Leah Rondon died last summer, at 6 years old, when she was hit by a car while playing with a wagon in a friend’s neighborhood in Ansonia, CT. I cried afterwards whenever I thought about what her parents and older brothers must have been feeling, never having met Leah personally. Her picture when posted to FB still brings me to tears as she is perhaps one of the most beautiful little girls you will lay eyes on. And she was smart, and sporty, and, most importantly, kind to others.
Royce Whitaker died six summers ago, at 7 years old, when an elderly women struck him in her car in Halifax, MA while he was in a crosswalk with his dad and little sister crossing their bikes. I cried then too afterwards given that I was 5 months pregnant, and I had never seen such grief and sadness in his parents’ faces. He was just a little boy on a bike ride with his dad and sister. Their lives would never be the same.
Both of the these families, like others who have lost little children, have suffered an unconscionable tragedy and inconceivable loss of life. Children should never die before their parents. I admire their strength, courage, and determination to love life despite overwhelming grief. These families, even in and through their grief, live their lives in the same spirit in which they raised their children. The anger, hostility, and frustration they must have felt (and still feel at times) is something I can’t imagine or even pretend to understand. They press on each day, handle challenges one at a time, work hard, model active and positive lifestyles, and love their children. They share their memories and the activities their kids loved to do. They share stories of their children, and they have chosen to honor their children’s memories with community events to raise scholarship funds.
Leah’s Birthday Bash takes place this Saturday, February 6, 2016 at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, CT from 12-3 PM. Leah’s dad, Henry, is the principal there, and her mom, Colleen, grew up with us in NH and is a middle school science teacher in Westport, CT. They live in Ansonia with their two boys, and their community has shown unwavering support for them in the wake of Leah’s accident back in August. Like her mom, Leah was actively involved in sports, including soccer, basketball, and softball; she loved school, played hard, and laughed a lot. This carnival for elementary aged children will go toward a scholarship fund for a Kolbe Cathedral senior girl hoping to attend college. Admission is free and cost for rides, food, etc will go to the scholarship fund. In a recent press release shared by Jim Shay of the CTPost for the event, Colleen and Henry “hope the message of Leah’s short but sweet life has meaning for others: ‘That she was a fun-loving, joyful person. That she had six and a half years of happiness and enjoyed making other people laugh and be happy too.'” For more information about Leah’s Birthday Bash, check out the following link: http://www.kolbecaths.org/latest-news/leahrondonsbirthdaybash. The weather looks to be rain/snow free, perfect for a carnival in February!
The 7th Annual Royce Whitaker Run by the Bay 5K takes place this April 30, 2016 at Bay Farm Montessori Academy in Duxbury, MA. Royce attended this school, where his active imagination and curiosity for learning thrived. At age 7, Royce knew more about the constellations than most educated adults. He skied with his mom and dad, Tina and Roy Whitaker, every weekend Loon Mountain was open during the season. They lived near the ocean and spent a lot of time with their extended families. His little sister, Sarah, adored him, and I love that she and her dad often join our family in crazy, outdoor adventures. Royce loved the outdoors and was often on a hiking or biking adventure with his family or friends. The proceeds from this event support Bay Farm’s Financial-Aid for deserving students enrolled at the school. The school is committed to balanced classrooms and socio-economic diversity. For more information about this Run by the Bay, please check out the following link: http://www.active.com/duxbury-ma/running/distance-running-races/11th-annual-royce-whitaker-5k-run-by-the-bay-2016. While I can’t predict the weather so far in advance for Royce’s Run, I do know that Royce would have run rain, snow, sleet or sun because he was that kind of kid.
Regardless, we will be hoping that Mother Nature will shine down some good sun, some warm rays for winter and early spring days. Children will come and play games at Leah’s Birthday Bash and make memories together in the same ways she would have done. Families will Run by the Bay, take in nature’s beauty, and remember a little boy who thought about nature and how it worked ALL THE TIME. Future young women will go to college because of Leah’s memory, and other children will be able to attend an amazing elementary school thanks to Royce’s family tradition. Colleen, Henry, Roy, and Tina, thank you for your children; thank you for remembering them this way in addition to all the other ways, so that other people’s children may benefit from their memory.