C o U r A g E

Just the other day I read the following: 

‎"When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them."   

The next day I met Joe Hegarty at Santoni’s 25th anniversary celebration during a charity event I was photographing.  Joe and I had a chance to talk during the event and he shared his story with me that led to the creation of the Courage Lion.




Joe tragically lost his son to Kawasaki syndrome one day shy of his tenth birthday.  There was only a matter of two weeks from the time of diagnosis until his death, despite access to some of the best medical care in the world.






Joe was at a total loss.  The death of a child so completely reverses the cycle of life, studies suggest it is the most stressful thing a person will ever deal with in life.   John Ramming watched Joe walk through a parent’s worse nightmare and was compelled into action.  The two collaborated to start the Courage Lion Foundation.   In the face of devastating loss, there is a burning desire to see some beauty rise from the ashes of our sorrow.   






Joe and John noticed when at the hospital that critically ill children needed more support to navigate the very unchartered waters they often felt sinking in.   That’s where the creation of Duffy the Courage Lion comes in. 






Children in the Courage Lion program receive a one-foot tall, stuffed, yellow Duffy.  Duffy has long front legs so children can cover their eyes or ears to show people they are scared.   He also has a pocket over his chest in which notes of fear may be dropped and a river stone for courage. 




Rick Santoni with his four children, joining in the dance with the Courage Lion crew!




Duffy has a book, a cd with music, and a read along CD for children not old enough to read.   Duffy is also a Swiss rated stuffed animal, which means he is the highest quality available on the market today.




The book, which was shared with the crowds during the musical presentation, is meant to be a tool to help children deal with the emotions they are experiencing during their trauma.   Artists, writers and musicians have donated their time and collaborated to create these resources.  Countless books have been placed in the hands of children and parents when they are facing their worst nightmare. 












Duffy is a tool that helps children acknowledge the confusion and pain they feel in trauma.   Joe and John are passionate about spreading the Courage Lion program to as many hospitals as possible.    Thankfully, wonderful businesses like Santoni’s partner with them to help make their dreams a reality.






Rick Santoni, owner of Santoni’s Italian deli and catering in Glyndon, invited John Ramming, Joe Hegarty and his Courage Lion program out to his Santoni’s 25th anniversary celebration.  The day was filled with games for the children, face painting, crafts, live music, dancing and DJ services donated by Detour Dave Sandler.  




Thanks officers for obliging me and Mom for this shot! 




The smells of pit beef, turkey and ham filled the air all day and brought the residents of Glyndon out in droves.  I joked this crew must have fed half of Glyndon during that weekend celebration.   This line moved incredibly fast all day and yet there were always more people in line wanting sandwiches!   Santoni’s commitment to excellent customer service was readily apparent throughout the entire event. 














Santoni’s personal goal was to see $25k be raised for Courage Lion to coincide with their 25th anniversary.   They pulled out all the stops to make this day’s celebration a blast for the residents of Glyndon and to help raise awareness and support for the Courage Lion program.   Best wishes Santoni’s and Courage Lion to bring many smiles to all who grace your business and program in the future!












 (there was no shortage of hula hoop tricks demonstrated on this day!)












Look for this little guy on MTV someday---his dance moves were awesome!


























Somebody better get Duffy a work permit!




The Dirt Man---award winning spice combos to bring zest to every dish!





A Santoni's VIP.