This Mother’s Day weekend, we wanted to salute a mom we know and admire. She is a business owner, a community advocate, and a dear friend to many. But in the last two months or so, she has become the mom of a very ill child, and has waded through some dark times with grace and a smile. Courtney Ballard McKay is an Urbana native who now owns Art Mart, the store her mother and aunt founded in the late 50s, with husband Brian. McKay has a long history of touching successful retail/food establishments in Champaign County. She co-owned Mirabelle Bakery starting in 1997 and helped open Bacaro Wine lounge in 2001, and founded/owned Jennifer North in downtown Champaign before closing that in 2011. The couple married in 2006, and Davis arrived in 2008. After a “typical” pregnancy, Courtney had an emergency C-section; it was then the family learned that their little boy had Down syndrome. The family expanded again in 2010 when son Grant was born. Life was “quiet” until Davis was suddenly diagnosed with Leukemia in March.
See why we think Courtney McKay is a Chambana mom to know.
I stay strong for Davis and my whole familiy’s sanity. Believe me, there is at least once a day where I start to do the “Why us?, What did we do to deserve this?” and I just have to block it out. There is no rationalizing that or changing the situation by dwelling on those questions. Davis is 4 now and will have daily treatment until he is 8 and that is overwhelming, but you just take it day by day. We spent the last month with 20 other kids on the oncology floor of Childrens Hospital in St. Louis and if that doesn’t put life into perspective for you and make you thankful for what you do have, I’m not sure what would.
So many people have told me “of all people able to deal with this situation they thought I could handle it” when in fact I would have said the opposite. I quickly learned that you just do it, you can’t not, so it definitely makes you mentally tough. We have had to learn as parents to accept setbacks and not view them as failing or scary but that all kids with cancer have them to some degree and you just change course from what was the original plan. You also get a crash course in what is important in life. I long for the now trivial worries I had about Davis before, and really hope to keep up the mentality of making more time to spend with friends and family. We long for taking things for granted again.
Our other son Grant, who is 2 has had a hard time, to leave with no notice whether for three days or 10 is a struggle for him to understand. When Davis cries about taking his medicine Grant is right there pushing us away from him or volunteering to take it for him, he knows things are different and wants to sit on our laps a lot or just have us be right next to him. He has had a great time with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins who he stays with while we are both gone. He has definitely not heard the word “no” often enough and has had chocolate milk and ice cream for dinner more than once. I take him to school every morning and pick him up early on the days we aren’t in St. Louis to try to give him his own time with me. We go to the park every night and play till he drops, I feel like it is a hard balance between spoiling him and also making him not feel left out.
It has been hard to be away from the Art Mart mostly because when we do go it is some much need normalcy to the day. Brian’s sister Catherine and our staff have gone above and beyond, taking over ordering, scheduling and basically being “us” for the past two months. We are now alternating going down to St. Louis so that one of us can go to work, then the other days we trade off staying with Davis at home. Grandparents and other family members have been great about watching Davis too so that we can both go in for an afternoon. We are looking forward to Farmer’s Market season, which started last weekend. Because it just makes everyone happy! I am starting new meals to go and we have some big weddings we are catering next month, that I have to hope I will be here for, but again to regain some routine to your life really helps you mentally.
We have been really fortunate for the press Davis has gotten for his fundraisers. I think it really shows the great part of having a locally owned business and community coming together. We have a personal relationship with many of our customers and many have wanted to help. Brian and I are truly humbled by the outpouring of help and support we have received. It has come from all corners of our lives. We had Dumplings for Davis which was a wild success, the website www.davismckay.com and a dinner at Bacaro to benefit Davis. One night a child on Davis’ floor had to wait eight hours for blood from Arizona. So we are hosting a blood drive on June 1 at Lincoln Square to try to give something back. We hope to partner with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Kids with Cancer to try to give back and help kids and families who are going through this. Art Mart makes an annual donation to the NICU at Carle where Davis started out his life. We will continue that but now we are certainly motivated to help kids with cancer in the area.
Hopefully we will spent Mother’s Day here, it is a stress reliever for me to be in the kitchen so we will have everyone over. I have learned to enjoy every single day with my husband and boys. No day together is wasted.
Do you know a Chambana mom or dad to know? We love nominations!