The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The "Stay Family"

I use to NEVER be able to handle a sad story about a child. Whenever people would say "Oh man I heard the saddest story the other day!" I would stop them dead in their tracts and ask "Is it about a child? Because if it is don't tell me, I can't handle that!". I don't know why but those stories wouldn't just depress me and make me think, "Oh man, that is terrible", it would leave me floored. I would get knots in my stomach and just cry for these poor innocent children and the poor parents that had lost them. It would follow me around for weeks and I would ache as if I knew them personally. My husband has always told me there is no way he would ever take me near an adoption center unless we were serious, because he is 110% sure I would leave with several children. He is right. I love kids, I love families, and I hate the idea of anything bad  ever happening to them.

Now for some reason that has changed. It use to be when I would see a link to a news report about child abuse, tragic accidents, or anything that even hinted sadness with children I would quickly scroll pass it. I'd pretend I didn't really see it so therefore it didn't really exist. Now I read all of them. It still makes me sick to my stomach, I still get the knots and the depression for days but for some reason I embrace it. I obsess over these sad stories and all of these people suffering and I can't help but "compare notes". How did the parents handle it? How are the other kids? How is the rest of the family? Were they good parents? Did they have a part to play in the death? Were they being responsible? Was it a total accident? What are they going to do now?

Yesterday I had let these stories get the best of me. I had read three terrible stories in one day and it was killing me. I kept taking breaks to go cry in the bathroom and mourn all of these babies who had suffered such tragic deaths. Some were on accident and some of them were just pure evil. I felt like I had gained 50lbs. I could not stop thinking about these children and their last few moments in life. How frightened they must have been, how sad and terrified, and how no one was their to save them. Why is this world so awful? As I was sinking even deeper into despair I thought of my little McKenna and then a beautiful idea popped into my mind. I bet McKenna is greeting them right now. I bet she is running up to those little angels, excited to have new friends to play with. I bet she's telling them how safe they are here, how happy they will be, and how the rest of their loved ones will be here soon.

I could see her as the "hostess" of heaven. It fits her perfectly. She was super friendly and she loved people. She always gave hugs and kisses. She always made sure that you heard her tell you goodbye before she left. She always did the classic run and jump in your arms when you walked into the door. She was my little socialite. I remember picking her up from daycare one day. She ran up to me, I picked her up and gave her a big hug. One of the little boys in her class was crying so she asked me to put her down. She went up to him (even though he was sitting "criss cross apple sauce") and awkwardly squatted to give him a hug. Immediately the boy smiled and returned the hug. Soon a little boy behind her said softly "I want a hug". "OK" she said happily and ran up to the other boy and gave him a hug. Then a little girl piped up loudly as if it were unfair "HEY, I WANT A HUG". "OK" she said and ran to hug the little girl too. Now the whole class was in an uproar, all demanding a hug from McKenna. Not once did she get upset or even slow down. With each child she just said "OK" and ran to hug them. I just stood by and adored the whole scene. Kids are so sweet! I couldn't get over how naturally loving she was. With no effort at all she hugged all of her classmates happily and embraced each one of them just as lovingly as she did the first.

I admired her compassion and thought to myself, "I bet she will grow up and do some kind of job that requires her to serve others, maybe like a non-profit organization or a nurse." Little did I know that my daughters purpose in this life was much greater than any of these jobs. She was sent here to teach my family and I a whole new understanding on what this life is really about. She has taught me so much and is still teaching me how to love, how to show more compassion, and how to truly be a servant of the Lord. I have never felt such a deep pain in my heart but at the same time I never knew that I was capable of feeling such compassion towards others. I have learned that you can truly help others by more then just saying "I'm sorry for your loss", you can serve them, even when they say "No, I am ok thanks". You can show love by taking action, don't take no for an answer! Serve anyway, who doesn't appreciate a gift of love, a kind gesture, a simple effort showing you care. Whether a stranger or a family member, everyone needs help.

I thought about this and decided to follow in my daughters foot steps. Today marks 3 months since her passing so Zach and I have come up with a project we are calling "McKenna's Together Forever Plan". We made a chart of things we need to accomplish once a month that we believe will help us get back to our Kenna Bear some day. On this chart are 5 things: go to the LDS Temple, memorize a scripture, go visiting and home teaching (That is something we do in our church where we go check on families and see how they are doing and if they need anything), pray and read scriptures every night, and LASTLY do a service for someone. We just started this and I have been looking for a family to help and then it hit me. I decided I was going to help one of the sad stories I had read about today. Instead of sulking in my own pain and misery I was going to help someone else get through theirs and even though I have never done something like this before I know that their family in heaven would appreciate even the slightest bit of compassion on the rest of the family that is left behind suffering without them. So here is the family I am reaching out to serve, you may have already heard about them in the news if you live in Texas. They have actually been on national news too.

