MADISON, Ala. – Nearly 300 hunters will flock to a farm in Hillsboro in Lawrence County Saturday to try to bag as many pheasants as they can. But this hunt isn’t really about the birds. It’s helping to harvest a small light for families in the darkest of places.
Kelley and Chad Whitworth were excited about the birth of their second child. Their hearts were broken instead. “Once we got back and they started hooking us up to the monitors, they couldn’t find his heartbeat,” Kelley said, “Their best guess is we probably lost him in the night, that Sunday night prior to Monday’s c-section.”
They both immediately felt guilt. “As a father, you’re supposed to be a protector and a provider and so like instantly I kinda felt like what did I, like where did I fail,” Chad told me, “And I think Kelley had the same thing. What did I do wrong?”
The answer is nothing. They did everything right. “And still felt like where did we go wrong with this,” Chad said, adding, “To this day, we have no answers. Like, nothing was wrong with him. Medically, he was perfectly healthy and all so we just kinda don’t know why we lost him.”
The NICU staff at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children wrapped its arms around them. “They were all really good to us and we remember that more than anything. And just the kindness,” Kelley recalls, “It was a really hard day but one of their nurses, Katherine, she immediately came in and the first thing she asked was what is his name?”
It’s Wells Clayton Whitworth. Kelley and Chad weren’t alone in their journey June 11th, 2018. Chad says, “The day we lost Wells, there were two other families that lost children as well.”
While they had the love and financial support of family, they worried about others who lose a child. Instead of flowers, people donated more than $5,000.00 to the hospital in memory of their little boy. They established the Wells Clayton Whitworth Memorial Foundation to help pay funeral expenses for others who lose a child. “Cremation or burial, headstones, plots if the family needs a plot,” Kelley said.
The family started a pheasant hunt four years ago. They’re raised $232,000.00 so far with the goal of adding another $115,000.00 this year. “I can hold it together pretty well most of the time but that day, people start pulling in that day at the farm and you see all the people that are there to support you in what you’re doing,” Kelley said. It warms their hearts. Kelley adding, “You know that they’re remembering him too.”
The fund has helped more than 200 families at 11 north Alabama hospitals, including the purchase of caring cradles. Kelley says those keep the baby’s body temperature cool, so families have more time to spend with their in the room before they have to say goodbye. “It makes us happy that we’re able to do something to honor him and to help other people,” Kelley said, “It’s special to us.”
While the pheasant hunt is sold out again this year, you can still donate to the Wells Clayton Whitworth Memorial Foundation by clicking on the link. Your gifts will be used to help with funeral expenses and provide grief counseling support for families who lose a child.