June 28, 2013 marked the one year anniversary date of Isabella’s passing. All of us at ISF knew that this was going to be a very difficult day and felt a little anxious as it quickly approached. Three-hundred-sixty-five days had gone by since she took her last breath and every “first” milestone had already been met with great anxiety. That is… all, except one. This milestone was certain to be the hardest of them all, so the question remained — how can we get through the day and make it a celebration of Isabella’s life, rather than focus on reliving that awful day.
Isabella was unique. She had a “special” soul and a “special” spirit. She had a heart of gold, could make a friend out of any stranger, and honestly, inspired kids and adults alike, with a captivating power that most people never have in their entire lifetime. She affected thousands in just seven years. So the question remained… how do we pass through this day and honor this incredibly courageous girl in a way that she truly deserved?
With much thought, an idea was born. Isabella made so many people smile throughout her short life, so what better way of honoring her memory, than by having people around the world do the same. We put out a call to our supporters and asked that they do something on Friday, June 28 to “Pay it Forward” for Isabella.
It was incredible. Through Facebook alone we reached over 16,000 people and had 151 people share the idea on their own pages, reaching countless more. The good deeds were coming in faster than we could keep up with, and knowing that each time we read one, it was being done with Isabella in mind and on her behalf, the day that we dreaded so much was turning out to be an incredibly inspirational day.
We heard stories of people purchasing food for others; numerous charity donations made in Ib’s name; countless blood donations; random acts done for homeless people; candles lit across the world in her memory; children purchasing toys for other children; much-needed items taken to local Ronald McDonald Houses; snacks bought and distributed “from Isabella” at Disney World; and the list went on and on and on. It was simply amazing. People are good in this world, and although we do not understand why Isabella had to go through the horrible experiences that she did, in those moments and on that heartbreaking day, her life not only made sense, but the affect it had on others was proving to be incredible. It was an inspirational ripple effect, stemming from the heart of a 7-year-old girl. Wow. And the stories we heard were a drop in the bucket to the random acts of kindness that were actually occurring.
In addition to “Paying it Forward,” we also thought doing a PURPLE balloon release in her memory would allow people to commemorate the day in a healing way. There is something peaceful about letting go of a balloon and watching as it floats to the heavens – toward a child. We felt confident that people local to Charlotte would participate in this event, but the response we received was overwhelming. While trying to keep up with the good deeds coming through email and social media, we were also getting pounded with photographs of these beautiful purple balloons being released ALL over the country.
The pictures coming in had landscapes of all kinds — mountains, beaches, pools and lakes.
In addition, photographs were taken in front of businesses, neighborhoods, blood centers, and schools.
And the most powerful… Isabella’s memorial. See the rest of the balloon release photos from the day.
In the weeks leading up to this anniversary, ISF launched our #ISF3Wishes campaign and it was at its peak momentum (to date). We were gaining new supporters at a fast pace and our exposure on social media was reaching an all-time high. Our goal was to get to 5,000 likes by our 5K Kids for Cancer Race on September 21 and suddenly we had this crazy idea that with everything we had going on, why not try to get there by an even more important date — June 28? We had passed so many other goals we never thought we would — so why not this? It would be an incredible way to celebrate Isabella and the Foundation that continues to thrive in her honor, in her memory and on her behalf. So many people at ISF work tirelessly to continue this fight for other children dealing with pediatric cancer and we understand that a vital part of that is awareness. Social media can work like a wildfire, so we wanted to utilize this incredible tool we have at our fingertips. We rallied and had our incredible support system also rally. It felt like the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve as we watched our “likes” jump exponentially, moment by moment on the eve of her anniversary. The only word that can describe it is, exhilarating.
So… for a day that snuck up on us like a bad dream… it evolved into an incredibly beautiful, exciting, bittersweet and inspirational day. A 7-year-old girl truly had a ripple effect on the country and that alone could bring a smile to anyone’s face. Most people don’t have that affect in their lifetime and seeing hers was mind blowing. No one knows how long their journey will be on this earth; we are guaranteed no amount of time. We can learn from her. We can only strive to be the type of person she was in her short walk. Every day Isabella is painfully missed, but to witness the impact she continues to have on people is humbling and can only make one want to be a better person. Regardless what day it is or what anniversary it is, or isn’t… please pay it forward. Always.