Rhonda and Jason

Rhonda and Jason
Our Wedding Day

Monday, July 30, 2012

Holtrops ride as part of healing process and an ultimate goal

They rode the seventh annual Tour de Whatcom because they want to develop a charitable foundation, based on an athletic event in memory of their daughter and to help others in need.
And they rode, feeling certain that some day they will be riding as a family, teaching their children the joy of cycling.
"If God doesn't give us (biological) children, we'll adopt," Rhonda said a few days before the ride, flashing the determination in her voice that made her a three-sport athlete all four years at Lynden High School, when she was Rhonda Roosma.
Cycling is a new, and most welcome, sport in the lives of the couple. They love the outdoors, so their rides - 105 miles for Jason and 50 for Rhonda - were especially satisfying.
"It's pretty emotional but it's helping us to heal," Rhonda said by phone while waiting at a pit stop to finish the Tour de Whatcom because Jason's bike broke down and he had to grab a second bike. "Even the wait turned out well, since I got the chance to talk about Esther with a woman who had lost a child."
The Holtrops loved the gorgeous scenery on a cool day.
"What a beautiful course," Rhonda said. "This definitely is even better than we expected. We feel Esther was with us the whole time. There were a lot of smiles all around and what great people we met."
Rhonda, 32, is a Western Washington University graduate who has served for more than seven years as a Whatcom County juvenile detention officer.
"I have a degree in psychology, but I just felt more called to work directly with at-risk kids," she said in an interview a few days before the couple rode.
Jason, 39, a member of the Class of 1992 at Bellingham High, is a registered nurse at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. He's been a lifelong outdoors lover.
"I had mountain biked recreationally with Pastor Bill at our church, Good News Fellowship, and he kept hinting and asking us to do the Tour de Whatcom," said Jason, who borrowed his pastor's bike in order to ride.
Rhonda, likewise, was grateful for the opportunity.
"For me, running and doing anything outdoors is when I feel closest to the Lord," she said. "Now, to do something like (my first) 50-mile cycling ride, it helps me to relate to Christ's pain on the cross and the pain our daughter, Esther, had to endure in her short life."
The couple explained that Esther was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia - a disease that left her unable to develop lung, even after surgery on her 13th day of life. She was born with a hole in her diaphragm, meaning her stomach, intestines and other organs were pressed up too high into her chest cavity, interfering with her heart and preventing lung development.
"When we had our 21-week ultrasound, our first ultrasound, we first learned of the problem," said Rhonda. "She passed away May 2 of bleeding complications and not enough lung."
Except at the moment of birth, the couple never knew their child without tubes and other medical necessities.
They never heard Esther really cry - she simply never developed the lung capacity.
"Just a couple of peeps, that's all we ever heard," Rhonda said, causing a visitor to shed tears at the thought.
That's why the sound of children - especially their own - will always be welcome during an outdoor venture such as the Tour de Whatcom, which consisted of large loops of scenic country over rides of 105, 50 and 25 miles for hundreds of local cyclists. The rides started and ended at Fairhaven's Village Green.
"As soon as Esther passed, we felt passionate about wanting to help families going through crisis," Rhonda said.
"We feel that's the mission field the Lord has given us," Jason said.
The couple said they can envision an Esther Holtrop Foundation.
"Our No. 1 goal eventually will be to have our own race," said Jason, indicating they aren't yet sure whether it would be a bicycle, running and triathlon event, since the couple is now fond of a variety of outdoor exercise.
The couple said they'll always be sure of one thing about their daughter - "She was a fighter," they said.
"We didn't know if Esther would make it to the next room (following her birth)," said Rhonda. "She fought and fought and fought for 20 days. She fought just to see us. She never gave up. We knew her story needed to be told. Now we want to be an open book to help others."
The couple's love of competition and the outdoors, however, was not what led to their introduction.
"My mom (who recently retired from nursing) set us up," Rhonda said, explaining how she met Jason. He called a week after they were introduced and they were married a year and a day after their first date.
The couple said Esther's death did not shake their faith.
"I actually feel this experience strengthened and deepened our faith," said Rhonda.
"We feel a closeness and an intimacy with Jesus Christ that we had never known before," said Jason.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/07/29/2621455/holtrops-ride-as-part-of-healing.html#storylink=cp

Rhonda and Jason Holtrop are cheered on by Bellingham High cheerleaders as they cross the finish line of the Tour de Whatcom cycling race on Saturday July 28, 2012 in Bellingham. The ride was in honor of their daughter Esther Frances, who died on her 20th day of life of a rare congenital disease. "It was a step for healing. We wanted to go through something hard, like she did," says Rhonda. ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Here we are living on Esther memory, joy and Love in our hearts.  Jason and I want to let all of you know that we  are planning on helping other families in Whatcom County enduring crisis of their own along with other CDH families.  Join us in our next upcoming races by signing up for them.  Our next race we will be joining is the Bellingham Half Marathon.  We plan on doing the Bellingham Half, but you can do the 5k, half or full marathon.  At that race we will be handing out Esther running shirts for those wanting to purchase one.  All proceeds will be going to helping other families in Whatcom County.  We will be updating our future plans along with showing the design of our shirt for her in the next few weeks on this blog.  Just want to let you know so you can sign up and start training.  Let us know if you would like a shirt and we will have a table at the race to purchase one at.  Thanks so much for continuing to follow us in our journey.