'Abby's Angels' created in memory of daughter
by Bradley Hartsell
“She was bigger than life. She loved everything. Always wanted to be on the go. She was very expressive. We don’t want that to end, we want to continue that. ”
Natalie Bacho explains the spirit behind Abby’s Angels, her family’s foundation in honor of her late daughter, Abby, that began in earnest last month.
On Dec. 22, 2012, a truck driven by a teenager sped through a red light, smashing into the side of the Bacho van, driven by Natalie and carrying the Bacho family plus Abby’s grandfather.
Stephen and Natalie were air-flighted to Atlanta hospitals. The others were taken to the local Piedmont Newnan Hospital. Stephen was in an induced coma for several weeks and has since recovered well, but daughter Abby was taken off life support on Christmas Day. The family donated her organs. She was 9 years old.
Natalie Bacho says the seeds for the foundation were planted while in the hospital with Abby during those last few days. “We had an unbelievable amount of support from the community,” says Bacho. “We wanted to be able to give back and show our appreciation for everything that was done for us.”
Over time, the family continued to develop ideas for the foundation but didn’t know what how to proceed.
“I knew we had to do something, as a family, to help other people, so that Abby’s life didn’t simply end — people would know who she was, helping other children and families in the process.”
Abby loved to play school. She would be the teacher while her younger sister, Charlotte, and her neighbor formed her class. In that spirit, the Bachos arrived at an idea. Young children love getting new school supplies every year. The Bachos know that there are families unable to afford those things, especially the more expensive items like zebra-striped notebooks, for instance, that may make a difference in how excited a child is about learning.
“Abby’s Closet” is a space in local schools designated and stocked throughout the year with school supplies. The program doesn’t want to bring attention to children who can’t have these things, hence the idea of a closet. A contact from each school will oversee the closet and teachers will be the eyes and ears for the students they think would benefit from the closet.
In addition to Abby’s Closet, Natalie Bacho’s niece began making bracelets for the family while they stayed at Natalie’s sister’s home. The bracelets spearheaded a fundraiser that would hopefully lead to opportunities like Abby’s Closet. Her sister put a picture of the bracelets on the Abby’s Angels Facebook page and the project went wild. People from California ordered. One even found its way to a child in Africa. Abby’s Angels has sold more than 500 bracelets.
“It’s a sign of our faith and a representation of Abby so that she stays present,” explains Bacho, calling it a labor of love.
Because of their experience with Abby, one that was deeply saddening but one Bacho says they would absolutely do again, the family also stresses organ donation.
“We hope to be a bridge of support to donor families of pediatric patients. After being in that situation personally, we want to reach out to these families and let them know they aren't alone in their decision to give life and also in their grief of their child. The foundation would also like to raise awareness of organ donation if the unthinkable should ever happen to another family,” Bacho explains.
Wednesday marked the official launch of Abby’s Closet in Newnan Crossing Elementary, where Abby was a fourth-grader. School counselor and Abby’s Closet supervisor at Newnan Crossing, Jennifer Kennemur, says she took her first child to the closet Thursday morning. Kennemur was Abby’s science teacher last year and is excited and honored to be a part of the program, both for how important it is to the Bachos and how it will impact the students.
The foundation is looking into middle schools for its next school because as students get older they become more independent both in their own attitudes and through the handling of teachers, and may feel more alienated without a resource for new school supplies.
Abby’s Angels continues to look forward, as do the Bachos, with help from Abby’s memory and the foundation’s promise to help others.
“It’s something we feel strongly about and that we have to do. And it brings us closer to Abby in the process.”
(Anyone wishing to make contributions to the foundation can do so by writing a check to the NCF with a memo in care of Abby’s Angels Foundation. The NCF address is 11625 Rainwater Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30009. All proceeds go directly to Abby’s Angels. Anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering to the 5k family fun day, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)