It seemed like just another workday for Lacey Gandee as she sat in the control room of an ESPN studio, prepping logistics for the day’s next show. She didn’t think much of it when one of her co-workers, with whom she was barely acquainted, asked if he could record a video for an organization he held very close to his heart. What came next would inspire Gandee to make a commitment to Hayden’s Hope.
The tape began to run and Gandee sat in the booth, listening. Tears started brimming in her eyes, as SEC Network Host Dari Nowkhah began to share his story about the tragedy that claimed his baby boy Hayden’s life just 39 days after birth. He conveyed the shock and utter dismay he and his wife, Jenn, felt as they were taking their infant with a 102 degree fever back to the hospital after six days of life.
After days of tests, doctors realized that a virus had attacked the perfectly healthy baby boy’s heart, placing him on the waiting list for a heart transplant. Days later, Hayden suffered a devastating stroke. Doctors then told Dari and Jenn that the damage caused by the stroke would remove Hayden from the transplant waiting list.
Hayden had suffered more in those few weeks of life than any infant should have to suffer. Knowing their child would never receive the heart he needed, Dari and Jenn decided it was time to let little Hayden go.
After losing their son, the Nowkhahs decided to establish Hayden’s Hope in collaboration with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA). The goal of Hayden’s Hope is to raise awareness of the need for pediatric organ donation. Today, Hayden’s Hope provides a means to raise money for families of children awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. One hundred percent of the money raised goes directly to families for medical and non-medical related expenses.
After listening to Dari’s personal testimony and learning about the great need for awareness and funding to benefit families nationwide, Gandee spoke to her husband and they decided to make a year-long contribution to Hayden’s Hope.
Hayden’s Hope stuck out to Gandee and her husband not only because she worked with Nowkhah, but because it seemed like an organization that wasn’t widely known and didn’t boast a long-standing donor base like other charities.
“We felt like we could do more good giving to Hayden’s Hope than another organization,” Gandee said.
Through their photography business, the Gandees decided to donate 10 percent of every family portrait session in 2015 to Hayden’s Hope. Additionally, Gandee photography will donate $50-100 from every wedding shoot this year.
The Gandees wanted this year’s resolution to break out from simple self-improvement. Instead, their family wanted to give back to their community and support needy families trying to stomach heartbreaking circumstances.
As a general rule, many New Year’s resolutions start and end with self-serving goals: bicycle more, knock-off sugar, vacation generously. But this year in an act of unselfish defiance, the Gandees’ decided to powerfully affect families desperately desiring for their children to grow-up healthy, whole and happy.
And that’s a picture of purposeful generosity worth a thousand words.