Today was a beautiful and challenging and exciting and dreadful and inspiring and depressing day - all wrapped up in one.
Actually - that could absolutely describe the last year of our life without Gavin.
In January of 2013 - just three months before Gavin suddenly died - this photo was taken with Denise from the hospital's wheelchair clinic. Gavin was sitting in his new wheelchair that was embroidered with his name.
Today, Hope and I brought that chair back to Denise, along with a special needs car seat that was Gavin's.
It took us a year to donate it to the hospital. In our house, if one or two or all are not "on board" - it doesn't happen. We are respectful of each of our very individual grief journeys... no questions asked.
But today was the day.
I checked in with Brian about donating Gavin's chair about a week ago. It has been sitting in our dining room "on display" this entire year. Brian was very hesitant when I brought it up - and the idea of giving it away seemed to make him sad. I dropped it and moved on.
He was very concerned about the chair having Gavin's name on it. But then, a few days later, he came to me...
"Mommy, I was thinking about Gavin's chair. What if a little boy who was sick came to the hospital and his name was Gavin! He could use Gavin's chair!"
"So, you're feeling okay about giving it away, Brian?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied
"That's really nice, buddy. The chair will be really helpful to another little boy or girl who needs it. It's really nice of you to want to give it away," I encouraged him.
"Just make sure you tell them to try to find a Gavin, Mommy," he reminded me.
"I will, Brian."
And I did.
Leaving Gavin's wheelchair and seat behind was the right thing to do. But it was not easy. They were the last two pieces of equipment that we had in our home. We've given away everything else. His stander, his walker, his parallel bars and more...
...but we're happy to pass on the hopeful spirit that is attached to every single one of them. Gavin did so well and was on his way to great things when he died. Ugh. It's still so hard to believe some days.
It's always so great to be in that hospital and see familiar faces that loved Gavin. Including his very first doctor there - Dr. Christopher Raab. I was thrilled to introduce him to Hope.
The other reason we went today was to deliver the money we raised from Gavin's Playground Project! Between the fundraiser and the donations that you sent directly to the hospital for the playground, the Chasing Rainbows community raised.... drumroll please?
That is insane. I can't even believe it myself. My intention when I started Gavin's Playground Project was to raise a ton of money (check!) that would almost "force" the hospital to start planning to build a new playground (check!) and make it accessible to all (check!). Today I met with the fund development coordinator *slash* new friend of mine, Joy Zernhelt - and we chatted about the fundraiser, the plans and "what's next." Joy told me that a "project manager" has been assigned to the playground and they are in the very early steps of talking about plans. The hospital just went through a major renovation - and the new building will be opening in the Fall. Not much will happen on this project (that you can see, anyway!) until that is completed.
Creating the playground they need will cost way more than $64, 953.04 - but this definitely puts them on their way! Joy told me that the web development team is creating fundraising pages - picture "team pages" when people are raising money for marathons or walks. People (like me - and you!) will be able to create their own page to raise money for this playground - they can call it whatever they want, fundraise in memory of whomever they want, upload photos or videos - it will be totally their own. When it's available, I will create my own page and it will live permanently on my blog and Facebook page. I'm very excited about this!! I am not going to be a big part of the planning - or choosing what is on the playground.
I just wanted to hand over the money... and quietly walk away.
And that's what I'm doing.
I am hanging up my "fundraising hat."
(not my writing, don't worry! just my fundraising!)
This year has been incredible... and exactly what I didn't know I needed. I was able to accomplish a lot of things in a short amount of time - with your help.
I wouldn't even know where to begin to count the number of people who told me they became organ donors because of Gavin. Spreading the word about organ donation is so important to me - and the idea that anyone was inspired to become a donor because of our son's story - it's hard to put into words what that means to us... how that feels.
This Chasing Rainbows community rallied around me all year long. Together we raised over $25,000 for "Gavin's Trust Project." These little cards are in every special needs classroom all over our area...
New classrooms were created and furnished. New adaptive toys and equipment were purchased. Children are getting what they need and teachers are better equipped. I know Gavin is so proud that I made sure his "friends" were taken care of.
You rallied around me for "Gavin's Birthday Project" so I could completely re-do the little emergency waiting room in our local hospital. Brian was very concerned about other kids who would only have a couple of toys to play with - after he spent the worst day of his life in there the day Gavin had his seizure. Inspired by his concern, we bought all new toys and wall mazes and mirrors for the room in honor of Gavin's fifth birthday.
And you rallied around me for "Gavin's Playground Project." In a major way. Sixty four THOUSAND dollars... and change.
And this year, incredible and beautiful and lovely things were done because of Gavin.
Gillian's Wonderland Pier, upon hearing that Gavin's first solo ride on their fire truck (#8!) was one of the most exciting days of our life...
...decided to repaint and NAME that fire truck after him. It is now (very literally!) a tourist attraction. People go just to see his fire truck and have their children's picture taken sitting on it. I can't explain it!
Michael Vitez, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, came to our home to write a story about us. Blew us away.
A group of former colleagues of Ed's from Accenture got together and BOUGHT a room at the Gift of Life Family House and dedicated it to Gavin.
And space for a plaque in their entry way as well.
How do you even begin to say thank you for something like that?
The same group of people also hired videographers as a gift to us. CinemaCake did a beautiful job capturing Gavin's funeral service for us...
...and also created a "Life Story" video that I will always treasure.
Nike custom made two pairs of sneakers for Brian. Two sizes so he could grow into the second pair and "run and jump" with his superhero brother. The "Super G" logo was on all the shoes. Unbelievable.
A reader had a flag flown over the Pentagon in honor of Gavin. This nearly dropped me to my knees. As the daughter and sister of retired Navy Captains, this was a big deal to me. And pretty unbelievable.
Gavin and Brian even made it into a children's book!!! Rich and Sam Specht from "ReesSpecht Life" created a children's book about cultivating kindness... all to honor their own little boy named Rees who was also gone too soon. Rich sent me the sketches early on so I could get a sneak peek...
...and now the book is done! They are just a Mom and Dad wanting to spread kindness in memory of their little boy. You can buy your own copy here!
I could go on and on with the beautiful gestures and incredible acts that have been done in Gavin's name. And I could go on and on expressing my gratitude to all of you for rallying around us the whole way.
The year has helped me heal.
It has helped me feel like I have created a lasting legacy for our precious son.
This year has allowed me to feel like I'm still "doing" and "helping" and "making the impossible... possible."
This year has blown me away.
Thank you for trusting me and for sharing your hard-earned money with me.
Gavin's Trust Project will always be open - and the links to donate will live permanently on my blog. And Gavin's Playground Project will also be open as long as they need money for the build. And I will continue to hope that Ellen DeGeneres finds out about this endeavor and swoops in to make it happen for us. Gillian's Wonderland Pier will be hosting a "Magical Monday" in Ocean City on July 14th. You can purchase a wristband for $25.00 that will get you unlimited rides from 1-4pm. Half of the proceeds will go to the Playground Project!! We will be down there as a family and hope to see many of you there!
Those are the only things going from now on. If you ever see ANY other fundraisers using my name or Chasing Rainbows, it is not real.
Thank you, as always, for loving our family.
What a day.
What a year...