On three occasions the Shimrado family has known the bliss of welcoming new lives into this world. Twice they have known the deep sorrow of watching those lives depart. Now, out of that pain, they are creating happy memories for the community at large through Two Hearts Bring Joy.
The campaign, started by Mary Agassi-Shimrado, will see the family completing random acts of kindness each day in October in memory of their sons Benjamin and Nathaniel.
“This is a way for us to bring joy into others people lives, like the joy our sons brought into ours,” Agassi-Shimrado said.
Mary and her husband Simon welcomed Samuel into their lives five years ago and he has grown into a “rambunctious and kind-hearted” young boy, said his mother. On July 25, 2014, their son Benjamin was born, but their happiness at his arrival was short-lived. Benjamin died that same day in what doctors described as a “spontaneous gene mutation.”
Five months after Benjamin’s passing, the Shimrado family found they were once again expecting, and on Oct. 6, 2015, they welcomed the birth of Nathaniel.
“Hearing him let out his first cry was the most beautiful feeling,” Agassi-Shimrado wrote on her blog. “God had provided for us and delivered on his promise.”
But once again their happiness was soon overshadowed, when doctors noticed something amiss with the newborn and had him airlifted to a hospital in Palo Alto.
“After meeting with the doctors, we were told that Nathaniel wasn't going to pull through the first week and that we should prepare ourselves for the worst,” Agassi-Shimrado recounted.
However, Nathaniel proved himself stronger than the doctors expected, spending seven weeks in the hospital before the family was given the go-ahead to take him home.
“We knew that what he had was a terminal illness and had accepted that he had a rare genetic disorder that was inoperable,” Agassi-Shimrado wrote. “None of that mattered though. We had our son and were going to cherish each and every single moment with him.”
Nathaniel, or Natty as he had been nicknamed by his older brother, lived for four months, before passing away on Feb. 8, 2016.
Both boys had been born with a rare genetic disorder called Autosomal Recessive Cutis Laxa. It is a disorder of the connective tissue that provides the structure and strength to the muscles, joints, organs, and skin.
When Oct. 6, rolled around that year the family made a donation of cash and gifts to the Ronald McDonald House, which had helped them during Nathaniel’s hospital stay.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to make a big deal out of birthdays,” Agassi-Shimrado said. “There wasn’t a way for us to celebrate with Natty, but we could do something to remember him and the joy he gave to us.”
Through donations from friends, family, and even strangers, the Shimrado family was able to give the organization $1,900 in cash and $5,500 in gifts.
“It turned out really well and did a lot for us emotionally,” Agassi-Shimrado said. “So, we wanted to do something again this year, which is how we got the idea of Two Hearts Bring Joy.”
Over the first few days of October, the family has brought gift baskets to Jessica’s House and the Labor and Delivery department at Emanuel Medical Center, brought in breakfast for the Turlock Police Department, paid for appetizers and desserts at various eateries around Turlock, and surreptitiously left gas cards at various spots around town.
“Samuel and I parked nearby so we could watch for a little bit at one of the gas stations,” Agassi-Shimrado said. “Seeing those smiles were priceless.”
With each random act of kindness, they leave behind a business card size note explaining the inspiration behind the act and asking the receiver to pass it along, by performing their own kind act.
“The hope is that those cards will go through as many hands as possible,” Agassi-Shimrado said.
The Shimrado’s are asking participants to do one more thing when they do an act of kindness: post it to social media and include the hashtag #twoheartsbringjoy.
“We want to see as much exposure on it as possible,” Agassi-Shimrado said. “Every hashtag means someone is trying and bringing joy to someone else. It doesn’t have to be something big, it can be something small. We never know another person’s story and maybe that one act of kindness brings a smile to their face, or maybe it changes their whole outlook.”
For more information on participating in the Two Hearts Bring Joy campaign visit https://www.givingbackincelebration.com/