The Path of Transition

2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Parenting, Toby

I’ve spent the last week swimming in baby items. Most of which were Toby’s. The switch over of the nursery has hit me in waves. I feel joy & love in my heart in places that have been so broken and painful for 25 months, it scares me. Then the pain begins and the tears fall while every sense is engaged by grief – my eyes see flashbacks to certain moments when Toby is right with me; I can smell him when drawers are opened or blankets are moved; the sound of toys that jingle or crackle take me back to the 2am feedings where he would be wide awake and the happiest baby, just wanting to laugh and watch you talk to him.

I can’t make it through a day lately where I don’t have a huge breakdown, missing Toby and wondering how on earth am I going to be able to mother our third little boy without constant fear?

I’m not sure there is an answer, enough therapy, or strong enough medication to take away the fear.

Yesterday I pulled the car seat from the basement. It was buried in the corner of the room where items that needed to be gone from site were placed two years ago. It had never been cleaned. The interior inset had spit up on it and smelled moldy & musty. Toby’s frog toy still hung from the handle. When I pulled at it, it rattled back to the top. I imagined him laughing, watching me, even though I was crying.

I spent an hour last night pulling the whole thing apart. Shouting the entire inside before placing it in the washer. I wiped down the straps and placed them in hot water to soak overnight. But I couldn’t stop thinking that this was the last place I saw my baby boy. He was in his seat, happy as can be, when I left him that morning. That evening, we brought the empty seat home. And Toby never came home.

I pulled the insert out of the washer this morning. Clean. Smelling of detergent. No sign of the marks that were there last night. Those pieces of Toby that had been there for two years were gone. I was mad at myself for cleaning it, well knowing it had to be done, but wishing to God the pain could have gone down the drain with all that other muck.

I put it all back together and brought it upstairs, setting it in the stroller in the living room. I sat on the piano bench and stared at it for a few minutes, tears welling in my eyes.

There are many days lately that I can’t believe how close we are to having our third little boy home. How quickly it went. How some days it doesn’t even feel real. Being on the cusp of 30 weeks pregnant and after doing this two times before still feeling like, “Am I ready? Can I do this?”

It’s that motherly fear.

It doesn’t go away. It manifests itself in different pockets of pregnancy and the newborn stage. We’re all afraid of something. If you don’t think you are then your lying to yourself. No one knows how to do this. No one does it perfectly. The grass is not greener on the other side.

Maybe you’re just getting more sunshine that day?

Did you ever think about it that way?

I didn’t until lately.

Through continual prayer, novenas, and the help of Toby from Heaven, I’ve been able to walk through the last few weeks, grieving when I need and for as long as I need, and focusing on myself and my boys. I know that is where my focus needs to be right now.

Two years ago, when I started writing about our journey, the word that resonated with us; described the 12 weeks and 5 days we had; and also symbolizes how we made it through another day without Toby, is JOY.

#joyfortobystern became our rock and became a trend that was spread across the US to share Toby’s story. The impact it had on everyone who read about Toby or saw his picture was remarkable to see and many times we witnessed how Toby brought JOY to others, in their time of need.

Toby and his JOY are with our family now as we stand at the doorstep of another chapter for our family.

I have faith that God will see us through.

I have faith that Toby will guard our family with his army of Angels.

I have no doubt that we will experience JOY again in the coming months and it will be delivered by our blue-eyed angel, Toby, who sits at His Thrown and is now protected by His graces for eternity.

I have faith that Toby’s JOY will support us as we wade through memories of him and make new memories with our third little boy. As we transition from #ourfamilyoffour to #ourfamilyoffive.

The memories. The grief. OUR journey.

2018, faith, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Toby

Today was a hard day. Pregnancy after loss is so hard. There is hope, yes, but the moments that need to happen before a Rainbow arrives are so challenging.

I’ve talked before about how Toby’s room has remained the same since the day he died.

Today, much of that changed.

This is our choice. This is part of our promise to Toby, and to ourselves. To continue to move forward, but in a way that carries Toby with us, as well as we can, as if he were here.

We are about 10 weeks away from our third baby boy’s arrival and have held out until now to do these hard things. This morning we emptied his crib and took it apart. We stood around it for some time crying, gripping the rails. His fox fitted sheet still on the mattress; his binkies in the corner of the crib; his sleep sack still lay in the center of the bed, open and unzipped, ready for bedtime routine the night of August 24. A routine that never happened. Two years. Never moved.

