When we were in the process of planning Nash’s first birthday party (The Nash Bash), we were confronted with questions we weren’t quite ready to answer. One being whether or not we were a 501c3, or in other words a non-profit organization. When you ask businesses for donations, mainly large or corporate businesses, they want you to have this status. Many wanted to donate to the party but couldn’t. They said to come back next year if we became a 501c3 organization and they would be happy to donate. To me all of this was like a foreign language. Why do they want that? How do we become that? What the hell is it? I kind of know these answers now, but not really.
When Becca and I started to discuss this with a business savvy friend of ours, he said, “First, you need a purpose. What do you want to accomplish with this party?” I was confused. I just wanted to throw a party and give back to the community that had given so much to us. I wanted to celebrate his birthday. What did he mean? He explained that in order to become a non-profit organization, you have to have goals, fundraisers, a purpose. You then sit down with a lawyer and they will help you draw up a plan. Once you are a non-profit organization, corporations can donate larger amounts of money and will be able to write it off at tax time. Becca and I talked the whole way home about what our “purpose” would be. We thought about opening a pantry of sorts. We would have diapers, wipes, baby monitors, formula, and food. A place where people who were struggling could get help. We would call it Nash’s Stash! We loved the name more than anything.
The problem with this idea is that Todd and I wanted this help to go to hard-working people who may have lost their job, or were going through hard times. We didn’t want to be taken advantage of by people who may not necessarily need the help. Then we thought, “Why not just make it a big fund that could help anyone who needed it?” If someone couldn’t pay their electric bill, or their furnace was broken, they could ask us for help and we could write them a check. The problem with this is you have to be selective. So many people have reached out to me already for help and I can’t help them all, which is hard. Plus, Nash’s Stash no longer seemed like a good name if that was the route we decided to take. Then we started thinking…what are we doing? We already have a purpose, paying it forward. Why are we trying to put a label on it? So many local business helped and donated regardless of the fact that we were not a non-profit. Why give ourselves a headache? So we put it on the back burner. Maybe one day we would revisit it, but for now we already had more than we could handle.
We did, however, like the idea of the party having a purpose and that’s when we decided to have people bring wrapped gifts and baby monitors that we could donate. So many gifts and baby monitors were brought to the Nash Bash, and I didn’t realize how hard it would be to donate them. Mainly because Todd and I didn’t want to just drop them off at a big hospital. We wanted it to be personal. We wanted to see the faces of the children that got them. Not only is it hard to disperse the toys, but no one likes to reach out and say they are a daycare without a baby monitor. So I reached out on Facebook, asking friends if they knew a child in need of a little pick-me-up, or if they had a friend who wanted to take a monitor to a daycare center or babysitter that watched their child. Messages started pouring in. I was moved to tears by some of the stories. Most were from people who didn’t even know a child personally but were following their story on Facebook like people do Nash’s. They wrote to me about kids with cancer, some dying, some in remission, some newly diagnosed. I also received numerous messages about a courageous young woman who was dying of cystic fibrosis. She was close to the end and had two small boys at home. I also got messages about children with multiple health issues that were in and out of the hospital like you or I go to the grocery store.
I reached out to all the families via Facebook and was surprised at how willing they were to give me their addresses. Todd and I then went to the basement and started deciding which gifts would go where. It was surprisingly…FUN! I would say a child’s name and tell Todd what they were going through, and we would search through the toys. For example, I said, “Adilyn is a two-year-old girl just diagnosed with leukemia.” Todd just looked at me with sad eyes and said, “We should send her two!” Some of these kids were from Michigan and some were from out-of-state. Just saying their names and picking out toys for them felt so unbelievably personal. These children are going through things that would be hard for any adult to go through and they are doing this as children. I was honored and happy to pick out toys for them and place a card with my smiling boy’s face in with the gifts.
As we were picking out toys, I found a special book. Inside someone had written, “To Nash on his first birthday 1-9-15.” It was called “Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You.” I thought for sure I was going to keep it, and then I started to read it. “And if someday you’re lonely, or someday you’re sad, or you strike out at baseball, or think you’ve been bad…just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair. That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.” Tears filled my eyes as I thought of the young woman dying of cystic fibrosis and the two boys she was leaving behind. I knew this book would be perfect. I wrote a little message to them inside the book and placed it with the toys we had picked for them. Seeing the care people took in how they labeled the gifts, making sure to address them to a special boy or girl in honor of Nash Gregory Schupbach, and knowing a sad, sick, or recovering child would read that brought tears to my eyes. My father-in-law helped me box them and get them ready to send. Even he seemed excited when I read the names of the kids and what toys would go to who. I cant explain it. It almost feels like we are sending Nash a gift or that these are his friends and we are inviting them to his birthday party. Strange, I know, but it feels that way. Dropping them off at the post office was an event, to say the least, but it felt so amazing. Most of the kids got their gifts on the 9th which was amazing in itself. I didn’t think they would arrive then, but I was trying to make it as close as possible.
One by one, I saw pictures of these beautiful children opening their gifts and smiling. Some in the hospital, some home for the time being. The moms reached out to me, thanking me. I have bonded with almost all of them, getting updates on how their kids are doing. One mother sent me a message thanking us, and letting me know that her daughter who is about to have a major surgery, saw the worry in her mom’s eyes as the doctor described the risks of surgery and said, “It’s okay mommy, angel Nash will take care of me.” Another mom talked to me about the conversation it led her to have with her very sick daughter. A conversation about heaven and angels, one she was afraid to have before. She said Nash made it easy. To show her daughter a picture of a smiling baby boy who is in heaven. To explain how wonderful heaven is and how baby Nash will watch over her. Another mother told me that the baby doll her daughter received was perfect because it could be taken along with her on her their many hospital stays. Then I received a message from the cousin of the girl who had cystic fibrosis. She had lost her long and hard fought battle the same day her sons received the gifts, the ninth. I pictured their book being read to them and wept. Children have always had a special connection with Nash. When they hear about him, they want to pay it forward, wear the t-shirts, see his pictures. They like to call him Baby Nash.
As the messages and pictures came in, I was so filled with pride and happiness knowing now that I had found a purpose for Nash’s fund. The gifts would be Nash’s Stash and sent all around the country to kids who needed them. We would use the donations for the postage it takes to send them. Todd and I have said since the first Nash day how amazing it is to see just how much Nash’s life has affected children. It only makes sense that’s who he would want to reach out to, especially those that are sick or sad. Hopefully for years to come we will be sending out toys to children, toys to make them smile, toys from the many birthday parties we will throw for Nash. Knowing he will never celebrate one birthday, he will never get to smile as he opens his gifts, but instead we will see children who need them the most smiling as they open these gifts. The gifts Baby Nash made sure went to them. It truly feels that way. Like it’s all part of his plan. That he guides me to these children. Maybe he has already been watching over them for awhile and wanted me to know.
When I see children opening his birthday presents, I will always think of this first group of kids. They have shown me what real strength is; they have touched my heart. They give me the chance to smile as I watch them unwrap the gifts I’ll never see Nash open. So thank you Finn, Adilyn, Kayden, Lily, Baylee, Brinley, Riddick, Brock, and Noel! Thank you for helping us smile again. Know that baby Nash is watching over you. He will be by your side, cheering you on as you fight your hard and unthinkable fight. Carry him with you when you are sick, tired, or sad. He will be there smiling when you win your battle and go on to live long, healthy, and happy lives…and if the unthinkable should ever happen, he will be there on the other side to greet you with that big Nash smile!