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One year ago, Hoda Kotb surprised a special mother fighting breast cancer by gathering more than 30 family members for a touching photo shoot on the beach.
Erin Ludwig sadly passed away at 35 years old in March, leaving her husband, Jason, 35, to raise daughters Savannah, 6, and Aubrey, 2, in memory of their mother's inspiring strength.
Hoda returned on Monday to surprise the family in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as part of the #PinkPowerTODAY series in honor of breast cancer awareness month.
Toting two large teddy bears for the girls in, she found a dad doing the best he can and a pair of daughters being raised to be strong just like their mother.
"The girls will do something, and it will remind me of Erin, and it's happy and sad at the same time,'' Jason told Hoda. "It seems like since March, the time has gone by very fast, but it feels like forever since she passed, if that makes sense."
Life has forced Jason to pick up some new skills, like learning to braid the girls' hair from watching YouTube videos and cooking spaghetti for dinner.
"Something I've realized is life's moving on whether you're ready or not,'' he said. "Either jump on board or get left behind, is the way I look at it."
Trying to do the job of two parents has admittedly been a challenge for Jason.
"It's a struggle every day, getting into our routine now, instead of when Erin was here,'' he said. "We'll be doing something, and the littlest thing will remind me of her. And I'll say, 'Mommy used to do that,' or 'That's what Mommy liked.'''
To help make Jason's job a little easier, Hoda surprised the family with a year's worth of meals courtesy of Blue Apron. That wasn't all, as NetJets, which helped fly out Erin's family for last year's photo shoot, also donated $10,000 to put toward help with the housework.
Hoda was thankful to be able to give a boost to a family that has shown so much strength in the face of Erin's loss. Jason is working hard to achieve his main hopes for his daughters.
"That they will follow in Erin's footsteps, and just be strong and opinionated and be themselves,'' he said. "Do what they want to do and do what they love. And be there for each other, and have the same values that Erin has."
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