When we lifted the mattress to pull off the bedding, this onesie was under the mattress in a ball. We both looked at each other in shock.

How did that get there?” Dan asked me.

I just shook my head as I cried, my hands shaking picking it up.

I flipped it over and the saying says “Bright Future” in Orange. Orange. The breath was sucked from my lungs. I stood there holding it, crying.

I took the bedding and laid it in the hallway. When it fell to the floor, something bounced sideways from the air under the material and caught my eye. I looked down at the floor – it was a feather.

Dan turned the crib and started to take it apart. I sat in the spare room across the hall on the floor watching him with a bin of baby clothes in front of me that never made it into the drawers of Toby’s dresser.

Theo came up the steps and walked into Toby’s room, sniffing the crib and standing next to Dan. He turned and looked at me, walked out into the hallway and laid down across the hallway, looking into the nursery as Dan worked. Theo is Toby’s guardian. He was his protector from the day Toby came home. He would sleep beside the bassinet or his crib during nap time, especially if we were doing something at home and left Toby to sleep, that’s where you’d find Theo. After Toby died Theo would lay in the hallway outside his room at different times. He would go in and stand beside the bed or lay on the carpet. If you asked him “Is Toby here see you Theo?” He would whine or come to your side, wagging his tail. Those moments gave me goosebumps at first, now I just smile and carry on with what I’m doing.

I moved back into the room and asked Luke to help me do something. I took a box into the room and set it in front of the dresser. “Buddy, can you take the clothes out of this drawer and put them in this bin to help Mommy?” He grabbed them handfuls and threw them in the bin. I watched these tiny pieces of clothes be dropped in the box and I felt grief consuming me. I cried. I sat there with clothes all around me, but they weren’t clothes, they were memories.

Fourth of July. A day at the museum. The only long pants we had on him, ever. His sleepers. Each one smelled like Toby. I could feel my heart breaking.

I looked up into the hallway, Theo was standing over the crib bedding, putting his head into it. “Do you smell him Theo?” He came right to me sitting on the floor and stood next to me, over top of Toby’s clothes.

I pulled the small bin out of the drawer with all his socks. I didn’t want to go through them. I started to dump them into a bin and at the last second looked inside. On the top was a pair of Fox socks right below them, the pair of white with blue lines at the top that he wore many many times.

As I sat there on the floor, in a half empty room, Dan put his arms around me as I cried, emotional too. Luke came and stood beside me, leaning in to kiss my nose. “Toby is with us,” he said. “He’s always with us, Mommy.

Each thing we did today there was a reminder that Toby was here, right beside us.

We are in the process of having a wooden hope chest carved for Toby. It will hold all of his items that we have saved; pieces that have sentimental value to us; pieces that will always be his for us; as well as things that we may be given in his memory or pick up along the way that remind us of him. Many of the things that we went through today will be placed in this chest, which will have it’s own place upstairs in our home, just for Toby.

This is just one day of hard moments we have to go through over the next 10 weeks. Then we will start another chapter that will have it’s own trials of grief that we have yet to encounter. As much as I would like to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for this, in my heart I know from two years of grief, you cannot plan. Grief comes out of nowhere. It consumes the moments you are in; the day you are having; it is still very good at robbing me of joy that I’ve had that day.

Some of the time, there is strength to fight through and not be sucked back in, but those are still few and far between for me. I have found that sometimes I need to just let grief and the reality of Toby’s death BE.

Sit with it. Pray through it. Cry while I hold it in my empty arms. Let it drain me dry till I have no more tears. It is after those dark moments that I am able to see some light peering through. It is after each of these that I am reminded by Toby that he is here. That he will never leave me, or Dan, or Luke, or his baby brother, or Murray or Theo. That each day through this journey of grief is one day closer to holding Toby in my arms again.

21 months & Lots of Prayers

2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Guys! It’s official – The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is incorporated & approved! 🦊

In just two weeks time all of our paperwork was reviewed and approved. We were told to not expect anything for 6-8 weeks. As soon as I started to read the letter last night I thought “This is all Toby’s doing. He’s opening doors again!”

He knows his momma and she can’t wait for anything, especially when there’s work to be done, families to help, and lives to save.

I laid down with Luke at bedtime last night and as we said prayers, thanking God for another step in this journey, and saying goodnight to Toby, this came through my thoughts…

“Get some rest momma. We have lots of work to do.”

