BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - This was a difficult Hand It On to do, and I knew it would be due to the subject matter.
I also knew it would be difficult in particular for the person who did the nominating. I phoned her to make sure she was emotionally ready and still willing to do this Hand It On. She admitted it was going to be hard but that this "wasn't about her." Wow. What strength. What courage. Through her hurt and pain, she maintained focus on another person. What a lesson!
I guess by now you're wondering what the heck I'm even writing about. Here goes.
Bobby Siears was a cabinet maker in Walker for about 25 years. One morning he woke up with an overwhelming feeling, more of a vision as he describes it. He felt he was being directed by God to use his gifts and talents and begin making caskets for families who had lost a child and could not afford the unexpected expense of a sudden funeral.
"There was a need in the community, for a young boy that had drowned," Siears explained.
Knowing nothing at all about casket making, Bobby began. A little common sense and knowledge from his cabinet building helped, but he was unaware of the requirements and restrictions funeral homes had regarding caskets - sizes, liners, vaults. So much to know.
That and the unexpected resistance he was getting from funeral homes themselves.
"I mean, I was basically cutting in on somebody's paycheck," Bobby explained. "They weren't real happy about it at first, but there's a handful of them that are receptive to what we do."
In fact, more and more funeral directors now actually send families to Bobby when loss of a child is involved and money is an issue.
You see, Bobby does not charge a penny for the caskets he makes. Through a non-profit organization he formed called The Little Angels Foundation, Bobby donates caskets to families who lose children ages infant to high school.
"We're doing about 50 to 75 a year, and that's not fulfilling the demand for them; I mean the need. That is just all I can do. There is a huge need," Bobby said.
Enter Christine Wood, our nominating person. She met Bobby through, of all places, racing cars! Mutual friends at the track; one thing led to another.
"One day I met a guy named Wayne who races cars too," Christine said. "He was selling tickets at the track and was wearing a t-shirt with The Little Angels Foundation logo. I asked him what his t-shirt meant, and when he told me, it was just instant. I was like, I'm here for you. I'm gonna do it. I don't care what it takes, whatever you need I'm gonna be there for you."
You see, 18 years earlier Christine lost one of her two twin boys to S.I.D.S. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) at just four months old.
"I remember finding him and thinking that was the most horrible thing I would ever go through in my life," Christine, now crying, remembers like it was yesterday. "I was thinking that was the worst thing to go through in my entire life, but it wasn't. The next day at the funeral home, that was even worse.
"We sat in the funeral home, me and my husband. No insurance, no money for the funeral, but thank God for the company where my husband worked. He worked for an oil field company. The owner, Bob White, had called in to the funeral home and told them he was paying for the whole funeral. The whole funeral!"
Remembering how very difficult that period in her life was, she vowed to help families in similar situations any way she could.
So Christine helped organize a beauty pageant for very young girls, called the Tutu Pageant, to raise money for Mr. Bobby's Little Angels Foundation. The day of the pageant was the weekend of the historic August flooding. On Saturday, August 13, the small church on Walker South Road in Walker was completely flooded. The pageant had to be postponed.
Also a Walker resident, Bobby lost everything too. All his tools. The wood and fabric used to make caskets. A very expensive sewing machine used for making the silk casket lining. Everything.
WAFB was again invited to the Tutu Pageant when it was finally rescheduled later in September. Mr. Bobby was invited too.
At the agreed upon time, Christine called Bobby to the stage. Through tears and with a quivering voice, Christine began.
"Mr. Bobby, I can't express to you enough for what you do for everybody. I lost a son and they didn't have you to help me. So I know what you do to help so many families."
Christine had to stop for a moment to compose. Then, wiping her face and smiling, she continued.
"I'm sure you want to know why WAFB is here, right?" she asked. "I nominated you for Hand It On, and with that we're gonna hand you $300 to help you with your Little Angels Foundation for what you do. You're amazing!"
A big angel helping little angels. My heart was touched in a special way through this Hand It On experience and touched deeply by Christine Wood and Bobby Siears. My prayer is one of tremendous gratitude.
"Dear Lord. Thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed upon me and my family. And please continue to give strength to Christine Wood and Bobby Siears as they are literally your hands and feet on this earth. It is in Jesus' name I pray. Amen."
To learn more about how to donate or volunteer, visit the Little Angels Foundation's website.