holts-2019It seems like I blinked and 2019 is already gone. It’s crazy to me that we’re just a few weeks away from 2020 — and that yet another year without Charlie has gone by. 

My husband, Michael, would likely say this is something I need to do more of: stopping, breathing and reflecting on the work we’ve already done rather than always thinking “what’s next.” So a few weeks ago, freelance writer Alyssa Pressler sat down and asked me several questions about this past year, and what’s coming next: 

How has this year of grief been different for you and your family? 

I’m not sure the grief is different for us this year. It has just been projected differently to others.  We miss Charlie more as time passes, not less. The hard part is those around us who are now used to Charlie being gone. It’s something they have accepted as normal, which is human nature and instinct for survival. However, as his parents, it will never be feel normal. There will innately always be something missing for us. 

What has changed in the nonprofit? What new things have you started doing?

We have continued to work with both our current partnerships, Addis Jemari and A Glimmer of Hope. In February we were able to visit Charlie’s Watering Hole, which was amazing! Imagine driving along makeshift dirt roads for 2 hours, not passing a soul, and then coming into a clearing. In the clearing there is a well and further ahead a school. The rocky landscape is both beautiful and treacherous, but seeing the water come from the well and getting the opportunity to meet the families who use it was so wonderful. This summer we agreed to further support A Glimmer of Hope with a new project, a school in another rural area of Ethiopia. We are so excited to see the updates in 2020. 

As for Addis Jemari, we continue to be in awe of all the founders have been able to do in such a short time! We have supported their Family Empowerment Program and agreed to continue that support through Charlie’s Library and Tutoring Center. The center, housed in the FEP compound will give access to all 50 families and their children to books and tutoring. We hope one day computers will be available as well!  

Overall, how do you feel about the past year? 

I feel like Charlie’s Heart Foundation continues to be a living and breathing thing, which is what we intended it to be — the continuation of Charlie’s legacy. In that regard, just like a human, we have had growing pains, major successes, and areas where I hope we will continue to grow in the future. Overall, we are a work in progress and I am proud of that work!

Is there anything you’d change or do differently? 

I would say — and Michael would agree — relaxing and being thankful for what we have accomplished this year is something I need to work on. I am so busy working on the next thing I forget to take a deep breath. Its a character flaw, for sure. I’ll put that on the To Do list for next year!

What was the highlight of your year, professionally or personally? 

Professionally, the highlight of my year was visiting Charlie’s Water Hole. That was one occasion where I did stop and take a deep breath and just enjoy the fruits of our labor (see, I do do that sometimes Michael!). Everyone else around me was crying and I had the biggest smile on my face. I was truly happy and so proud to be Charlie’s mom. 

Personally, the highlight of my year was being with Michael and our daughter Ellie at Disney world. It was both their first time going, and truthfully I was not looking forward to it. But watching them enjoy the rides and the magic was so worth it. We needed that family time so much, and Charlie was with us in every moment. 

Who are you particularly grateful for this year? 

Causby. She has been such a blessing to our family. We couldn’t imagine her not being here with us. She is funny, smart and endearing, but also has a personality that gives us a run for our money! I am so grateful for the relationship she and Ellie have cultivated. I can see so much of Charlie in that relationship. Ellie and Charlie had such a wonderful bond, and he clearly passed that on to Causby.

Looking ahead to next year, what are you looking forward to most? How will you approach 2020 differently? 

I’m looking forward to visiting Charlie’s Library and Tutoring Center in January! I have a vision of what it looks like and can’t wait to see how that compares. I can’t wait to meet more of the FEP families and spend time working with them at the center!

Fingers crossed, we will be starting a grant program in 2020. I am so excited to see how we can grow our support for other nonprofits established in the U.S. that align with our mission of keeping families together. I can’t wait to see which nonprofits are compelled to apply for our program and the new relationships we will have the opportunity to build through Charlie’s Heart Foundation. My hope is to continue working with our current partners while growing and expanding into new partnerships!