By God’s hand and Toby’s guidance, we’re going to make a difference with The Little Fox. There are many hopes & dreams for this nonprofit and our plan is to take it one day at a time. There will be opportunities that are a perfect fit and others that will not work for us. We will do our best to make the right decisions and help as many families and children as possible.

Thank you to every single person that has helped us over the last 21 months. Without the support, comfort and encouragement of our family, friends, neighbors, community, local businesses, other grief families, other memorial foundations, doctors, Owlet, and every anonymous, kind hearted person that has found a way to touch our hearts and to help our family – THANK YOU!! We would not be here, if it weren’t for all of you.

Stayed tuned to see what we’ll be working on next. We’re currently matching donations for the Owlet Smart Socks in the Pittsburgh area to be donated over the next few weeks. Then, our focus will turn to August. With our Foundation Board established, we’ll be working together on an event for August where we hope to see many of you. We will also be doing our “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign, which will kick off August 1. We hope to see as many participants as last year and see the ways that Toby’s joy can travel around the world.

Please keep our family in your prayers as we approach Toby’s 2nd Birthday on May 27. This does not get any easier as the months go by. Our hearts remain broken, missing Toby beyond belief. We know the best way to honor our son is to help others and share the joy that he gave our family with those children and families. That is what we are doing and will continue to do.

God Bless,

The Sterns ❤️

#thelittlefox #joyfortobystern #SIDS #journeythroughgrief #august24 #ourangeltoby

Finding Our Footing in 2018

2017, 2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Marriage, Parenting, Toby

As I sit in our home on the last day of 2017, my heart is fragile. This holiday season has been hard. The reality of Toby being gone, forever, was ever present over the past few weeks. Where many experienced cheer and love, we felt abandonment and sadness.

It is hard to believe 2017 is nearly over. A full year without our son. No hugs or kisses. No first steps. No presents for Toby under the tree. As we stood in the cold on Christmas Day at the foot of Toby’s grave, I kept thinking to myself – I never could have imagined this is how we’d spend our holidays. Why is this our life? I fought like hell to find all the excitement and happiness I could for the holidays, it exhausted me.

We spent the last few days holed up in our house, doing a whole lot of nothing. Surprisingly, it was refreshing. We watched a lot of movies. We played in the snow with Luke, Murray & Theo. I read a lot – posts, articles, and books. I came across a passage yesterday in my reading that has been on my heart since.

Through this past year, while trying to spread Toby’s joy with as many as possible, I have continued to carry a heavy piece of grief with me. It has darkened my days and tested my relationship with God. I have sat at Toby’s grave; on my knees at the foot of the cross; and continually on my drive to work when I’m alone in the car asking “Why? Why would You take Toby? Why did this happen to our family?” This question has become a staple in my devotionals for our family and our healing. I hear this question in the midst of everyday routines. Well knowing that I will never have an answer, until the day I am standing in Heaven with Toby back in my arms.

Yesterday, I came upon this passage while reading:

“We have no right to ask

When sorrow comes,

Why did this happen to me?

Unless we ask the same question

For every joy that comes our way.”

-Philip S. Bernstein

This passage led me back to something that was given to me, by my mom, a few months ago. It is a song title ‘Glorious Unfolding.’ She had given me the CD to listen to. Instead, we Google’d the song and found the video to go with it. This song is emotional, and I can imagine, it can take on many meanings for those struggling – with anything – with death; with illness; with job loss; with financial insecurity; with family turmoil; with marriage struggles; with stumbles you may have had in the past year.

There’s a message for you in this. Open your heart, quiet your mind, and listen.

Glorious Unfolding – Steven Curtis Chapman

IMG_3367

I have no idea what 2018 holds. This past year held moments of JOY that I do not want to let go of. They were moments from Toby, that I know he delivered to us. I felt it. There were moments of pure excitement and happiness with Luke that I thanked God, repeatedly for.

My one hope for 2018 is that I can loosen the grip on this question to which there is no answer – “Why?” And in trying to do that, help us see more of the Joy that God is placing in our path. I have to believe it is there. There is no other choice.

I know that this will not be easy. Grief is hard. It is ruthless. For grieving parents, the reality of a child dying, never goes away.  But life continues to move forward. Things change.

Our path has changed, our journey has been altered. We must now find our footing on this path and keep climbing. I am not sure where we are going – figuratively or literally. And I know this will not be easy. It will not be without hurt and tears. But I pray that on our climb we find places to rest, recharge, grieve, and enjoy our family – all four of us.

