Why We Do What We Do
Nathaniel’s Hope was founded in 2002 after four-year-old Nathaniel Timothy Kuck relocated to Heaven. 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. It was through Nathaniel’s life that they were introduced into the world of disability, and once he passed away, they realized it was a world they couldn’t leave — a world God had brought them into. Now, over 14 years later, Nathaniel’s Hope is still thriving, growing, and dedicated to providing Hope and practical assistance to 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.
Here is how each of our programs and events started…
Make ‘m Smile | VIP Birthday Club | The terms Buddy & VIP
One of the ways we encourage VIP kids and their families, and spread smiles, is through the gift of our cuddly Bearing Hope beanie bear. This bear is mailed to VIP kids upon joining our VIP Birthday Club! (For more information on that, click here.)
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 is a FREE Parent’s Day Out/Respite program where VIP kids and their siblings make new friends in a safe and loving environment, while their caregivers get a much needed break.
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 Buddy Break church locations that extend across the nation.
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. It was then that 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 their family.
As a result of Christmas 1997, 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 with the name “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.
Now, under the name “Christmas with Nathaniel’s Hope,” we share hope through these three Christmas programs:
1. Caroling for Kids teams share hope and encouragement with patients, families and caregivers at children’s hospitals on Christmas day through caroling and bearing goodies and gifts! Join a caroling team, accompany with an instrument, or help provide goodies- candy canes, small stuffed animals, and prepackaged Christmas cookies!
2. Caroling Caravan teams visit prescreened, medically fragile VIP kids and their families who are home-bound for Christmas. They deliver Christmas cheer and toys from Nathaniel’s Toy Shop to a family’s home. Sign up and take a team of people with you! Or, if you have a medically fragile VIP and are home bound, apply to have a caroling team visit you!
3. Nathaniel’s Toy Shop provides FREE toys to VIP families with a financial need at Christmas. Host a toy drive, donate a toy at Walgreens, or help at Nathaniel’s Toy Shop! Or, if you have a child with special needs and need assistance, this shop is for you!
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 “Friendship 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! Our 13th Annual Make ‘m Smile Festival on Saturday, June 6, 2015 brought over 40,000 guests to Lake Eola! We’d like to think it’s the biggest party celebrating kids with special needs in the U.S.!
Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)
“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”
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 photo on our website and will be remembered on their birthday. 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.”
Make ‘m Smile | VIP Birthday Club | The terms Buddy & VIP