that you wrote in honor of your son, Lewiston – you thanked him by saying, “Thank you for giving me the gift of life, In losing yours I found mine”. Can you share with the readers how you found life in the midst of losing your infant son? In losing my son it gave me new perspective. The days are precious and I don’t want to look back and say I wish I would have. He gave me the courage to be bold, use my voice and speak up for what I want and dream of. You really have to fight for what you need in the hospital and I realize that is true with life. I believe I am fully alive chasing my dreams knowing that they will come true.
What is life after loss like? It’s tough, it sucks, and it hurts. There are empty dark days, but there are also days that you slow down and hold onto the moments more. You long for what should have been. But you also make the most of what is given to you! It shifts your view and we choose the attitude that it is a blessing. It has deepened friendships and weeded out people who aren’t pouring into our life.
What impact has the lose of Lewiston had on your family dynamic, on your marriage? How has it helped your family to grow closer? Honestly a loss like this could totally rock you, destroy, and tear you apart. But Ronnie and I set a pact at the beginning of our journey saying that no matter what, we would stay together! I won’t lie, it has been hard. We have fought, and sometimes we let the hurt creep in and it wants to push you apart but we choose to stay connected. We have allowed it to bring us closer. It has had its challenges, but we keep fighting for our marriage. You have to put in the effort. We have slowed down. We set time aside and we pay more attention to others who need help.
What did Lewiston’s short life teach you? Where do you start. So many lessons. To slow down, to not doubt, to listen to the nudges of your heart, to choose joy, to run towards the roar (the things that scare you the most.) To be bold, to live fully alive and that having a hope in Heaven will be what saves you on the dark days.
What is the legacy you hope Lewiston’s life will leave for generations to come? Our prayer for Lewiston’s Legacy is that we inspire everyone to choose movement, bring joy, and spread love. We also believe that he will be part of finding a cure and getting treatment for those that are in need.
You also talk about your faith on instagram, how has faith been influential in carrying you through your loss? In helping you to cope, survive, and even heal?
I don’t know how you do it without a belief in God. There is hope in heaven.
After experiencing first hand how precious and fleeting life is, how do you make each day count and live life to the fullest? Making the most out of life?
Focusing on the things that really matter. Focusing on what I actually want to say yes to, saying no to things that won’t get us closer to our goals and continuing to dream big. Loving deep, squeezing tighter.
Any final thoughts or message you would like to leave the readers with?
Regardless of where things are at you get a choice. WE always say event plus response will equal your outcome. Our event – fighting for our sons life with his terminal diagnosis, plus us choosing joy and to make it count & matter. Equalled a life well lived, beautiful family memories, and now an opportunity to pour into others & help those in need. The average person gets about 30,000 days, Lewiston had 179. I don’t know my number but I do know I want to live them well.