Here we come, 2018, with joy in hand. Be gentle on us.

2017 Stuff-a-Truck – Success!

2017, Creating Change, faith, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

It has taken us a few days to come down from the incredible high that we were on from each and every person that helped make our 2017 Stuff-a-Truck event a HUGH success!

The temperatures weren’t exactly on our side when we woke up on Sunday, but we piled on the layers and when Dave & Rachel pulled up in front of our house the adrenaline kicked in and that was all we needed. I remember walking around the side of the garage and seeing the truck – I got a lump in my throat and as I walked up the driveway I had tears in my eyes. There was a gigantic truck sitting there and the reality of what we were about to do was sinking in. This is BIG.

We started loading up everything that was in our garage – donations from our professional connections, North American Martyrs/St. Michael’s Parish, neighbors and friends. Standing there watching boxes and items go into the truck, my mom stood beside me. We looked at each other and she said “You may need another truck.” Again, another overwhelming moment and feeling of determination. You may have heard it in my voice in the video below – we were going to fill that truck. I had no doubt in my mind.

Truck

Don Farr Moving Truck Arrival

Volunteers arrived at Dad’s Pub & Grub at 11 and we got everything set up. We had nearly a dozen people that stayed the entire time to help. There were 8-10 people volunteering each hour and you’d never even know there was a “changing of the guard” because these amazing people had things moving like a well oiled machine.

Donation drop-off started at noon and by 12:40 – the truck looked like this:

1230

By 1 o’clock there was a line of cars out on Northern Pike waiting to pull in to donate. It was amazing to see!

traffic line

Around 2PM two things happened that brought the tears – (#1) Channel 11 showed up to video what was happening. They asked us about Toby’s story and Play it Forward and where all these donations were going. Talk about a proud parent moment. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and a van had pulled up and they were opening the back doors. (This is thing #2) Triangle Bar & Grill from Swissvale was delivering 10 (TEN) NEW BIKES! Volunteers helped them upload each bike and set them up to the side of the truck. I stood there looking at them – with no words. This was incredible and gracious.

triangle bar

Channel 11

Not only were there lines of people outside – Dad’s was packed inside, too with families that came to drop off and then when in for lunch. And everyone rocked their Steelers gear for the game that evening!

Our event was scheduled to run until 3PM and by 2:45 – our 26ft truck – was STUFFED!

It was incredible. By the time the volunteers place all the big items – train tables; large doll houses; picnic and water tables; a few pieces of furniture; and then put in all the bikes that were dropped off – there was just enough room to close the door.

Can you believe that? I stood there looking at the back of that truck as they were finishing and heard this little voice “We did it, Mommy. Just enough.”

How did that happen? It happened through the hope of a grieving family. It happened because Toby’s JOY is meant to be a part of many lives.

Full Truck

We even got to have a little bit of fun during the day and enjoy our time with everyone that came out. Although, Luke was a little chilly.

Lucas

 

A few shout-outs to some key players that helped us bring this event together –

  1. Dad’s Pub & Grub – Northern Pike in Monroeville. If you haven’t been there, get in to see Dan and his team over the holidays. The food is amazing and they have great beer, too. We couldn’t have done this without the prime location and there amazing support and encouragement from the very beginning.
  2. Don Farr Moving – Dan, Rachel, Frank and the rest of the team from Don Farr that provided the truck; the packing supplies; and the labor to fill the truck to the brim. Then, on Monday, they delivered the truckload of donations to the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh to kick-off Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Toy Donations.
  3. Simmons Farm – a part of our extended family, Simmons Farm served as a “pop-up” location for donations the week leading up to our Stuff-a-Truck event. Their efforts from donors in the South Hills area loaded another truck to deliver to Play it Forward.
  4. Every Volunteer – there are WAY too many to name, but please know we are thankful for every minute and every way you were able to support us during the past month. We could not have done this without your support.
  5. Grandma, Pup, Nana & PapPap – First, thank you for watching Luke so he didn’t have to brave the cold temperature. Second, thank you, and our immediate family members, for continually supporting whatever crazy idea we dream up, especially the ones that support keeping Toby’s memory alive and helping our dream of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation come to reality.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, Play it Forward Pittsburgh – Heather & Amy – Thank you for allowing our family to contribute to this beautiful and amazing cause that you have created here in Pittsburgh.  It has been an honor to support Play it Forward, in memory of Toby, and see the amount of people who want to get behind it in the future. You both have created something amazing – we are glad to be able to be a part of it.

