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Walk It Forward: The Selfish Act of Giving Back

Photograph by Lady and the King Photography

In the coming days, it will be 18 months since someone my wife and I trusted forever changed the course of my family's life.

For those who aren't familiar with my son—"the Incredible Holt"—his nanny hurt him at 11 weeks old. His skull was cracked and he stopped breathing. Blue and lifeless, a pair of strangers randomly spotted my fading child and saved him with CPR. He spent hours in intensive care, weeks in a coma, months in excruciating pain, a year in hell, and yet here he is: still fighting.

The traumatic brain injury Holt suffered has left him with many unresolved health issues. Throughout each day, Holt has sudden bouts of unexplained pain, but he also experiences random fits of joy for reasons beyond our understanding. Neurological damage has left him with atrocious vision, but his hearing is pitch perfect. I admit we can't get him to laugh on command, but that doesn't mean he won't smile when something tickles his fancy. It's heart-wrenching watching him grow into a toddler without being able to sit up, crawl or even reach for things—but then again, it would be worse if we were no longer able to watch him at all. It's all about perspective.

When you find yourself in a hole as deep as our family fell into, it is only then that you can appreciate the varying depths of despair. The trick is to take that appreciation and selfishly exploit it to find joy for your family again. Abra-ca-freakin'-dabra.

Photograph by Lady and the King Photography

After our son's near-fatal injury, months clocked by and things never really got easier. They felt like they did at times, but it was always a façade, at best. As random as the lifespan of a soap bubble, a setback always seemed to burst on Holt when we weren't expecting. The truth is, when forced with no options, it's human nature to adjust to your new surroundings. So for us, we slowly understood—but never accepted—that our son was going to be living a life at a different speed than the rest of the world.

Once this reality sunk in, it took both tangible and emotional support to get us through some of the darker times. As I sat stone-faced for months upon months, wrestling with the reality of my son having permanent brain damage, the planet secretly began to move again. We received donations and messages of hope from thousands of people that humbled us to no end. Today, with some of the heartache in the rearview mirror, we are able to take a step back and realize how fucking amazing that was and that we should figure out how to mass produce it.

I don't believe we are the spokespeople for tragedies by any means, but I feel my wife and I are damn good ambassadors. Our life is still on the rocks and we are still trying to figure out the best way to help our son succeed in his personal recovery, but we are now able to take a breath. We can look around and recognize other people's plights—not just our own. We are no longer in panic mode but rather cruise control with our foot gently touching the gas pedal, in case we need to take off again, which we've had to do on numerous times.

So, for us, the time is now to start repaying our debt to the world around us.

In December of last year, exactly one year after our son was near-fatally hurt by his nanny, we launched our nonprofit Holton's Heroes to be able to offer families around the country the same support and feeling of community that we were once gifted.

Since our launch date five months ago, we've helped out four amazing children and their families. We're already set up to help out two more children in the coming months.

I won't tell you that if my son was never hurt we'd still be doing something like this, because it isn't true. I also won't tell you this situation was kismet or "meant to be," as I'd easily trade every family we help to get my son back. I know that's a jerk thing to say, but I also know that's not an option, so this truly is the next best thing. And selfishly, I'm OK with that.

We are hosting our first Walk the Boards for TBI event on June 25 in Ventnor City, New Jersey. You can join us in our mission to bring children around the country who have suffered a traumatic brain injury some joy in their life. Come walk the boards with us or simply visit our site to donate—knowing full well you are not only making a deserving child happy but, selfishly, me too.

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