CHARLOTTE – March 22 was Charlie Holt’s seventh birthday.
But after a tragic and unthinkable tragedy at a downtown Atlanta restaurant on April 14, 2017, he spent it in heaven.
Even with the loss of their first-born son, and just moments after Charlie tragically was taken way too soon, his parents, Rebecca and Michael Holt, made sure some of their son’s organs were donated so he could live on.
When his heart couldn’t be used as a donor, the couple came up with a way for Charlie, and what they describe as his huge heart, a chance to live on forever with the creation of the Charlie’s Heart Foundation.
The nonprofit aims to aid vulnerable children and families who need their help through love and support. It’s a vision they got from their Charlie, whose legacy they are keeping alive.
“We wanted to make sure Charlie is still living on,” Rebecca Holt said. “We don’t get new physical memories of him, but the foundation allows us to create new memories for his name so people don’t forget the little boy that we love so much.”
When south Charlotte residents Rebecca and Michael Holt held Charlie’s celebration of life ceremony with his friends shortly after his passing, they decided to hold a carnival because of their son’s affection toward the pageantry, sights and sounds of such events.
It was a huge success. It also got the Holts thinking of ways to raise money for their vision.
Soon, the idea of Charlie’s Carnival was born, and on March 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Stumptown Park in Matthews, Charlie’s Carnival will return for its second year.
It will have everything you’d expect from a carnival, including bounce houses, food trucks, a rock-climbing wall, a train, face painting, a balloon guy and a clown. In addition, there will be a silent auction that will open bidding March 22 at 11 a.m. All items will be available for viewing at the carnival.
Rebecca Holt said she was hoping last year just to break even and not have to pay anything out of pocket.
But the carnival went just how Charlie would have liked it. The event raised nearly $15,000. They hope to double that amount this year and continue their son’s legacy through their foundation.
The Holts are working with two nonprofits: Addis Jemari, which means “New Beginnings in Ethiopian dialect, is a charity out of Raleigh that helps implement a family empowerment program in Ethiopia; and A Glimmer of Hope, based in Austin, Texas, which focuses on eliminating extreme poverty in Ethiopia.
Both are dear to the couple’s heart.
In addition to the carnival, Charlie’s Heart Foundation sells handmade jewelry from Ethiopian craftsmen. The foundation will sell handmade bracelets from Ethiopia especially designed for the carnival for $22.
All of the proceeds will go to the foundation’s charities, as will as close to 100 percent of the carnival’s profits as possible
In addition to being what Charlie would have wanted, the carnival is the perfect way to spread Charlie’s love.
“What’s wonderful about the carnival is that it’s an event anyone can come to,” Rebecca Holt said. “It’s not a fundraising event where you have to buy a table or wear a black tie. Just come and give what you can. If that’s just your presence, then that makes it a successful day to us.
“People just coming out and being there makes my heart full.”
Rebecca Holt said making good out of an unimaginable tragedy is what keeps her going. But, most importantly, it’s what keeps the pulse on Charlie’s heart.
“I think I work every day to make sure that we’re honoring Charlie and what we feel like he would have done had he been able to live into adulthood,” she said. “I hope that Charlie is proud of us. But, most of all, I just hope Charlie knows how much we love him. We will always work for him to live on in this world.”
Want to go?
The second annual Charlie’s Carnival includes rides, games, attractions and food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 30 Stumptown Park, 120 S. Trade St., Matthews.