Dan & I were able to volunteer on Play it Foward’s Shop Day – Saturday, December 16 at the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh. Leading up to that day, Shady Side Academy’s 3rd Grade class took a field trip and helped sort toys. Then, the following day, my company, A. Martini & Co., volunteered in the afternoon. We are lucky to have the support of our colleagues on this journey.

third grade

AMC Volunteering

Here are some photos of the set-up on Friday, prior to the doors opening on Saturday morning. There were people lined up outside on Friday night at 8PM to shop Saturday morning – it was incredible.

PIF Convention Center 2PIF Convention CenterPIF Volunteersshop day

Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day started at 8AM and by 3PM the tables were completely empty. (See below)

before after 2017

Also, Play it Forward was able to offer some statistics on the 2017 drive – please take a look, these are incredible:

infographic_2017 PIF

 

Thank you – Thank you – Thank you! To every single person that contributed to this cause. Whether it was through our Stuff-a-Truck event or another donation location. Your time & toys helped give toys to 4,500 children! What an incredible way to GIVE this Christmas.

We are grateful for the opportunities that have come our way in 2017 that have allowed us to continue telling Toby’s story and spreading his JOY, not just across Pittsburgh, but across the nation. They have given us strength to continue. We truly believe that his story is far from over. It is up to us, as his parents, to carry his legacy.

We stand at the door of another year – without Toby in our arms. But their are pieces of my son everywhere I look. I hear them; I see them; I feel them. Thank you for helping us make it through 2017 with joy in our hearts.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and JOY for 2018!

Love,

Dan, Katie, Lucas & Toby

toby 2

Simmons Farm Hosts Toy Donation Pop-Up Locations

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

To our South Hills Family & Friends:

Simmons Farm will be hosting a “pop up” donation drop to benefit Play it Forwards 2017 Toy Drive at both their Market & Rt. 19 locations.

Toy donations will be accepted December 4-10, from 9am-5pm.

See the full post below and a huge “Thank You” to our Simmons Farm Family for helping to support Play it Forward Pittsburgh, in Toby’s memory. ❤️

 

 

Simmons Farm Toy Drop Location

In Memory of our nephew Toby Stern, who passed away last August at 12 weeks old:

Are you looking to donate your gently used toys that your children may have outgrown or are looking to purge before Santa arrives in a few weeks? From Monday, December 4-Sunday, December 10 Simmons Farm will be a “pop-up” location to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh. Our Rt. 19 and Farm locations will take donations from 9-5pm.

For more information on items that can be donated or materials requested to help with Play it Forward’s Toy Drive, visit: http://www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com/donate–help.html

Our collection will support the efforts of The Little Fox|Toby’s Foundation, who is spear-heading a ‘Stuff-a-Truck’ event in Monroeville on December 10, in memory of Toby.

We are happy to offer a South Hills drop location to families who can’t travel to Monroeville for the donation event, but would like to support local Pittsburgh children in need this holiday season.

Stuff-a-Truck for Play it Forward Pittsburgh

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Our partnerships with the Monroeville Community continue to grow and we couldn’t be more proud of this next opportunity – and it’s a big one!

The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is happy to announce that on Sunday, December 10 we are partnering with Dad’s Pub and Grub in Monroeville to host a Stuff-a-Truck event to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh!

Stuff A Truck_Event Flyer_social media

It is our way of spreading Toby’s Joy again this holiday season as we join forces with Play it Forward Pittsburgh and the Monroeville Community, for the second year in a row.

We are looking to collect your gently used toys that your family is looking to re-home prior to Santa arriving or family gift exchanges through the holiday season. If you are looking to purge some toys and children’s items, please collect them and help us Stuff-a-Truck for children in the Pittsburgh community. Donate your toys to be given to a family in need this holiday season!

Play it Forward will accept items for children, ages 0-16. Items requested include:

toys – books – games

electronics – sporting equipment – bikes – movies (dvd only)

Also needed: gallon ziploc bags – white kitchen size garbage bags – packing tape – boxes

Please remember to organize and bag your toys together so they are ready to go and the pieces don’t get separated. Please do not wrap toys.

 

Below is an event flyer, which you can download for inviting others to join in the collection.

Stuff A Truck_Event Flyer

Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day is Saturday, December 16 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 8am – 3pm. Families are welcome to choose 3 toys and 3 books, per child, for free.

