A father whose toddler recently passed away has taken his grief to social media with a powerful Fundly campaign, inspiring parents to not only cherish their own children, but also honour his late daughter too.
April 3 was a typical evening — Larry Carroll, a 39-year-old Los Angeles-based reporter was home with his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Savannah (nicknamed Savvy), his five-year-old son, and his wife, who is currently eight-and-a-half months pregnant.
"I put Savannah to bed in her crib, and she had a bit of a fever but everything else was normal,” Carroll tells Yahoo Shine.
However, the next morning, he didn't hear his little girl waking up for their usual 6am breakfast of peanut butter toast.
“She would lick off all the peanut butter and hand the bread back to me,” says Carroll. When he went to check on Savannah, he discovered that she had passed away in her crib during the night, from causes not yet known.
That day was a blur and by night, Carroll was wired with adrenaline and grief. While his wife slept, he sat at his computer, struggling with how he could honour his daughter’s memory. He began thinking about a family tradition he and his wife had started that they dubbed "stolen moments."
“If we suddenly have 30 minutes free during the day, instead of checking email, we spend that unplanned time with our kids, taking a walk or eating ice cream,” he says. What if other parents could create their own stolen moments?
Carroll turned to the fundraising site Fundly to launch his idea. “If you'd like to make a donation in Savannah's name — any size — please do it here," he wrote.
"And my dream is to take every penny of those donations, locate a special little girl somewhere in the world — and give her and her family the 'Stolen Moment' that we'll never be able to make with our baby Savannah. I will find a family somewhere — someone I have never met before and has no connection to anyone I know — and help them make a Stolen Moment."
Carroll had three requirements: The parents must have a little girl, they clearly love her very much, and they don't have the financial means to spend on such an experience.
"Perhaps we can send them to Disneyland, and get them the greatest hotel room ever. Perhaps we could fly them somewhere," wrote Carroll.
"I want to give some little person a moment with her Mum and Dad that she'll remember forever — a moment that they would never have without us doing this. Any money raised above the costs of the 'Stolen Moment' will be put into a college fund for that child.”
Carroll capped the donations at $10,000.
The next morning, Carroll woke up to $5000 in donations from people all over the world. “One woman in Haiti contributed. Another said her two kids opened their piggy banks and wanted to send $23. One woman filmed her daughter letting a pink balloon fly in the sky for Savannah,” says Carroll.
Over the next few days, people also began tweeting photos and videos of their own stolen moments, tagging Carroll and using the hashtag #StolenMoments. And Carroll used Facebook and Twitter to encourage parents to sing their children to sleep with Savvy’s favorite song, “Swee’Pea’s Lullaby” from the movie "Popeye." He also set up a Facebook page to honour Savannah.
The fund, which, as of Thursday morning, has almost $48,000 in donations, is set up for 49 days. Eventually, when Carroll and his wife feel ready (most likely at the end of the summer, he says), they'll search for a family.
“We’ll either take a long drive or get on a long plane ride and sit at a café in a new city and observe families,” he says. “We’ll approach one with a child that reminds us of Savannah.”
Carroll says he’s prepared for any reaction (“I’m sure some will think what we’re doing is strange,” he says), but he’s confident that they’ll find the right child.
“My only request is that after the family spends the money on their daughter, they’ll sit down with my wife and I and share every photo and video of the experience,” he says. “And my wife and I hope to attend the college graduation of the girl we choose.”
Carroll says he and his wife derive true joy from seeing other parents share their stolen moments on social media. “I set my ring tone to a recording of Savvy’s laughter," he says, "so each time a donation comes in or I get a social media notification, I hear her laugh."