Paying it Forward-

I was sitting in the lobby of St. Peter’s hospital, knees to my chest waiting for a pizza to be delivered to share with Josh. I had just gotten off the phone with our best man, Leon, who had just informed me that there were no other organizations called “Woodward Strong” so we could move forward with our vision. I hung up the phone and sat there when an older couple approached me and asked me if I was “that firefighter’s wife”. When I said yes, the woman’s eyes filled with tears and she grabbed my hands and told me they had been praying for us since the beginning. She asked me how Josh was doing and I told her he was doing well, he was upstairs waiting for me to get the pizza. She told me she would continue to pray and her husband shook my hand and slipped me a $20 bill making a “shush” motion over his lips and mouthed “for the pizza” as he walked away. Tears filled my eyes. I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed because we had been so well loved from the first second of our crisis. So creatively and uniquely loved in every aspect of our lives from a community near and far. I looked down at the $20 bill in my hand with the conversation of the non-profit fresh in my mind and dreamt of the day that we could pay it forward.

I want to share some of the ways in which we were inspired by our community-

Starting on day one, Josh’s department never left our side. They had 1-2 reps from the department stay at the hospital at all times. They became a strong a dependable presence. Never invading our space, just serving as a constant for support and able bodies willing to help at a moments notice. They made sure we never went hungry or without coffee. They made sure our driveways were plowed and our garbage made it to the curb every week. Just having them around brought a feeling of safety to a situation that felt so rocky.

Creatives did what they do best and created! Cups, mugs, jewelry, cookies, shirt, you name it. They sold these things they had poured their heart and soul into with all the proceeds going towards our family and our expenses.
Friends, family, babysitters, and community members all showed up to helps us keep the lives our of children and pets as normal as possible. They made sure our kids got to school every day and that they were having fun at home, even amidst the chaos. Our dogs were snuggled, walked, and loved on.
Twill, an awesome local company, made a series of Woodward Strong gear to sell with the proceeds benefiting our medical expenses. They attended various fundraisers on our behalf to set up booths. We are thrilled to bring them along with us as we pay it forward and help set up fundraisers for other families.
Various fire and police stations along with severral other local business set up collection drives and several fundraisers were created on our behalf.
Our local Lowe’s donated supplies for the sake of building a ramp to help Josh get in to his house. Three different companies worked together to build the ramp. This is one of my favorite displays of community I have seen in my lifetime. Every time we walk the ramp I think of the amazing people who worked together, giving of their time and resources for us and it warms my heart.
We were flooded with cards, letters, well wishes, Starbucks cards, Grubhub certificates, art, scripture verses, drawings from children, gifts for my kids, gifts for us. The amount of joy this brought to us during some of the darkest days is immeasurable.
Local businesses sent food, treats, flowers. Friends and family sent flowers to brighten our spirits.

We have countless examples of how we were loved. But more than anything, people showed up for us. They showed up and sat with us in the darkness, and laughed with us when we could manage to laugh. They prayed with us, cried with us, joined together with each other for our sake. Witnessing the love of community has been one of the most profoundly beautiful gifts we’ve ever been given in my lifetime and we will never forget this or forsake this love.

So what’s the plan.
Step one- Show up. The same way people came and showed up for us, we will show up, sit, cry, pray, be.
Step two- fulfill any immediate needs i.e. food, childcare, lawn care, bills, cleaning, errands, etc.
Step three- train up the community, involve local businesses and churches.
Step four- help establish ongoing fundraisers and financial support for the family in need.

To learn more about our mission and donate, click here