Currently there are no drop off/collection locations for the 2017 event to the West of Pittsburgh. This is another reason we are holding this event. We are hoping to gather all the toys in one collection day from the Monroeville/Murrysville area, but we need your help!

Please share our posts and flyer with as many as possible. Church groups, daycare facilities, Mom/Dad groups, Pediatrician offices, local businesses and community groups are all excellent places to share this event to get the word out to our community.

For more information on Play it Forward Pittsburgh, visit: www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com

Any questions regarding this event, please contact The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation via email: thelittlefoxfoundation@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday, December 10 at Dad’s Pub & Grub in Monroeville.

 

Stern Family’s Donation Fills Children’s Section Book ‘Wish List’ at Monroeville Library in Memory of Infant Son Toby

2017, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

On Saturday, Nov. 4th we visited the Monroeville Library and met with Nicole Henline, Director. Following our book drive in August during Toby’s Random Act of Kindness Campaign, 24 children’s books were purchased, by friends and family, to be donated to our local library.

It was a bittersweet moment to make this delivery. We were able to meet with Adrienne & Hope, who oversee the Children’s Section and Programming. They were excited to see all the titles and new books that we were helping them put into circulation.

Each of the 24 titles will have a name plate inside the front cover that will have a dedication message for Toby.

DSCN5222

Currently the new titles are being processed and the name plates being placed onto each book. Once those items are complete, the books will then be in circulation and be considered “new books.” This should be around the beginning of December.

Hope offered to display all of these in the Children’s Center for the month of December, along with a flyer with Toby’s story and the making of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation.

This was above and beyond what we had imagined happening with these, but we were grateful for the opportunity and thankful for the Monroeville Library’s generosity in offering a platform for the community, especially families within the area, to see Toby and know where these beautiful books have come from.

From the beginning, our goal with this large children’s book donation was to give back to the community and give joy to the children and families that read them, for years to come. We have no doubt, after our visit on Saturday, that these 24 titles will do just that.

Nicole also offered that Luke could come to the library when they got their next shipment of picture books in and select one book that would be donated in Toby’s name from him. This was a wonderful way to include Luke and to let him have a special contribution to this donation. We look forward to that over the next few months.

Book Donation in Toby's Memory

Thank you to Nicole, Adrienne and Hope and the rest of the staff at the Monroeville Library for agreeing to help our family make another connection and partnership within the Monroeville Community. We know that Toby would have enjoyed the library, picking out books, and all the fun things you have to offer to children, just like Luke does. Even more, we now know that pieces of our son’s memory will find their way into the fun times of children, families, play groups, and classrooms across the community. We couldn’t ask for more as a piece of Toby’s legacy. We are forever thankful.

To our friends and family that so graciously helped us fill the Children’s Section “Wish List” – thank you! In less than 48 hours each book from the library’s list was purchased and when they arrived we were touched by the messages for Toby and the love that was sent with each one. We hope that you will get a chance to visit the library, even during the month of December when these particular books will be on display, to see Toby’s books and see the joy that is within the Children’s area.

book donation

 

Dr. Seuss Book Quote

Book Drive in Memory of Toby

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, Toby

-Benefiting the Monroeville Public Library Children’s Section-

We are working with the Monroeville Library to donate a set of books to their Children’s Section in memory of our son, Toby. This is another way for Toby’s joy and happiness to be spread to families and children within our community. 

The library has been generous in working with us on this project and provided titles from their “wish list” for the Children’s Section. 

We have created a list via Amazon with these books on it. If anyone is interested in purchasing one of the books on this list you may purchase and/or view from the link below. 

Toby Stern’s Memorial Book List

There are 20 titles on the list. We are requesting that you purchase directly from this list so that only 1 copy is purchased of each book and we can keep track of which ones are still available. Once it is purchased, it will no longer be on the list. 

The list is set up so that the books will be sent to our home. Once we receive all the purchased books, we will coordinate drop-off and the plaque that will go inside the cover of each book, in our little boys memory. 

If you wish to have your name or your family’s name on the donation plaque, please put a note in the purchase from Amazon or send us an email directly (ourhappyplaceandco@gmail.com) with the name of the book you purchased, what you would like the message to say and we will make sure it gets done.

Thank you to Monroeville Library for allowing us the opportunity to make such a generous donation in Toby’s memory. 

memorial book list_toby

Any questions, please contact us via the website, social media or email (listed above). 

