Expect the unexpected
And just like that, he was gone. We would’ve seen it coming had it been during one of the many emergency visits to the hospital or during one of the countless surgeries he had on his skull. But no, this was unexpected, making it all the more traumatic for a nine-year-old. I was that nine-year-old. And he was my brother, Nathaniel — born with numerous special needs and undiagnosed syndromes in 1997, who just four short years later left this earth on November 11, 2001 due to a cardiac arrest.
My parents, empathetic to a community who five years prior had been strangers, decided to turn their grief and loss into a triumph and victory to bring hope and help to other families who were like us: worn out and challenged with the assignment of caregiving for a special needs child. So it was then in 2002 that Nathaniel’s Hope, a nonprofit celebrating kids with special needs (our VIP kids), was born.
Over the past 14 years we’ve had over 11,000 kids register as part of our free national VIP Birthday Club. We’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of families benefit from our national respite program, Buddy Break, where we partner with churches around the U.S. to bring free practical assistance to VIP families for three hours each month, so that caregivers can get a much needed break. We’ve distributed toys and goodies to thousands upon thousands of kids (and adults) stuck in the hospital on Christmas day with our Caroling for Kids program, and allowed just as many VIP families to shop for free toys at Nathaniel’s Toy Shop at Christmastime. Finally, we’ve been Making ‘m Smile since 2002 when we launched our first Make ‘m Smile Festival at Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando. Now, in 2016, we have our 14th Annual Festival, which we deem the BIGGEST party celebrating kids with special needs, with an estimated 40,000+ in attendance.
WHAT? Does this sound like something that would come from death?
Not to me. But we are grateful — I am grateful — that God uses everything for good.
So, if you have a brother, sister, son, daughter, or client with special needs, Nathaniel’s Hope is a resource for you. Join us on Saturday, June 4, 2016 for Make ‘m Smile — all VIPs and their immediate families get in FREE! Or come as a Buddy and be a friend by participating in our Friendship Stroll. It’s so much fun and packed with entertainment —just like a theme park. In fact, many VIP kids say it’s better than Disney world!You’re officially invited. To learn more about, or to register for, Make ‘m Smile or any of our Nathaniel’s Hope programs and events, simply visit NathanielsHope.org.
Oh, and in case you were wondering…that nine-year-old? Though such an early childhood death took it’s toll on her own mental health, she’s now in her master’s program to become a licensed mental health counselor to help kids process through grief, loss and trauma similar to what she experienced.
Would these unexpected GOOD events have resulted without the unexpected BAD events?
Only God knows.
But with God, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.
Learn more about Nathaniel’s Hope, the heart of the program and
get to know the Kuck Family through this video (shown above).
Nathaniel’s Hope Photo Gallery
About the Author
Brianna Kuck is currently a graduate student at Palm Beach Atlantic University pursuing her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She is currently the Event & Communications Coordinator at Nathaniel’s Hope. Through Teams Commissioned for Christ International she lives out her passion for missions by facilitating & participating in trips to Guatemala.