Every parent looks forwards to the milestones in their child’s life—birthdays, graduations, weddings, and so forth. As soon as your child is born, you might begin imagining these special moments in the future.
However, it can be devastating to realize they will never happen. Aaron and Sarah Rinard, a couple from Ankeny, Iowa, lost their son Caleb at only seven months old in 2012, following a birth injury.
On top of the initial grief over losing a child, the couple faced great sadness over the years on any date that would’ve been a special occasion for Caleb, reminders of the life he never got to live.
But instead of feeling lost, the couple decided to use their grief as an opportunity to memorialize their son—and bring some light into the world by doing acts of kindness for strangers.
“Every year on his birthday and the anniversary of his passing, we go out to eat and leave a big tip or pay for someone’s meal,” Sarah told Inside Edition.
“We wanted to do something positive instead of making it a sad day to commemorate him,” Aaron said.
“We were thinking about the things we would be doing with him.”
But last month, the couple was feeling especially emotional as they saw kids getting ready to go back to school—and knew it would’ve been Caleb’s first day of kindergarten.
The couple imagined the special moment parents have while walking their kids to school and dropping them off for the first time. And so, when the day came, they decided to memorialize their son by taking that walk to school.
“We wanted to make that walk,” Aaron told Inside Edition.
“We were going to make that walk regardless.”
In their usual giving spirit, they decided to take the chance to help others. They thought it would be fitting to donate supplies to what might have been Caleb’s classroom.
But they went above and beyond—they gave not just a few supplies, but several bins worth—enough to make a difference in the 80-student class.
The couple loaded up a toy wagon and made the walk to Northeast Elementary, accompanied by their three-year-old son Andrew.
“Kindergarten was just one of those things I had in mind we were going to get to do,” Sarah told USA Today, crying.
The experience was difficult for the couple. Being surrounded by other parents and their children was a heavy reminder of their loss.
“It was sad knowing we should be holding Caleb’s hand and wondering what kind of day he would have had or who his teacher would have been,” Sarah told Inside Edition.
“Having to leave the building without having a child there was sad,” she added to USA Today.
But they were brightened by the idea that their donation made a difference.
When the couple arrived at the school with their supplies, the administration was stunned—it was far more than they could’ve ever imagined.
“I expected maybe a bag, and here we have three huge tubs of items,” Tara Owen, the school’s principal, told USA Today.
“It was just a very thoughtful, quiet donation that will continue to work behind the scenes for kids that might not have supplies.”
“I don’t think they realize how many kids they are going to impact. It’s definitely going to be put to good use.”
“Everybody was pretty thankful and pleased with the donation,” Aaron said to Inside Edition.
It also helped the Rinards and made a sad occasion into a celebratory one. They might not have had a child to drop off at school that day, but they still made a lasting memory like the other parents.
“We were grateful to be a part of the excitement that comes with the first day of school,” Sarah told Inside Edition.
The couple says they plan to continue recognizing these milestones in the future, and they even have plans for what would have been Caleb’s high school graduating class.
“Just anything you can do to turn that day around,” Sarah told USA Today.