Thanks for reading my latest interview with a true inspiration.
My last blog post was about enduring and my next guest has endured what has to be considered one of the most difficult and life altering experiences that any person goes through…and she continues to endure, inspire and help others that have gone through similar experiences or to make sure no one ever has to. I’d like you guys to meet Jess Kellogg, Founder of Lincoln’s Angels, Inc. Jess has a story that will bring you to tears but also hopefully inspire you to be able to learn from tragedies and even find the strength to help others like she has.
Hey Jess, thanks so much for sharing your story with people. I know you’ve told it a million times and I’m sure it probably never gets any easier, but without your story there isn’t Lincoln’s Angels, so I guess we should warn everyone to grab their tissues and sit down especially if you’re a parent of a young child.
Lincoln’s Angels Inc was formed in October of 2018 in honor of my son, Lincoln, who passed away at 4 months old in April of 2018. Lincoln was my miracle baby. My (now ex husband) and I tried for nearly a decade to start a family. After countless fertility surgeries and procedures, our first round of IVF worked in March of 2017. Lincoln was born, quite fittingly, on Thanksgiving day in 2017. He was absolute perfection. He had the chunkiest little cheeks that everyone just loved smooching. We were absolutely in love with him.
At 4 months old we were starting to get to the “fun” stage of infancy. He started to recognize people when they walked into a room. He would smile the biggest smile. He was starting to giggle and have a little personality. We just loved life with Lincoln around. He had a big cousin, Tyler, who just loved to play with him and show him all of his toys.
On April 3rd, 2018, at Lincoln’s second day of daycare, he was found unresponsive during his nap. We will never truly know what happened to him. I flashback to the frantic call from his daycare provider. The panicked drive to the hospital. The vision of doctors trying to resuscitate him. The scream from my sister who was in the room when the doctors pronounced him dead. I flashback to kissing his lifeless body goodbye. There are no words to describe the feeling of having to call friends and family members and actually say the words “Lincoln passed away.” There is no feeling quite like coming home to an empty nursery. A home without Lincoln in it.
The next few days were a blur. I wondered how I could possibly make it through an hour, a night, a day, a week, without my son. We had his funeral, and buried our son the Saturday after his passing. The outpouring of love we received from our community was amazing. It is honestly one of the only things that kept me going. The cards, the go fund me donations to help with funeral costs, the visits, the meals, everything. It was so inspiring.
I began to think of ways I could give back. How could I help similar families the way our community helped us? My first “fundraiser” was selling In Loving Memory Car Decals for Lincoln. We donated all the money we raised to a local non profit that provides counseling to parents and families who have lost a child. I then started to think bigger. How could I keep Lincoln’s memory alive? How could I help other families deal with the tragedy of losing a child?
It was not long after Lincoln passed that my mother discovered the OWLET sock. This is a sock that monitors a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and alerts you when levels drop. I decided that was it. I could donate those socks to families in need. Families who could not afford one. Families who had lost a child and were now expecting another one. I can only imagine the anxiety that brings.
I formed Lincoln’s Angels. Our mission is to help and inspire the bereaved to grieve, those trying to conceive and fall families in between. Our main purpose is donating OWLET socks to families in need. To date we have donated 300 socks in over 35 states! We have also donated to go fund me’s for families who have lost a child. We have also been able to completely pay for 2 headstones for sweet babies that passed too soon. We operate solely based off of donations.
Our most successful fundraiser is our annual Golf Tournament at Barker Brook Golf Course in Oriskany Falls. The support of our local community has been amazing. I have big visions for this non profit. I want to be a nationally recognized non profit. You will see me on Ellen, or Oprah one day, talking about the thousands of babies we have helped. Lincoln may be gone, but his memory has touched more lives than I could have ever imagined, and we are just getting started. Babies have been saved because of him. Babies have been named after him. His name is spoken daily not just by me but by people throughout the country. Sometimes we do not totally understand why things happen. I guess Lincoln was meant to change lives and help families in need. Even though I do not get to smooch his chubby cheeks everyday, I find peace in knowing that I wake up everyday to honor him and keep his memory alive.
Man, this is one of those stories that even though I’m not a biological parent, nor a woman who has gone through infertility or pregnancy, it’s still a complete gut punch….and even more so now that we’ve become close friends. Just can’t imagine the pain and agony you went through. I often times say everyone experiences a level 10 pain in their life, and my level 10 may be your level 2, but I think we can all agree that your level 10 pain would be level 10 pain to anyone. We’ll try not to dwell too much on that day as it is the most important part of the story, it truly is just the beginning. My first question is how long after the funeral…which it seems afterwards is kinda the “exhale” moment where all the rush and blur and frantic moments of the last few days finally calms and you’re actually trying your best to get back into a daily routine…when did you get the idea to do a fundraiser and give the proceeds to other people in need. That’s such a huge step in one’s mind to take a tragedy that they’ve endured and turn it around to help others.
Can you tell people a little bit more about the process of getting in touch and working out a deal with OWLET to provide these monitoring socks to families? Was it a phone call or an email to a representative or were you introduced to someone?
