From Tragedy to Triumph


“David struggled with life,” says his father, Rick. “He had everything we thought we could offer. We tried so many things to help him get better.” But nothing seemed to make an impact… until he came to Rockford Rescue Mission. “There, David was coming along really, really well,” Rick shares. “He could have been a success story for getting back on track and moving into a productive life.”

Tragically, however, David passed away, at age 33, before he graduated from our program. But while in our care, he had visited the Mission’s special “closet” – a room filled with donated toys and items our residents can give as gifts to their loved ones.

David’s mother, Loni, recalls taking his daughter, Joslynn, and son, Max, to visit him at the Mission just before Christmas. “He didn’t have any money or possessions, but he was able to give each of them something from that closet,” she says, noting that the children still treasure those gifts because they came from their father. “David felt good that he could go there when his life wasn’t going well and get presents for his kids,” Rick adds. “Everyone wants to feel they have value, and there is some dignity in that.”

So when it came time to commemorate the second year of David’s passing, the Labaks held an event at their church, inviting their congregation and friends to donate toys or the funds to purchase them. Rick and Loni enlisted the help of their four grandchildren, including David’s son and daughter, to select the toys and deliver them to the Mission’s closet. Not only was it a way for the children to honor their father and uncle, but also “it was teaching them to always do something bigger than themselves,” Rick says.

This past year, the growing gathering was held in the clubhouse of a local golf course. The event included a Mission speaker as well as Rick and Loni’s inspiring story of their family’s journey from heartbreak to hope and healing. “We filled the closet and it was beautiful,” Rick says. And they were moved beyond words when Executive Director Sherry Pitney renamed the room David’s Closet. “It made us really happy… it was a nice thing to do,” he shares.


To read our Holiday 2018 issue of The Rescuerclick here