As each of us travel on our own grief journeys, then we all have different paths and coping mechanisms. Ever since my husband was killed in a work related accident in August 2011 and 22 months later when my only son was instantly killed in a car accident at the age of 18, it has been important to me on my grief journey to honor their legacy and to continue to honor them in whatever ways that I am able to. For those of you that have heard me talk or write about this before, then you may remember that I believe that my husband’s legacy lives on through our two incredible daughters, Kylee and MiKayla, and that I am trying to continue my son’s legacy being he did not have any children to carry on his.
After my son was killed, 2 scholarship funds were started in honor of his life by friends and our community. I have been so thankful that these were started. These scholarships are something that I can look to as ways of honoring my son’s legacy and helping others at the same time. My son died the summer before his senior year, and these scholarships each year help student athletes fund a part of their college bills. I have grieved tremendously that my son was unable to experience this part of his life and go to college; however, I am so thankful that through these scholarships that we are able to help others in college in honor of him.
I was in such a state of shock after my son had died that I had no idea how much money had been given to the scholarship funds. Two were set up in honor of him, and one is located at the bank and one is located at the superintendent’s office. I have kept both accounts open throughout the past 5 years just in case anyone wants to donate directly to the accounts.
The scholarships were determined to be given to student athletes each year because that is what my son was. We chose to give three $1000 scholarships each year in the sports of football and basketball as those were PK’s sports in high school. We give one scholarship to a football senior, one scholarship to a boys basketball senior, and one scholarship to a girls basketball senior. The first awards ceremony after his death was May 2014. The funding was already in the scholarship funds from the giving that others had so generously donated after his death in June 2013. The three student athletes that received the first set of scholarships were all special in PK’s life and in our family’s lives. Wow! What a mixture of emotions I was filled with as I handed out those three scholarships in honor of my son to three very special seniors. My feelings are truly indescribable. I am ever grateful.
I had decided previously that the scholarship recipients would be determined by the coaching staff of those three teams each year. We determined criteria for the scholarships that reflected PK’s strengths on and off the court. I knew that I would never be able to determine the winners due to the bond that I have with so many of the student athletes that have come through our school system. I also knew that as the years would go by that I would know the student athletes not as well. I believe that the coaches are in the best position to determine the scholarship recipients due to the criteria that we have agreed on.
It is such an honor to hand out the scholarships in my son’s name and to honor his legacy in such a special way. This has been such an important part of my grief journey. As we neared May 2015, then I realized the funding was not in the scholarship funds and that I was going to have to fund these scholarships independently. I was able to that second year, but I also knew that as a single mom with two daughters that were both going to be attending college in the next years that I was going to need help in funding the scholarships in the years that were to come.
I spoke with our family on both sides and asked if they would please help to fund the scholarships. I believed that if each family member gave a little each year then we would have plenty of funding to continue the scholarships. Some of our family members have donated to the scholarship funds, and I thank each of you so much that has given and helped to continue these in honor of PK. I had a few members that suggested that I cut the scholarships in half to reduce the burden of raising the funding, and I must admit that my grief came out like a roaring lion at the thought. The scholarships continuing are so important to me as they were started by others to honor my son, and I hope to always to continue these. It is difficult to explain, but the thought of cutting them in half somehow felt like defeat to me, and I am too much of a fighter to let them go if I am able to continue them.
My mom had a wonderful idea that she has continued since my request for help from my family members. Each year since my request for help, my mom makes a quilt that we are able to raffle off that raises funding for the scholarships. My mom collects shirts from our school that include different team shirts from our dear family friend Monica who works in the school system, and my mom uses those shirts in the quilt that she creates each year. It has been so much fun to watch my mom’s creativity shine and to see the different designs that she incorporates into her quilting. My mom’s quilts get so many compliments each year, and it is so much fun for me to share that my mom has made the quilts. Our booster club has partnered with me as the scholarships are awarded to student athletes. Each year, I am able to sit at a table with the quilt and sell tickets for the quilt raffle, and the funding is placed into the scholarship accounts.
The quilt raffle has typically raised approximately $1500 which is about half of the scholarship funding that we need each year. it has been so much fun to watch the excitement of the winners of the quilt each year and the true joy that the winners have when they receive it. My mom always incorporates the shirts that were made in honor of PK after he died which is very special to me as well. The theme “No excuses. No regrets.” is on the shirts, and I love that she makes that a part of the quilt each year. I know that my mom making this quilt each year in honor of her grandson who was her very first grandchild is an important part of her grief journey and a very special way that she honors him.