The OWLET conversation started when my mom discovered them in her google searches. She was researching SID’s
and ways to monitor babies and came across the OWLET product. She runs a medical supply store, typically supplying local Fire Departments and Ambulance Departments with medical supplies. Although the OWLET is not a medical device, she immediately decided she needed to carry it in her business. She reached out to OWLET and established a relationship. She then began carrying OWLETs in her store.
After I began my non profit, I initially purchased OWLETS from Walmart, Amazon, etc. My mom put me in touch with the representative that she dealt with from Owlet. He put me in touch with the OWLET non profit division. Little did I know that there are a bunch of non profits very similar to Lincoln’s Angels across the country with the same goals and missions as me. All of them set up in honor of their babies who also passed away.
It was then that Lincoln’s Angels was brought on as a non profit working with OWLET. We have yearly meetings where research on SIDS is shared. We also get insight into their newest product developments and research findings.
I think this really does show people that if or when you need to reach out or build a relationship with a bigger partner, it’s never a step 1 and then step 2 type of connection. There tends to be numerous connections to get to your end goal. It had to be a nice feeling to know there were other people out there with the same goals as you, and many of them based on the same tragedy that you’ve experienced. Have you connected with any other of those similar groups across the country? Tell everyone a little about some of your first fundraisers you did? Did they accomplish what you had hoped?
I have definitely connected with other families who have lost a child. For example, the first baby to receive an OWLET from us was also the first baby I held after Lincoln passed away. We have a lot of OWLET recipients that donate to our golf tournament every year as a way of giving back.
Our biggest fundraiser has been our golf tournament every year. We just had our 3rd annual tournament on 7/24 of this year at Barker Brook in Oriskany Falls. It is always SO much fun with a great group of people. We have a lot of fun, a lot of alcohol and raise a lot of money!
I know we’ll be a little late to further promote the tournament this year, but tell us a little about what it’s like to run an annual golf tournament? I want people who have this same idea to get an idea of what it’s like, is it worth it for you? I know as a golfer in the tournament it’s been one of the best put together tournaments that I’ve played in year in and year out. When these are done well and consistently, golf tournaments can be a great annual fundraiser for a charity or an organization.
Finally what are some of your future goals in the 1-3 year range? I know Brantley Gilbert is on your radar…and then what are your dream goals? Talk a little bit more about being on Ellen or another show type that? What does that look like in your dreams?
So the golf tournament – it is definitely a labor of love. It takes about 6-7 months of planning to make it run smoothly. We start with our date, getting a flyer printed and posting to all of our social media outlets. That’s the easy part. Then we are tasked with the chore of funding the golf tournament. The goal is to get as much of it covered in donations as possible, so that we get as much profit as we can. Between myself, my friends, family and my board members-we start our hunt for hole sponsorships, meal sponsorships and alcohol sponsorships. We go to local businesses, etc. Then we have a basket raffle (typically around 30-40 baskets). We ask friends and businesses to donate baskets, gift cards, items, etc. to be used to put into the baskets. We also do a lemonade and cookie stand that my nephew runs at the tournament. He gets to keep half the profits and then learn philanthropy by donating the other half back to our organization.
The 2 weeks before the tournament are the craziest. I am going everywhere to pick up baskets, but together goodie bags for the golfers, cellophane all the baskets, getting hole sponsorship signs printed, getting logos to our printer for our banners and setting up for the tournament the day ahead. Overall I probably put over 100 hours into the golf tournament. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!! Everyone has a great time and we raise alot of money between our teams paying to play, 50/50, basket raffles, merchandise sold day of and the lemonade stand. We have done 3 tournaments so far and in total between all 3 years we have raised over $20K for our organization!
Future goals-I am having a very hard time with our government changing us from a private foundation to a public charity. This is my number one goal right now. When I can finally get us changed to a public charity, we will be able to receive donations through Amazon Smile. This will be a great revenue generator for us. Our goal is to go to local businesses that order through amazon and have them select us as the recipient for their Amazon Smile order. Additionally-we are working with Brantley Gilbert and his wife to play a role in sponsoring our tournament. Each year they have been willing but the timing has been off and he has already committed to charity events for the year. This year we are trying to get to him about a year in advance. Lastly-I have said from the beginning that you will see me on Ellen or Oprah or some sort of national show, sharing about the families we have helped save. Ideally, I will get this organization to a point where I can pay myself a salary to run it full time. The sky is the limit in my opinion! 🙂
Thanks so much for taking some time and introducing yourself my friend. You have an incredible story, heart and drive that so many strive for. Keep giving and you’ll get everything you can in return.
I can tell everyone that we made sure to hit our goal this year getting the golf tournament information to Brantley Gilbert’s wife in a timely fashion and hopefully we’ll hear back from him shortly on any sponsorship for next year’s tournament.
Check out the flyer for this years tournament and the official letter we went to Brantley that we designed for Jess. Thanks for reading everyone and any feedback is truly appreciated.