Inspired by Son’s Generous Spirit, Parents Give Back
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (July 15, 2015) – The incredible outpouring of love that parents in Lake Worth, Florida, received after the sudden loss of their son a year ago has inspired a new purpose in their lives, and a strong desire to comfort others.
“We have been blessed with so much love from the people around us, I wanted to give back,” said Meg Fitzgerald Batchelder, Ryan’s mother and Founder of The Ryan Batchelder Foundation. “My husband came up with the idea to fulfill Ryan’s dreams by comforting children in need with the gift of a stuffed animal. He actually insists Ryan gave him the idea.”
The family had been on vacation in Lake Burton, Georgia, when 7-year-old Ryan was tragically killed in a boating accident on July 17.
“Ryan loved stuffed animals and had a dream to have a million, which I regretfully told him was not practical,” said Batchelder. “He also dreamed of becoming Santa Claus and a great second baseman like Dustin Pedroia from the Boston Red Sox.”
With every stuffed animal purchased, The Ryan Batchelder Foundation, also known as Little Hugs, will provide a new stuffed animal to a child in some of the most impoverished areas of the Caribbean and Latin America. To date, Little Hugs has donated 3,000 stuffed animals to children in need through Food For The Poor’s Angels Of Hope program.
The Batchelder family will travel to Jamaica with the South Florida-based nonprofit Food For The Poor July 20-24. While in Jamaica with Food For The Poor, in addition to serving meals to the hungry in Kingston and helping to build a home for a destitute family in McCook’s Pen in St. Catherine, the Batchelder family will distribute some of the new stuffed animals to those they meet.
Ryan’s older brother, 10-year-old Josh Batchelder, will travel with his parents.
“We have wanted to do something like this for a long time,” said Batchelder, who worked at Office Depot in Boca Raton, Fla. “We want to raise Josh so he is focused on giving.”
Josh first learned about Food For The Poor’s mission several years ago when he was moved to donate all of his savings after watching the story of children in Guatemala struggling to find food in a garbage dump. When his mother asked if he wanted to keep just $50 in his account, he insisted that all of his money be donated to help buy food for the children.
“I think it is tremendously helpful to find purpose in helping others,” said Meg Fitzgerald Batchelder. “When I am really struggling, I remind myself that I know he [Ryan] wants me to live, not just exist. I am trying to live a more conscious life to honor him and make him proud. I understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of focusing on the pain to maintain the connection, so I find other positive ways like releasing balloons, lighting candles and writing down memories.”
On January 20, in remembrance of Ryan’s birthday, his mom lit candles and set them afloat inside lotus flowers in the family pool. Batchelder, who purchased a telescope to view a star that a friend had named in Ryan’s honor in the center of the Big Dipper, was initially disappointed to learn that it was practically impossible to see in South Florida during the winter.
Before Batchelder could explain to friends and family where Ryan’s star was located, his uncle pointed to the lotus flowers that glistened like the seven bright stars in the Big Dipper, with the eighth candle directly in the middle.
“We researched near-death experiences, which gave us great comfort and strengthened our belief that we would see Ryan again,” said Batchelder. “Having alone time and talking to him out loud helps me to feel connected, which is so important.”
Some of the stuffed animals are kept in Ryan’s room until they can be placed in loving homes. Batchelder smiled as she recalled recently speaking out loud to Ryan, to let him know he had gotten one of his wishes, a bedroom filled with stuffed animals.
Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
Jennifer Leigh Oates
954-427-2222 x 6054