A little over a year ago we were introduced to the Where Angels Play Foundation, an incredible organization with a simple mission -- "to create joyful places to play and a return to family values in the wake of tragedy." From the very first moment we met this army of angels, we felt an incredible bond...it's hard to put in to words but I truly feel that Hannah brought us all together, not only to build her beautiful angel playground here in our hometown of Tinton Falls, but she's given us another family. Since Hannah's playground build, we have been blessed to take part in the construction of additional playgrounds in NJ, Boston and PA, and we look forward to taking part in many future projects as well. There is something so special about being able to bring joy in the wake of grief and pain...many days it is very difficult and the tears come without warning, but during this process there are also many smiles too. For us, we have been able to channel our own grief into something positive, both with our own foundation as well as through Where Angels Play. This has also given Robbie a gift greater than anything we could possibly teach him on our own...a community of friends who have shown him what it means to pay it forward - to be part of something bigger than himself - a beautiful gift for another family and community, a growing self-confidence, and, of course, camaraderie with a bunch of crazy firemen!
Robbie was the foreman during Hannah's playground build and he's very proud of his sissy's playground. We visit quite often and I also find myself stopping by just to sit or walk around the park...from the moment it was decided to build on the site at Liberty Park, I could feel Hannah's presence all around. She sends us SO many signs but I especially feel her with us at the park, and there's not a doubt in my mind that she loves every last detail. I have a story for another day about the power of our angel and how we believe she knew of her beautiful playground way before we did, but this blog post is about Robbie and the love he has for his sissy. During one of our recent stops to the playground, Robbie told us that it would be really awesome if we could add swings. I agreed that it would be an awesome addition, to which he replied, "ok, mama, call Bill and tell him I want swings!" He then asked me, "how can we get money? "You" need a fundraiser". I have to admit, I was pretty impressed and quite proud that at six years old he knew that we needed to raise money in order to get the swings...but I told him that "he" should be in charge of fundraising for the swings. We thought about things he could do, and immediately we agreed that he could raise money by having a lemonade stand. During the build weekend, Robbie had a lemonade stand set up, with all proceeds supporting the Where Angels Play Foundation -- and he was quite the salesman! We all laughed because although he was selling for 25 cents a cup, he didn't give change! So, if you gave him "green money", he just gave out the lemonade, said thank you, and then put the money in his box! Bill was so impressed that he told him he was going to take him out on the road! So, we talked to Bill and he loved the idea of having Robbie lead the fundraising effort for the addition of swings at Hannah's playground and he will be signing a contract to make it official. Robbie is already very proud (and protective) of Hannah's playground, but this will allow him to create his own legacy for his sister...and what a gift that will be, not only for him, but for every child that comes to visit and play on the playground.
So, Robbie has held two lemonade stands so far in his effort, the first at the inaugural farmers market at Falls Village, where he not only sold the lemonade but he also told everyone it was "for swings for his sissy Hannah's playground". Our little boy is really starting to come out of his shell, and we couldn't be more proud of the kind, compassionate, and very funny young man he is becoming. He then held a second lemonade stand at our recent Hustle4Hannah 5K race, also a very successful venture. We came home and counted his stack of money and were quite impressed with the funds he had raised all on his own. In mid October, we traveled down to Myrtle Beach to participate in the Where Angels Play FLASH Fundraiser, a wonderful event that brings police and fire departments from all around NJ together to raise funds for this incredible organization. Following dinner the first evening, during the opening ceremonies, our family spoke briefly about Robbie's mission to raise funds for the installation of swings at Hannah's playground and then Robbie presented Bill with a check....for $400! Our little guy received a standing ovation for all of his hard work!
And, the other day, Robbie received a surprise letter in the mail. Just getting his own mail was excitement enough, but even better was what was inside. It was a letter from Pat Colligan, President of the NJPBA, and he wanted to let Robbie know he was sorry he missed his lemonade stands before, but when he has the next one, he wants a whole pitcher of lemonade! And, included with the letter was a check for $1,000. To say we are humbled is an understatement, and Robbie is over the moon that he is more than half way to his goal of fully funding swings for Hannah's playground. This little boy and the love he has for his sister will move mountains, that is for sure! A special thank you to Pat, and to everyone who has contributed to help Robbie in his mission...it means more than you will ever know...and I think the smile on his face says it all!
If you would like to help Robbie in his mission to continue to bring joy, you can make a donation to his online fundraiser below. All proceeds to be directed to the Where Angels Play Foundation to support their mission to build playgrounds and bring joy. Thank you in advance for your support!!! #lovealwayswins #inspiredbyhannah #whereangelsplay