The Stay Family:
Warning: this one is very graphic, to give you a quick sum up this family was murdered by an ex uncle looking for his divorced wife. He killed the entire family (well he thought he did). The oldest daughter who was only 15 survived. Although he shot her in the back of the head he actually just grazed the side of her skull (because she raised her hands out of self defense and it took off her finger instead). She pretended to be dead until the man left and then called the police to warn them that the man was on his way to kill her grandparents in the pursuit of his wife. She is the only survivor out of a family of 7. I can't tell this story without crying, it makes my one loss seem so small. Here is a link to the full story.

So there are several ways to help:
First, this is the official Facebook page they have set up for people who want to help. This is the best way to help because you can ask question and know exactly what the family is looking for.

Their friends have also set up a "Go-fund-me" account to raise money for the daughter Cassidy. This money is for helping pay her medical bills, the 6 funerals, and anything else this poor child could possibly want or need in this life. I can't even begin to imagine the life that is ahead of her but at least she we can see our support and know that she is loved and taken care of financially.
Here is where you can donate directly to the family:

My family and I are planning on doing a giant garage sale with our church, family, neighbors, friends, and whoever else wants to donate. All of the money will go directly to the family. I just decided this and am still in the works of getting things set up so I will have more information about that later.

I have been following them on Facebook and they have set up a fundraiser with some chick-Fe-la restaurants.  They said that it is not limited to Texas because this has been on national news and have some places that are even helping from California. At the bottom is a list of the ones that are working with them as of now. If you know a chick-fil-le that is not on this list that would be willing to participate call them and see if they will help with the fundraiser. You can also reach the family through the facebook link to give the restaurants their information. This is not limited to only Texas this is national news and therefore can be any location so even if you don't live here in Texas give your local chick-fa-le restaurant a shout out. We are working on one that is here by my house. They need all the money that they can get so please help if you can. If you're unable to help with any of these remember you can always donate directly to the family through the gofundme website.

(This is directly copied and pasted from their Facebook)
Chick fa Le fundraiser :
A Chick-fil-a fundraiser has been set up and will be on Tuesday, July 15 from 10:30 AM - 8 PM. The following locations have agreed to particpate and we have many more in the works:
Louetta Crossing—20608 I-45 Spring, TX
2920 & Kuykendahl—5905 FM 2920 Spring, TX
1960/I 45– 430 Cypress Creek Pkwy Houston, TX
Meyerland Plaza—5001 Beechnut St Houston, TX
Northwest Crossing—13240 NW Fwy Houston, TX
Clearlake Shores— 321 Marina Bay Dr C. L. S., TX
Beltway 8 & Wallisville—5910 East Sam Houston Pkwy N Houston,TX
Drive Thru Only
59 & West Airport– 12161 SW Fwy Stafford, TX
More locations to come!
For all sales that the Stephen and Katie Stay Family Memorial is MENTIONED, 20% will be donated to the trust that is set up for the family's funeral expenses and Cassidy's recovery expenses. Any sale helps, even if you just go buy a drink or an ice cream.
Please use the hashtag #chick-fil-a on social media, Like the participating locations restaurant sites, share the post or the flyer, even print them and distribute if you want!...JUST GET THE WORD OUT!!!
And last way to help if you live here in Texas!!! (this is also copied and pasted from their account):
If you do live here in Texas and are not far from Spring here is a fundraiser they are doing today at the children's school:
School fundraiser in Spring Texas:
Lemm Elementary (the children's school) will be gathering in remembrance of the Stay family on Saturday, July 12th at 10a.m. Crisis counselors will be on hand. Principal Brown has been involved and will be reading a statement from the family. They have asked people to tie brightly colored ribbons (Cassidy's favorite color is teal/turquoise) around your/their trees as a show of support. Bottled water will be on hand courtesy of HEB, Brother's Pizza, and Forest Oaks Swim Team. Balloon launch, songs, and a celebration of life will be part of the event. We have now been informed that media WILL be at the event/welcome, so please be sure to refer them to us for any official interviews. You are welcome to share your memories of course.  Thank you!

Also from Amy Schmidt: We'd like to set up the box to collect donations for the battered womens shelter that Katie was passionate about. This is a list of the items. All items that will go in the kit will need to fit together in a 1 gallon ziplock bag.
Hygiene Kit: Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, washcloths, small combs, small brushes.
Children's Activity Kit: Box of crayons, Pencils, coloring books, sticker books, activity books.
Additional Items: New twin size bed sheets. New twin size blankets, baby monitors new or used, laundry detergent powder.

If you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment and I will be happy to help. I am so grateful for all the support I have gotten since my daughters passing and I know that it helped me and is still helping me get through these hard times. I hope this young girl is able to feel the same comfort. I know McKenna is welcoming her family right now with a big hug and a big kiss, we will all be together one day. Thank the Lord that families can be together forever!


  1. thank you Shannon, for the beautiful reminder of McKenna. She always made you feel loved and special. I will gladly donate twin sheets to the shelter. Do we give them to you or to the organization? I will gladly help with the garage sale. I am good at sitting. Love you and your sweet family. I love and miss Kennabear

  2. What a tender, beautiful way to help and heal! I would love to help with the yard sale. I love your drive and desire to do good. Such a gift to all of us and Kenna Bear is just grinning and saying "that's my mom" I love you