Why We Do What We Do
Ever wonder why we do what we do? Here’s how it all began…
Nathaniel’s Hope was founded in 2002 to meet the needs of kids with special needs (VIP Kids) and their families. VIP Kids are those with any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disability, chronic or life-threatening illness, or those who are medically fragile. Through their personal experience with their son Nathaniel, co-founders Tim and Marie Kuck saw first-hand how demanding it can be to raise a child with special needs. Click here to read more about Nathaniel’s story.
Programs offered by Nathaniel’s Hope are designed to:
- reduce stress for kids with special needs and their families;
- share hope and encouragement;
- provide education to empower individuals in the community to reach out to those families.
Here is how each of our programs and events started…
Make ‘m Smile | VIP Birthday Club | The terms Buddy & VIP
How can we connect with our VIP friends and bring them the real “Hope” that we share?
As we identify VIP Kids in the community, we share our message by Bearing Hope through the gift of an adorable little bear that lets our VIP friends know we are here and we care about them!
Hebrews 6:19 (NASB)
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…”
Nathaniel’s care was very involved – twenty four hours a day and seven days a week – filled with sleepless nights, feeding tubes, medications, doctor’s visits, therapies, and needless to say, a great deal of stress. Though a tremendous blessing, the life of raising a VIP Kid can be all-consuming with very little support available, even from friends and family, forcing many VIP families to travel the journey overwhelmed and alone.
Buddy Break was created to provide respite care for families who had little or no support system to give them a break when they need it the most. Buddy Break is a program that gives VIP parents that break, while allowing people to get involved by being a Buddy friend to a child and their family. The program is carried out in partnership with local churches, since we believe that the local church has the greatest opportunity, desire, and responsibility to provide these families with practical assistance within their own communities.
Buddy Break was first introduced at Calvary Assembly in Winter Park, Florida in 2004. Since its inception, Calvary has served as a model and training ground for the other locations that are extending now across the nation. Our hope is to create a nationwide Buddy Break network that will be available to VIP families wherever they may go!
Matthew 10:42 (NKJV)
“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
On Christmas morning of 1997 Nathaniel made an unexpected visit to the hospital where Nathaniel and his family spent his first Christmas huddled around a hospital bed instead of a gift-laden Christmas tree. As the Kucks looked around, they realized that so many others surrounded them, each dealing with the circumstances that had brought them there. In that moment they were quick to realize that the sadness and loneliness they experienced that Christmas Day was not unique to our family.
From that Christmas, the Kucks purposed in their hearts to find a way to encourage kids like Nathaniel who had to spend Christmas in the hospital.
The following Christmas, Nathaniel, along with the rest of the Kuck family and about 40 others visited Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida bearing candy canes and homemade goodies, all the while filling the halls with Christmas carols for kids, their families, and hospital staff. The success of this first caroling outreach to the community brought Nathaniel’s Hope to repeat it year after year and call it “Caroling for Kids.”
In 2007, Nathaniel’s Hope added a new facet to Caroling for Kids called “Caroling Caravan” in which small groups of carolers go to the homes of VIP families who are unable to leave their houses for Christmas. For these special families, the Christmas cheer is brought directly to their doorstep.
Today, Caroling for Kids has become an annual outreach of Nathaniel’s Hope with more teams of carolers going to increasingly more locations bearing thousands of cookies, candy canes, and beanie babies to bring Christmas hope and joy to kids, their families, and hospital staff.
Matthew 25:36, 40 (NIV)
“I was sick and you looked after me…. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
We believe that every child, no matter how short and challenging their life, shares a purpose and unspeakable value that cannot be forgotten. Having a platform from which to share the significance of a child’s life after they have passed on gives the parents and caregivers of these children a lasting way to share their child’s purpose with others.
The Hall of Hope is a place we have dedicated to remembering kids who have moved on to their Heavenly home. Photos and stories from the lives of these VIP Kids are posted online so that family and friends can visit, remember, and celebrate these precious lives. The families of these amazing children are then remembered with a gesture on their child’s birthday and homegoing date.
Psalm 116:15 (NIV)
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Many times it is logistically difficult for families with VIP Kids to enjoy special community activities. We believe that with a little education and effort, event planners can make deliberate provisions so that these families and their children can be welcomed to enjoy these activities. It is our goal to provide event planners with the practical assistance necessary to ensure that all families are included in community events.
Keep ‘m Smiling made its inaugural debut in April 2006, providing a respite tent at the Luis Palau Festival in Orlando, Florida. Keep ‘m Smiling has also branched out to working with people in the community to plan special events dedicated to keeping our VIP Kids smiling throughout the year. Through this effort VIP Kids have enjoyed a “Day at the Races” at the Daytona International Speedway, football games, and performances of the Nutcracker, all completely free to the participants.
Philippians 1:25-26 (NIV)
“…I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow…”
Job 29:24 (NIV)
“When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.”
Make ‘m Smile originated from the Kuck’s desire to commemorate Nathaniel’s birthday, June 6th, by continuing to celebrate his life while sharing joy with other kids with special needs. One of the unique features of this annual event is a “Buddy Stroll” which builds bridges between the community and kids with special needs and their families.
While the first Make ‘m Smile event was launched in 2003 in Orlando, Florida, it is now an annual event anchored to the first weekend in June in honor of Nathaniel’s birthday. Since its grassroots beginnings, we have seen participation grow exponentially, with each successive year bringing record crowds! Currently, Make ‘m Smile has been duplicated in Antigua, Guatemala, and there is a desire to see Make ‘m Smile reach communities all around the world as we continue to celebrate all children with special needs in Nathaniel’s honor!
Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)
“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”
The VIP Birthday Club is a club dedicated to celebrating special days in the lives of VIP Kids. As such, the VIP Birthday Club is open to ANY child, with ANY type of special need, ANYWHERE in the world! VIP Kids who are members of the Club can have their pictures on our website and will be remembered on their birthday and other special occasions throughout the year. We want VIP Kids everywhere to feel important, valued, and loved all year round.
Psalm 118:24 (NIV)
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Buddies are quite simply, friends to VIP Kids and their families. They are people who come forward to say “I care” and “I want to understand how to be an unconditional friend to VIP Kids.” Currently, Buddies can serve in our Buddy Break respite program and our annual Make ‘m Smile event.
John 15:13 (NKJV)
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
The Term “VIP Kids”
It is a sad truth that kids with special needs are sometimes viewed differently or labeled unkindly due to their disability. Because of our firm belief that God places value on all life and that He does not measure the value of a person based on the world’s definition of “success”, we have made it our goal to encourage and inspire our friends that are faced with special needs – even in the little things, like how we refer to them in conversation. We do not take a position of pity or patronization, but a posture solely of encouragement. We want the world to know that people with special needs are not second-class citizens, but rather unique and valuable contributors to the world in which we all live.
The term, VIP Kids, originated during the development of our inaugural Make ‘m Smile event, a day to celebrate the lives of kids with special needs. Though this term is not the typical moniker given to children with “disabilities,” we choose to fondly refer to our friends with special needs as VIP Kids because we consider them to be Very Important People in God’s kingdom.
VIP Kids include kids with all types of disabilities, including any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disabilities, chronic or life-threatening illnesses, or those who are medically fragile.
Psalm 139:14 (NASB)
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”
Make ‘m Smile | VIP Birthday Club | The terms Buddy & VIP