What a busy week. Christmas is fast approaching and we’ve hardly had time to slow down since Thanksgiving. We have a large family to buy for and we’re normally done with Christmas shopping by now. We’re behind our game this year. I just haven’t been in the Christmas spirit. But luckily you can buy anything online.
As you can see, I am no stranger to online shopping.
This year we’re taking advantage of AmazonSmile. If you don’t know, AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) to your favorite organization. You can choose from nearly one million charitable organizations to support. It is so easy to do and we hope others take advantage of it.
To get started, go to smile.amazon.com to pick your organization, and then start buying. But, you have to purchase your items from smile.amazon.com in order for the donation to occur. Don’t worry – it includes all of the same products as amazon.com. Once you start buying, you can see your impact (below).
So far, I’ve generated $1.38 for the Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but it all adds up. And when you are a charitable organization, every little bit is appreciated.
Speaking of the Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan, I am thrilled to tell you that I will be serving on their Board of Directors in 2017. I am beyond excited to be involved at this level. Not only does it make me feel closer to my son, I am deeply committed to advocating for individuals with Ds and bringing awareness to Ds. I truly hope to make a difference.
Andy and I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Board members this weekend at their holiday party (below).
We had a great time learning about the organization, discussing and creating plans for a future project that we will be launching. More to come on this soon.
Now, turning to our current project, The Angel Tree – I was busy making more ornaments this weekend. So far, I’ve had 120 families request to have their child honored on the Angel Tree. It is so humbling to be able to do this for so many families. I know how much it means to have someone remember your child – especially during a season where your heart is likely to be hurting the most.
I made 18 more ornaments this weekend and tried my best to make each one unique and different in its own way. Through this project and through social media, I’ve come to know these parents and about their sweet babies. Let me tell you about them.
Natalie’s son Zachary was born after an irregular heartbeat was detected at 34 weeks and 4 days. He was born via emergency c-section and unfortunately, left this world several days after. I feel connected to Natalie because Jensen was born at 34 weeks 5 days also via emergency c section due to an irregular heartbeat.
Zachary’s mom said Winnie the Pooh reminders her of her son – I hope she finds comfort in this ornament for Zachary.
Naomi’s son Zachariah was born still this past spring. I’ve come to know Naomi through an online support group for parents who have lost a child with Down syndrome. We have become good friends in the wake of losing our sons.
Naomi has done wonderful and positive things in her son’s name. She launched a Cuddle Cot Campaign this fall and in two weeks raised over $3,o00 to donate a Cuddle Cot to a local hospital. Because of Naomi, grieving families will be able to spend a little bit more time with their precious babies.
Anchors remind her of Zachariah – I hope she finds comfort knowing that we are thinking of her family this Christmas.
Where do I start with Walt the Warrior? My gosh, there is so much to say. First, let me start with a story. After Jensen’s funeral in August, Andy and I were driving through a parking lot in downtown Farmington. As we were driving I saw a mother holding a baby with Down syndrome right next to us. I was stunned. It is not very common for me to see anyone who has Ds on any given day. Over a stretch of 4 months since Jensen had been diagnosed, I only saw one person with Ds. How coincidental was it that I saw a baby boy with Ds on the day of my son’s funeral? It was unbelievable. I truly believe it was a sign from Jensen. In that moment, I wasn’t sad – I felt happiness and peace. I wanted to run out of the car and ask that mom if I could hold her baby.
Ever since then, I love to see pictures of babies, children and adults with Ds. I think individuals with Ds are incredibly beautiful. I feel closer to my son whenever I see a person with Ds. One might think this would be painful for me, and to an extent it is, but to a large extent I feel more connected to my son when I see individuals with Ds.
I came to know Walt’s mom Liz via Instagram in August. I learned of Walt’s journey and began following their story. He was a fellow heart warrior. Walt was holding on to his life after a hard battle with congenital heart disease (CHD). CHD is very common among babies with Ds. I would read the updates she posted each day and prayed he would pull through.
Shortly after I started following their story, I was saddened to learn that he passed on August 30, 2016. He was 9 1/2 months old. Over the course of his life, he touched thousands. Ever since Walt was born they advocated and raised awareness for those who have Down syndrome – – and they continue to do so. You can learn more about Walt’s story on their blog, warriorsforwalt.com.
I share these three stories with you because of the connection I have with these parents. Each ornament on the Angel Tree has its own story behind it. Each baby is deeply loved. And they are remembered.
I’ve been able to make about 90 ornaments to date. If you haven’t seen your baby’s ornament yet, don’t panic – I have about 30 more to go, and I really hope to make significant progress next weekend (I have a couple of days off from work).
Until then, love and hugs.
Love, Kara (& Andy)