A year ago I set out to start a year long project and had no idea where it would take me or what the reception of the idea would be. I said it month after month. I have sat back in awe as project after project was completed. I am so thankful to everyone who helped celebrate Zachary's life with me. February and March have been two tremendous months.
My mom had come up with the brilliant idea to have business cards made for our new website. She designed and ordered these beautiful cards to pass out to everyone and anyone who wants to know more about Zachary. She's always supported me and believed in me. She shares Zachary with the world and she's always encouraging me to do the same. The cards were a perfect idea. They came just in time to be passed out to many caring people. At Marley's Mission's Blue Ribbon Gala we were able to set one out at each place setting. Everyone got to see Zachary's sweet little face, and visit our site. It's just another way to continue to share his story with many.
Shortly after, my sister Anny had called me with another surprise! She and Bill had been talking and working on something big. Anny had the idea to start another project that would in essence keep the Remembering Zachary Project going indefinitely. Her project is called Zachary's Heroes. The idea is simple but brilliant. Anny created Zachary's Heroes cards. They are intended to be passed on to others when a Random Act of Kindness is done. The cards will travel from person to person with the good deeds that are done in memory of Zachary. The cards encourage the recipient of the good deed to come to our website and enter the good deed that was done to them. It also asks them to take the time to explore our website and learn about who Zachary was. Since this project has been launched there have been a few entries. Coffee was bought, driveways were shoveled and surprise gifts and flowers were bought. It is the best feeling to get an email and to see the good things people are starting to do for others in memory of Zachary. It makes me so proud. If you'd like to participate you can request some cards from me or you can print them off from our site.
President's day weekend was Marley's Missions annual Blue Ribbon Gala. It is a weekend I look forward to each year. Zachary and his memory is always a part of their night because the Remembering Zachary Award is always presented. This year the award went to Pennsylvania's Attorney General, Kathleen Kane. You can read more about this special night and why she was this year's recipient here. We had the opportunity to talk for a bit. She has a picture of Zachary in her office and she has promised to always remember him. She's said that I was an inspiration to her. It makes me feel incredible to see all the people that have been touched by Zachary's memory. While at the Gala, I was also surprised to find out that Zachary had also inspired the decor. Donna who led the design, had told me that she was sitting at the Mission one day on Zachary's benches. That's when it hit her that she wanted to the design this year to be centered around a stroll at the park. All of the benches had been brought from the Mission to the Hilton. The walls were adorned with silhouettes of children playing and the dining hall was decorated with stars hanging from the ceilings. Donna said that she didn't know the story of Zachary until after she sat on the benches. As she learned about him she was inspired. She said to me that the decorations at the Gala was her Remembering Zachary Project! How special is that? I love how Zachary has weaved his spirit into others. It was a beautiful night and so incredibly memorable.
The day after the Gala was, my Godson, Kieran's baptism. Being there for the baptism was the first time I got to meet his sweet little face. I loved getting to hold him and spend some time with him. He is a sweet little angel. Because he was given Zachary as one of his middle names I also wanted to give him and his parents a special gift as well. I went into the attic to look through Zachary's clothes. I picked a special shirt to give to Kieran. I know it's not much but it means the world to me. Kieran has a very special guardian angel. I'm excited to be a part of his life and get to watch him grow. I just hope I will do as wonderful of a job loving him as his daddy did of loving Zachary.
After the Gala my sister-in-law, Diana, had called to share her Remembering Zachary Project with me. She knew just how important it is for me to have others remember Zachary. She had called her friend who had great ideas about how to spread the word about Zachary and how to optimize my social media reach. Her friend suggested Thunderclap, a service that allows a single message to be mass-shared. Because of Diana's efforts over 60,000 people saw our message promoting Zachary's Heroes and the Remembering Zachary Project website on the morning of Zachary's birthday. I was so thankful for the people who shared and got their friends to join too. It takes a village, right? My whole Facebook wall was covered with Zachary's message and with his pictures. So many people also honored Zachary on his birthday by changing their profile picture or cover photo. Just another piece of evidence to show how loved he is.
We decided to come home this year for Zachary's birthday to celebrate it in a big way! Bill talked me into it. He knew that being surrounded by family would make the day easier for me. He was right. Because we were expecting snow we decided to come to PA a couple days early. It gave us extra time with family. My mother-in-law surprised me with a beautiful gift. She said on her way to work she had walked by this store many times. Displayed were these beautiful angels made out of glass. She had contacted the artist and asked him if he could make a special angel that looked like Zachary. She had sent him an image and he incorporated it into the angel he made. It is so beautiful and I'm looking forward to finding the perfect spot to hang it in our home. She also shared with me that she had donated a box of cookies to a local food pantry. She had asked that the cookies be passed out to people who had come in with children. <3
A few days later came Zachary's birthday. I wrote a blog all about this incredibly special day. Many of my dear friends and family members gathered to celebrate Zachary's 10th birthday. They all joined me in what has always been in the past a very private day. They each wrote special messages to Zachary with me and sent them to heaven on balloons. But the spirit of giving was added this year to his celebration. Each person who attended Zachary's birthday brought a gift that would be donated to boys at the Big Brothers Organization. It was very touching to wrap all of these presents with the people I love. I know that when the boys unwrap their gifts they will smile and Zachary will be beaming.