Please do not contact the library directly. We have arranged to coordinate this drive on our own and can answer any questions you may have.

Thank you in advance for your interest in this project and for participating in this book donation in memory of Toby Stern.

–The Sterns

The Opportunity to Speak

2017, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Lucas, Parenting, Toby

We are overwhelmed with emotion from the last 24 hrs. When we started rallying the troops, nearly seven weeks ago, we had no idea the imprint we could make.

This petition is out there and making strides because of the initial efforts of Barry Kluger and Kelly Farley, and their children who died. We are standing behind this petition and making an effort to try and push for local, state, and national representatives to listen to WHY this is important.

Seven weeks ago I saw an opportunity to use the platform we have been building in Toby’s memory as a way to educate other’s about the lives of grieving parents, by supporting the Farley-Kluger Initiative to amend FMLA.

Two weeks ago, Jennifer Tomazik from WPXI-Channel 11 called. She told me that she had been reading my blog and had been referred to us from a friend who told her about what we were trying to do. She asked if we’d be willing to talk to her – about our family, Toby, and the bill to amend FMLA – because she saw a story that the community and families in our region could relate to, and hopefully help.

This was a big decision for us. Don’t get me wrong, we have been talking and sharing and advocating in support of others, but this opens our lives and our son’s lives to the world. We all know how social media is – it can be a powerful tool. It’s frightening to be so open and so vulnerable.

Over the past 24 hours our phones, email, the blog and social media have been flooded by amazing people who have shared our story, advocated for others to read and sign the petition, and offered their support. It has been remarkable and overwhelming.

Farley Kluger Initiative_24hrs

Yesterday when we sat down to talk with Jennifer, that discussion opened wounds wide-open and the emotions for Toby have come flooding back. Dan and I sat together and watched the segment last night, with Luke yelling at the TV “that’s me and Toby!” We’ve read a lot (not all) of the notes and comments that have been sent to us. We’ve cried as we watched Toby’s beautiful face on TV and online and we’ve shaken our heads in amazement as to the amount of people that have taken time out of their day to listen to our story, offer their support for Toby’s death and our family’s grief, and also sign and share the petition.

Again, THANK YOU – to every one of you that have done something. Those words, thank you, will never be enough, but it is your words, support and actions that help us know that what we are doing is making a difference and that Toby’s life, although too short, will make a difference in the lives of others.

Toby Stern

I wanted to give a little update on the Foundation, because there have been some questions and inquiries over the past day. We have spent the last three months talking with other non-profits, professionals that assist in creating non-profits, board members of non-profits and continually soaking up all this information. This is a big decision for us and an educational one, at that. We want to make sure that however we decide to proceed, that we are comfortable with it and that it is reflecting what Dan and I, as Toby’s parents, want the foundation to be and grow into. There are a lot of moving parts at this point and once we are ready, we will gladly share all of that with you. There will be opportunities to help, volunteer, donate, fund-raise, and most importantly share with your networks. The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is taking shape and we look forward to its launch in the near future.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank WPXI-Channel 11 and Jennifer Tomazik. Thank you for taking the time to learn about our family, about our circumstance and most importantly about Toby. Your efforts to talk with us and share our message turned into a beautiful tribute to our son and an amazing platform for the Farley-Kluger Initiative. Also, you’ve extended your resources for help on future endeavors and interest in supporting The Little Fox, and for that Dan, Lucas and I are so grateful.

WPXI Visit_July 20 2017

We hope by way of WPXI’s story, more doors will open to connect with the media and interest is peaked to support the efforts of the Farly-Kluger Initiative. We welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone about this grassroots effort and our family’s story.

Before I go, I’d like to ask for three things from our readers:

  1. If you have not signed the petition to amend FMLA, please visit: www.farleykluger.com and do so today.
  2. If you have already signed the petition and would be willing to take 10 minutes to write a letter to your local representative, please visit my blog post from last week here: https://ourhappyplaceandco.com/2017/07/13/next-steps-farley-kluger-initiative/
  3. If you are not doing so already, take a moment and “follow” our website/blog. At the bottom of the website there is a little [+] button; click that and then click the blue “Follow Our Happy Place & Co.”

 

Here is the link to the segment that aired yesterday, July 20, on WPXI-Pittsburgh’s Channel 11.

http://www.wpxi.com/news/top-stories/local-family-petitioning-law-to-include-parents-grieving-loss-of-child/566361587