A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Couple Turns Tragedy into Passion for Helping Others

It is often said that you will not truly miss something until it is gone. Depending on how you choose to look at life this can either be seen as a good or bad thing. Matt and Ginny Mooney got to witness the beautiful life of their son Eliot Hartman Mooney for  a total of 99 days. And although this could been seen as the worst thing in the world. The Mooneys did the opposite, they made it the best thing in the world.

At 30 weeks pregnant Matt and Ginny went to a doctors appointment in Little Rock, Arkansas. The appointment went well until Matt realized a sudden reaction in the doctor’s face. It was from that point on that Matt realized not everything seemed normal. The doctor went outside the room and eventually came back to inform Matt and Ginny that their baby had Trisomy 18, a serious genetic disorder that has no known cure. The doctor told Matt and Ginny that it was unlikely Elliot would make it to birth, much less hours of life. At first Matt and Ginny did not know how to initially go about the situation. As they did not understand how they could be getting ready to receive such a great gift like their first child, but then immediately have it taken away.  After eight more weeks in preparation for the arrival of Elliot the Mooney’s decided it was a test of their faith in God. They came to the conclusion that they would take what the Lord will give them. If they got minutes they would take minutes, and if they got hours they would take hours. No matter how hard it might be. By nothing short of a miracle Elliot survived his first 24 hours of life. Something that doctors could of not even imagined. To celebrate this accomplishment some of the NICU staff came over to Elliot’s bedside at 4:59PM (the time Elliot was born) and sang him happy birthday. Singing happy birthday to Elliot is something that Matt & Ginny did every single day for the rest of his life. Because of Elliot’s short time on Earth they decided to document every moment possible. Matt said taking care of him was the easy part, it was after Elliot’s passing that is the hardest.   

“Elliot’s life was simply beautiful, and it was all a gift” said Matt. And although missing him hasn’t gotten any easier Matt belives that God is still unwrapping things that can be learned from Elliot’s life.  Matt also belives that it is important to live out faith and to live out what God has called us to be within our community. This can be seen in many different ways through the organization called 99 Balloons, each balloon representing a day of Elliot’s life.  99 Balloons is an organization that seeks to make people with disabilities more known to the world.

It is through the organization of 99 Balloons that Matt and Ginny first created a night called rEcess. A night where parents and families experiencing disability can drop their kids off and go have a night out. While the kids are each paired with a one on one buddy and have their own night of fun. What started out as one night in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the year of 2007 with 10 kids has grown into where there are now 45 individual rEcess sites across the United States, Canada, and Australia.  99 Balloons also created two different nights like rEcess but for different age groups. The first one is called rEmix, it is designed for teens experiencing disability and that are in need of a community. And the second one is called bEfriend which is created for adults experiencing disability.  99 Balloons is also involvelved on a global scale currently 99 Balloons is working in the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, Uganda, and Southern Asia.  They have the goal of either providing kids with disabilities help in any way possible, rather it be through  medical help through Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, or other methods. Internationally, their passion is education as 9 out of 10 children who have a disability in a foreign country are not in school.  

However the impact of Elliot’s life did not just lead the way to the creation of 99 Balloons, but it also lead the way to how Matt and Ginny would be parents to their future children Hazel, Anders, and  their adopted daughter Lena. It is through the life of Elliot that Matt and Ginny have learned to let go of the small nit picky things that make children children. Rather they choose to realize how blessed they are to be parents to their children. Because of Elliot’s life Matt and Ginny’s main goal for their children is to teach them a love and respect for different people.

For the Mooney’s having Elliot turned out to be much more than just their first born son, but away for Matt and Ginny to receive love and give it back to their community as well as the world. It is through the life of Elliot that Mooney’s have been able to point people to the value and worth within them. As well as be a fighter for people with disabilities all around the world.


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