On January 20 2012, our five year old son Cole A. Stoddard passed away. His life tragically cut short by a rare type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma that develops in infants and young children. He left behind my wife Michelle and I, his identical twin brother Troy, and his adoring eleven year old sister Tara. In his too short life he touched hundreds of lives with his loving compassionate heart and his ability to bring laughter and joy to others. Near the end, Cole was heavily medicated in order to alleviate the extreme pain he suffered, the medication and the effects of the cancer that was rapidly spreading throughout his body caused him to sleep most of his final days, he struggled for each breath. My wife and I sat beside him, holding him, crying and praying relentlessly. At one point Cole suddenly sat up, looked us in the eye and in a clear voice said, "Smile, Be Happy" he repeated those words then laid back down and closed his eyes, sleeping again. Those were the last words he spoke to us.
In the days and months that followed his passing, my wife and I were paralyzed with grief. We barely had the strength to comfort our other two children and provide them with some sense of normalcy. The compassion and generosity of our family, friends and our community kept us going when all we wanted to do was curl up and give in to the grief of our deep loss. Right away we found some solace in Cole's last words "Smile, Be Happy." Those words were posted on the sign outside our town library, in front of Troy's school, and on numerous bumper stickers, Yellow happy face images appeared everywhere, on balloons that lined many streets, posted all over Facebook, and on many gifts sent to Troy and Tara. Cole's wish for us to "Smile, Be Happy" took on a life of its own.
Michelle and I spoke regularly of our desire to help others in memory of Cole through efforts of childhood cancer awareness, fund-raising for research, and possibly starting a scholarship fund in Cole's name. Still mired in grief we often told others that those efforts will happen someday but probably not for quite awhile. We truly believed that it would take at least a year or more before we were emotionally strong enough to participate in such endeavors. A few weeks ago, my daughter Tara hearing that September was "Childhood Cancer Awareness" month expressed to my wife that she wanted to do something in Cole's memory to help other children battling cancer. Michelle, a kindergarden teacher, was extremely busy preparing for the new school year. However, she sat down with Tara and they came up with an idea they called "Coins for Cole." They planned on asking local businesses if they could place "Coins for Cole" canisters on their counters with the money raised going to help fund childhood cancer research. They also asked many businesses if they would allow volunteers to stand outside of their business for a few hours on weekends to collect donations.
The response was amazing, businesses began contacting Michelle asking how they could help. Friends from all over New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine sent messages expressing their desire to help in any way possible. We were extremely touched and overwhelmed by so many people reaching out to help us once again. One of my frustrations through Cole's year and a half long battle with cancer, was the realization that not enough funding or attention is directed towards pediatric cancer. I struggled for a way to bring childhood cancer awareness to a much greater level. I created a Facebook page I called, "A Day of Yellow and Gold to Fight Childhood Cancer." This year I chose September 28. If enough of us can do something as simple as wearing yellow and gold on the same day I believe that this could get the ball rolling towards creating the attention our little heroes and angels deserve. In the words of our beloved son Cole, I wish you all..."Smile Be Happy."
If you would like to help us in our effort to raise awareness and funding for childhood cancer, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/yellowandgoldforcole and search: Coins for Cole - on Facebook.