Thankfully, through these past several years, we have had some dear friends and families from the community help to complete the funding for the scholarship funds. I am so thankful for each one that has given and has helped to make sure that the scholarships were completely funded. My mom and some dear family friends have been trying to think of other ways that we can fund raise for the scholarships. My mom has shared that she hopes that someday we will be working ahead to fund the coming year scholarships and not the existing year in order to relieve some of the pressure.
As much as I love the scholarships, there is something in my personality that is quite strong and very similar to my dad’s personality that does not like asking others to give of their money. The quilt raffle has been good for my personality as I am sitting at a table, and others can come to the table if they want to, but they also can walk by and not give money if they do not want to or are unable to. I am very comfortable with that fundraising approach as I do not feel like I am bothering others or pressuring them.
My mom has been involved with a company called Thrivent who grants funding to those raising funds for charitable causes. They donate money to help with supplies for the fundraisers that they approve. My mom told me that we should have a bake sale and that she would apply for $250 for supplies for the bake sale that would raise money for the scholarship fund. I decided to take my mom up on this idea. I love to bake, and this fundraiser again would be where people would be able to come to where I was with the baked goods and to buy things if they would like to.
In our community, one of the best spots for something like this is to set up in front of our local Wal-Mart. I contacted Wal-Mart and because I am partnered with a nonprofit (our booster club) then I was able to schedule this event for that location. Our bake sale date was set for October 27th. My mom applied for the funding for the items needed from Thrivent, and I begin to make my lists of what I would need. I also begin to make lists of what I would bake on which day in the week before the bake sale.
The funding arrived from Thrivent, and I was able to purchase a large amount of the items needed for the bake sale with the funding that I received. Each night after work then I would come home and bake for quite a few hours. The following items were made for the bake sale: cinnamon rolls, banana bread, lemon poppy seed bread, monster bars, caramel bars, red velvet cookies, oreo cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, honey popcorn, and garlic pretzels. As I mentioned before, I love to bake so this was definitely a wonderful fundraiser for me to do. I bagged everything up that Saturday morning and headed to set up. My sweet daughters came home to help sell at the bake sale which made it even more special to me. Kylee was there for most of the day, and MiKayla and her sweet friend Madison came and helped for the last portion of the day. We were out there from approximately 9:30 am Saturday morning until approximately 7 pm Saturday night.
One of my sweet friends Abi donated a cake for the bake sale and a monetary donation for the bake sale. A special lady that I worked with through the years named Marti donated cupcakes and no bake cookies for the bake sale and offered to bring the girls and I lunch while we sat out there. One of our dearest family friends, the Schmidts, let us use their tables for the bake sale. It was such a blessing to hear from others who wanted to help me to raise money for the scholarships that are so dear to my heart.
The bake sale was on such a beautiful weather day, and I loved the entire day. I cannot tell you how many people came and supported the scholarship fund. What I am able to share was that the bake sale raised a little over $1200 which funds a complete scholarship and a start of a second scholarship. I loved the day because so many people came and spoke to me about my son. So often when a parent has to bury their child, then people are concerned about mentioning the child’s name who has died. They fear that they would upset you. For me and for many other parents who have buried a child, it is a gift to be able to talk about our child who has died. One of my favorite quotes sums this up best:
“When you say the name of my child that has died, then you are not reminding me that my child has died. I will not forget. What you are doing is showing me that you remember that my child lived.” Author Unknown
This is a tremendous gift to me. This made the bake sale day even more special to me. I was able to talk about my son all day. That is a priceless gift as I miss him with all of my heart. I also had the bracelets with me that I bring wherever I go that are in honor of PK. They have the saying “No excuses. No regrets.” on them along with PK Kirk #34. I had fun giving those out all day as well. Each time I see someone wearing one then it blesses my heart as again I feel as if the one who is wearing the bracelet is remembering that he lived. These are priceless gifts for a grieving parent to receive.
I am planning a bake sale in February as well after the tremendous success of this bake sale. Thank you to each one who came and helped out to make the bake sale a success. I know that the entire process was therapeutic for me, and I celebrate each year when we are able to give out the scholarships in honor of my boy who I miss with every part of me. I am very excited that we have been able to give out $15,000 so far, and I am very excited and determined to increase that number each year and to bless more and more lives in honor of my son.