From Darren Burgfeld, Levi volunteer:
My own son turned one last July 3rd. My wife, Carrie, suggested that in lieu of gifts, we collect funds and donate them, and we decided that the money would go to Levi’s fund.
We didn’t know Levi or his family, really. We had not had a chance to hear him laugh, or watch him run with his cape on, or to help him into a car seat. But he was a young life lost, and one so close to the age of our own daughter (our daughter, Layla, was born Aug 28, 2008) that we felt a sort of connection to him.
So we asked our friends to donate, and then posted about it on Levi’s page.
The donation wasn’t huge, but the response from people here was so intense and thoughtful that I knew that something special was in store for all of this. I told Levi’s mom that we would like to do something to help out down the road, if there was something we could do.
Fast forward a month later, and Ell approached me about doing Levi’s website. I am a project manager with Element 74 in Cape, and our business is building websites. I knew that this was a way that I could help out, and I felt led to do anything I could to make it happen.
Fortunately, my boss, Chris Edmonds, is one of the greatest guys I know and was happy to help out with making the site happen. A lot of people came together to create the site; Holly from Red Letter, who did all the illustrations; Dima, my designer from Seattle who made everything fresh and fun and creative, and my army of code monkeys here at Element 74 who made all of the bits and pieces whir and click in just the right way so that www.levisadventuretrail.com could become reality.
Building any website is a process, sometimes more tedious than you’d want it to be. However, this became a passionate labor of love for me.
I won’t say that I understand the grief and sorrow that Ellie and Glen felt and continue to feel. I can’t; I have both of my sweet babies to love and hold and tickle and scold. But on more than one occasion, I found myself with my office door closed, sobbing as I typed content or polished pictures of Levi and his family, trying to finish the site. I stood in their shoes, held their baby, felt their panic and shared their grief with every piece of Levi’s story. As I became more embedded into the timeline of Levi’s life through photo, video and word, I felt myself drawn closer to his family, like I had known them before and during the tragedy.
And it’s because of Ellie and Viney that I do feel so close to them now. The words they shared– their candid talks about everything and our conversations about Levi and their family truly showed me what it is to be strong and to love unconditionally.
Around the same time I began working on the site, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Within the same week that I committed to doing the website, I found out my mom had limited time left with us. You can imagine the internal conflict; do I continue this level of commitment to Levi’s project and everything else I was buried in, or do I back off and spend time with mom while I can?
Fast forward a bit, and God answered all my questions and stilled my heart. My mom’s cancer, after several surgeries, treatments and Divine intervention was downgraded to curable. She’s 2 chemo treatments away from being finished. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting close.
I was angry with God for a long time, for years before any of these events took place. I didn’t understand how a loving God could allow such tragedy in the world. I watched my cousin succumb to cancer at 41, leaving behind a wife and 3 year-old triplets. I couldn’t watch the news or read the paper without shaking with anger at Him.
And when I learned of Levi’s death, it was very hard for me to not curse and scream and question his intentions as I had in the past. Then my mom? REALLY?!? God was testing me; he was seeing if I had the guts to rise above the hatred and the temptation and instead use these things to His benefit.
And for once, I did. I felt like I had a superhero who had my back. Levi wasn’t angry with God for taking him to Heaven. Instead, God was using Levi to create a legacy that will not only provide the Adventure Trail and make thousands of children happy, but in a more personal way, God was using Levi to get me back on track. To be a better father. To be a better son. To be a better everything. Levi gave me the confidence to just let go and put it in God’s hands. Every time I held my daughter’s hand, I felt like he was right there beside us, skipping along, telling us that Grammy was going to be okay and to just pray.
I am thankful for Levi. His spirit and his energy are a part of us all, and his legacy will be shown in the things that we do to help others moving forward. I hope that people who visit his website and the facebook page take equal parts inspiration and motivation from it. I hope that they let Levi’s eternal smile bring God’s love into their heart.
That’s a real superhero.