On Zachary's birthday I was surprised with another amazing Remembering Zachary Project. Kim, an amazingly talented photographer and friend, had come to Zachary's birthday to take pictures for me. She had not only come up with the idea of giving gifts to boys in memory of Zachary, but she also had another surprise up her sleeve. She had started a private (now public) page on Facebook. She had gathered many talented photographers and they each had vowed to do something special in memory of Zachary. Some of the projects were donating their talents to a deserving family in memory of Zachary, taking pictures of children, donating a cake to a family for a special occasion, printing their beautiful pictures for an auction at Marley's Mission, photographing deserving families for free in his memory…. it's just incredible! Kim knows my passion for pictures. This is the perfect project. When I was younger I couldn't afford much. I saved and sacrificed to be able to get Zachary's pictures taken by Kim when he was 6 months old. I tell her all the time how I cherish these pictures. It was the best money spent. She captured a moment of his life. She captured his beauty, his chubs, his perfect eyes, and his charming smile. Her images are priceless to me. To know that other families will receive this gift in memory of Zachary is so touching to me. Thank you Kim for caring so deeply. (I squeezed another thank you in Kim. :) )
McKenzy is Zachary's big sister. With all of the planning to make Zachary's birthday special, she wanted in. She created two videos for her brother. The first one is a trailer. It's short and it's a preview of Zachary's big day that was to come. The second video is of Zachary's 10th birthday celebration. She did a fabulous job capturing our families love of Zachary. I'm so proud of her. I've posted both videos on his Happy Birthday page of our website so we can easily enjoy them. Please visit that page to take a look.
Also on Zachary's birthday Elisa and her family delivered 100 books to her grandson's Head Start classroom. Each of the boys in the class got a few books each and then the rest of the books were donated to the classroom. Early on Elisa had reached out to me to let me know what she wanted to do in memory of Zachary. She said donating books would be the perfect project because she and her family love to read. Some of her most favorite memories are of her and her kiddos reading together. It was wonderful to see the pictures of her family putting Remembering Zachary stickers in all of the books. I continue to be humbled by the generosity of others!
Later in the month Sheila and Timmy had finished their 10 Jared Boxes and they donated them to the pediatric outpatient department of Geisinger Wyoming Valley. Each box was made with a 10 year old boy in mind. We hadn't heard of this project before so it inspired us to get involved too. We each made a Jared Box for a child and we will be donating our boxes soon. The boxes are shoebox size and they are filled with goodies and toys that will make children smile as they stay in the hospital. Thank you Sheila and Timmy for your continued support and for paying it forward in memory of Zachary. (*Timmy's project was featured in the local paper! )
Kelly, another dear friend, also finished organizing games that she and her family have purchased. They will be donated to a local organization. She's been collecting games over the past few months.
Colleen is also wrapping up her 10 races for 10 years project! She's finished 9 of 10 races. Next weekend will be her 5th marathon and she's even got two more 5ks scheduled before the end of April. She's tied her running to fundraising too for Marley's Mission. Seeing child abuse awareness spread in Zachary's memory is very special to me. I am witnessing the awareness happen all around me.
Just this past weekend a few girls from a Girl Scout troop at my school decided to work on their Bronze Award by holding a bake sale. They are donating all of the money they raised to Marley's Mission. They will hold another sale for them too. These girls are so special. They didn't know Zachary and I'm not even certain that they know I had a son that passed away because of abuse. But it's because of the awareness that I have tried to spread that I'm picked up supporters along the way. I am so proud that they have come to care about a cause and a place that is very important to me. These girls care about helping the kids at Marley's Mission. It makes me not only a proud mom that Zachary is touching so many hearts, but also a proud teacher.
Tonight I got another surprise. My childhood friend Marianna has always been so supportive. Each year for Child Abuse Awareness Month she has helped share the importance of this month with others. This year she got a strip of her hair dyed blue! This makes me so happy. For the past year and a half I've been getting a strip of my hair dyed blue too. I love it! Each time it's touched up I just smile. I am proud to spread awareness in anyway that I can and I'm so happy to have more and more friends join me each year. Thank you Marianna for being so invested and caring about a cause that is so important. Thank you for doing this in honor of Zachary.
Looking back over this blog and each of the blogs I have written since the start of this project, I feel proud. I cannot believe how many people there are out there who care. Even though this project technically was supposed to come to an end on March 4th, 2014, it's still going strong. Good deeds are happening, and Zachary's being remembered all the time. That is the greatest gift that anyone can give me, remembering my son. You're all helping me be the person I am today. I have survived and I am as strong as I can be because of the love and support I've been given. Thank you so each and everyone person who has been involved in this incredible project!