Waukee Family Marks Stillborn Son’s 1st Birthday with Fundraising Campaign to Raise $25,000
When most families would be planning a big celebration with balloons and a smash cake to mark their child’s first birthday, one Waukee, Iowa family is using what would have been their son’s first birthday to launch a fundraising campaign for a nonprofit organization founded in his honor. Andrew Joel Clark Plaisance, “Drew,” would be one year old on April 17, 2017, but due to unforeseen complications when his mom went into labor on April 17, 2016, just two days before his due date, Drew was stillborn.
Over the past year, Drew’s parents, John and Lara Plaisance have used their grief to create new opportunities for other children in their community by founding a nonprofit organization, Drew’s Crew for Kids.
“We founded Drew’s Crew for Kids in September 2016. We had looked forward to watching Drew grow up in Waukee, participating in sports, music, and after-school activities, but most importantly, we looked forward to watching him have fun and just be a kid, like his big brothers,” John says. In the face of Drew’s lost childhood, John and Lara became determined to honor Drew by finding a way to pass his childhood on to other children, and Drew’s Crew was formed.
The mission of Drew’s Crew for Kids is to facilitate access to enrichment activities for local youth in need. “Our vision is to bridge the activity gap, which is the gap between youth from different socioeconomic backgrounds that prevents all kids from having access to the same activities,” Lara says. The research shows that participation in enrichment activities leads to better grades, better self-esteem, less criminal activity, and more economic success as an adult. In Waukee, where so many families have the financial capability to “pay to play,” a growing number of kids are at a financial disadvantage and the activity gap is widening. “Our goal is to narrow the activity gap and work to put all kids in Waukee on an equal playing field,” John says. “We don’t think a parent’s inability to pay should prevent a child from discovering something they may be passionate about or from living up to their full potential.”
The Plaisance family announced the formation of Drew’s Crew at the dedication of the Drew Plaisance Memorial Playground Addition at Waukee’s Ridge Pointe Park, on September 25, 2016. Since then they, along with the other five members of the Drew’s Crew Board of Directors, have been working to raise money, develop community partnerships, and begin assisting local youth. Drew’s Crew is now kicking off its first major fundraising campaign. Their “Birthday Bucks” campaign will run the month of April with a goal of raising $25,000 during the month, with the biggest push being during the week of Drew’s birthday, April 17.
With the idea that no birthday should go uncelebrated, Drew’s Crew for Kids’ Birthday Bucks campaign will celebrate the gift Drew’s short life is giving to other children. To get the campaign started, Cy and Meighan Phillips of Urbandale have made a kick-off donation of ten percent of the total campaign goal. Cy notes, “Meighan and I are so grateful for the opportunity to support Drew’s Crew for Kids. There are so many great kids with tremendous potential in our community. Giving those kids the tools and resources to participate in extracurricular activities can help generate success in multiple facets of life. We’re so happy to be a part of this kick-off campaign and support such a great organization.”
In the first six months of operation Drew’s Crew has already assisted thirteen students from pre-school through tenth grade to participate in basketball, soccer, archery, dance, and T-ball. The organization has launched a book initiative, Drew’s Bookshelf, and has distributed more than 300 free books to Waukee students through events at Section VIII housing neighborhoods, and a partnership with the Waukee Community Closet and Waukee Area Christian Services Food Pantry. The organization is also partnering with Waukee Community Closet on Project Prom and with the Des Moines Menace soccer team to host a soccer clinic for elementary students in the Waukee School District in June.
The organization has quickly garnered the support of the Waukee School District and members of the community. Stacie De Haan, Director of Instructional Services for Waukee Community School District says, “Partnerships with non-profits like Drew’s Crew are an important part of supporting the overall health and well-being of all families within the Waukee School District. These opportunities help kids find their passions and build confidence.” Stacie’s husband Tyler De Haan, President of the Waukee Leadership Institute, notes, “In less than a year, Drew’s Crew has become an integral part of the Waukee non-profit community.”
While Drew’s parents continue to grieve the profound loss of Drew, working on Drew’s Crew gives them a way to continue to parent him. “The work really comes very naturally. It doesn’t really feel like we’re doing the work, so much as it feels like we’re helping Drew be who he is, an amazing angel for other kids,” Lara says. “And that’s what parents should be able to do, help their kids find their purpose. This isn’t how we envisioned ourselves being parents to Drew, but parenting is never really what we expect it to be.”
For more information about the organization, to support the Birthday Bucks campaign, to learn how to apply for assistance, or get involved as a volunteer, visit www.drews-crew.org. Drew’s Crew is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For additional comment, contact John and Lara Plaisance by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-339-5145.
The Plaisance Family, weeks before Drew was stillborn, mom Lara (carrying Drew), dad John, and big brothers Ben (bottom) and Theo (top). Photo credit Rachel White Photography.