Get the latest from TODAY
Courtney Scott had years to prepare for the difficult day that her son Carsyn would have started kindergarten.
“I thought, ‘What was I going to do?’ I had a lot of friends who were pregnant when I was pregnant. I would be seeing their first day of school pictures, and their excitement, and I wouldn’t have that,” the 30-year-old Florida mom said.
Scott and her husband, Brian, lost their 15-month-old son on Oct. 24, 2012, in a drowning accident at a neighbor's pond. The couple and their four other children have since honored the boy’s memory with special tributes and balloon releases on his birthday, but milestones and anniversaries remain tough for Scott.
This year, she had an idea to help soothe the loss.
“I thought, this is it. This is what I want to do. I want to be able to walk into school. If I can’t do it with him, I can do it with something for him,” she told TODAY.
Ahead of his July 14 birthday, Scott created a Facebook event seeking donations to buy school supplies for kids in need. She shared it with family and friends, thinking she could get enough supplies to fill the red wagon she normally uses to lug lawn chairs and athletic gear to her children’s sporting events.
Instead, she raised more than $1,500, enough to completely fill eight laundry baskets full of scissors, markers, glue sticks, plastic bags, tissue boxes, sanitizing wipes and just about every other supply students use on a daily basis.
Scott looked up statistics on area schools with high numbers of economically disadvantaged students and on August 15, which would have been Carsyn's first day of school, she paid a visit to seven of them.
“We had no idea she was coming. We were very shocked,” said Michael Miller, principal of Saturn Elementary School in Cocoa, Florida. He was even more stunned upon learning the story behind Scott's generosity.
“That she personally brought it to us was impressive. She was just able to turn this (tragedy) around and to do something for the other students. It was very much appreciated," he said, adding that the supplies were "very well received" by a number of students.
Scott's last stop was at Manatee Elementary, where Carsyn would have attended with two of his brothers. Located in Melbourne in an area considered fairly affluent, the donated school supplies were easily divided among several students "we knew could really benefit from them," said assistant principal Shannon Daly, who praised Scott's charity after such a loss.
"My heart goes out to her and her family. What a great thing she did in channeling herself to do something good for the whole community in her son’s honor," she said. "Other students are able to benefit from her effort."
Scott said helping the community in Carsyn's honor didn't necessarily lessen the sadness she still feels over his loss, although it helps her know she's keeping his memory alive.
"My biggest goal as his mother is to make sure his memory is never forgotten. I want everyone to always remember him,” she said. “As a mom who lost a child, your fear is literally always that as you go on, less and less people will know who he is.”
Carsyn was born five weeks prematurely but was healthy and thrived until three weeks later when he contracted bacterial meningitis. He spent a month in the hospital, but eventually rebounded without a problem.
“For him to have gone through what he went through and for us to have been able to enjoy the 15 months that we did with no problems was a gift," his mother said. "He was always happy, he loved to dance, and he loved to tackle his brother and play football."
Scott said while she still grieves for Carsyn, she finds purpose in her four other children, three boys ages 14, 10, 9, and a 3-year-old daughter.
"I spend a lot of time keeping Carsyn’s memory alive and trying to stay strong and show my kids that it’s okay to express your feelings in different ways," she said. But "my kids do not deserve any less of a mother than they were given just because I lost one child. That is why I think it’s so important that I do the things I do.
"My other children deserve me at my best just as much.”