Kevin and Heidi Bardsley say their 12-year-old son Garrett was the light-hearted one of the family and very close to his brothers and sister. Kevin took Garrett and Garrett's older brother Cameron on a Boy Scout overnight campout. It was an ideal morning, father and son fishing together, until Garrett slipped on a rock and got his feet wet. Garrett decided to walk back to camp by himself, just 150 yards away, so he could warm up. That was the last time Kevin saw his son.
After thousands of volunteers searched for Garrett in the woods, the official search was called off nine days after he was reported missing. Even though there is snow on the mountains now, Kevin continues to search, trying to get closure.
Last year, before the tragedy, the family decided to forego Christmas presents and do a humanitarian project in Mexico instead. Garrett, according to his family, loved the experience most of all. This holiday season, the family will travel to Ecuador and build a school in Garrett's name.
"Garrett loved it a lot last year when we went to Mexico," Kevin says. "When we came home, he said, 'Dad, can you sell your business, and we can just go down and live in a tent and help these people all the time?' I mean, that's how much he loved it. He was looking forward to going to Ecuador to work. We never thought we'd be building a school [in his name] at this time."
It's every driver's worst nightmare: accidentally hitting a child. It was moving day for Lara and she was driving her family's SUV around the block. Meanwhile, one street over, 11-year-old honor student Hallie Geier was about to walk her dog. Even though they had never met, their lives were about to collide in a tragic way. As Hallie left her house with her dog, the sixth grader stepped right into the path of the SUV Lara was driving. In a split second, Hallie was accidentally run down. Lara has never spoken publicly about the accident nor has she seen Hallie's parents Ted and Sofia since that fatal day—until now. No charges have been filed against Lara.
In their darkest hours of grief, Hallie's parents, Sofia and Ted, knew what Hallie's last wish would be. "If Hallie had lived," says her father Ted, "I know that she would have found it in her heart to insist that we reach out to the driver and make sure she was okay."
Ted and Sofia embrace Lara. "This was an accident," says Ted. "You had the choice to drive away, which a lot of people do, or to stay and try to help her. You did everything you could. You didn't do anything wrong. We know that."
"[Hallie] had a very short life," says her father Ted. "But she had a great life and it's still going on in a lot of ways." Hallie's parents are reminded of their daughter's compassionate soul and desire to help other children through the hundreds of stories, poems and journals of "Fierce Wonderings"—her thoughts that she left behind.
To Do Something Special by Hallie
I want to do something special this year, or even 20 years from now. I want to stand out sometime. That may be the reason I've decided to become a doctor when I'm grown. Most kids think that's stupid, even you may thinking that too as you read this. But I want to help. Anything! I can help clean up my neighborhood, wash away mean words written on walls, so no one has to be reminded of the hate that lingers in this world. I'm getting off point. Anyway, I want to help the class community, or help raise money for starving people. I want to become more active in peacemaking, and helping people make the right choices. I want to help save endangered species. I want to discover the cure for cancer, and save lives. I just hope I get the chance.
© Sofia and Ted Geier
During the last year of her life, Hallie was saving her lunch money specifically for children affected by AIDS in sub–Saharan Africa. With the saved lunch money they found in Hallie's drawer, along with contributions to their foundation, Ted and Sofia donated $10,000 to Oprah's Angel Network. "That would have made Hallie so happy," Sofia says. "In fact, it is making her happy. I know it is."
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