Amy Almond has accepted “The Carlie Challenge” as a calling.
Carlie, the daughter of Brad and Amy Almond, passed away suddenly on December 31, 2015 at 15 years old from a pulmonary embolism.
The challenge is based on a month of daily social media posts left by Carlie in November just before her death where she issued a challenge to share her gratitude. Those posts have been compiled in a book along with daily challenges that encourage readers to find their own moments of gratitude.
Amy has her own gratitude.
“When Carlie started it, I didn’t realize the impact,” she said. “Now that I look back three years, it’s just crazy to see how God has orchestrated our life.
“The hardest part is this is not the way we planned it and for us to accept it as His plan, that’s something we’ve kind of acquired over time. At first I was trying to find a fix to my problem and I realize we can’t fix our problem; we’ll just have to deal with our problem.”
The Almonds are visible in the community as supporters of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, youth groups at First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church, and organizers of activities through the Carlie Foundation such as Fields of Faith and the 5th Quarter gathering after Chanute High football games.
“Those things done through Carlie’s memory have helped us,” Amy said.
Living with the loss of a child brings questions.
“Why is it us who had to do this?” Amy asked. “There’s so many questions that go through my head all the time. I know we’re supposed to be doing it. It’s still hard to accept some days.”
She shared at a church, talking about her grief and dealing with it.
“It’s actually admitting that you have a problem. For me, that’s probably the way I’ve gained more strength in admitting that this is going to my problem for my lifetime. A lot of people try to avoid acting like they have a problem and it’s given me more strength realizing grief and loss is going to be part of my life.”
Last summer, Amy went with Methodist youth to Mobile, Ala., on the same mission trip that Carlie had gone on.
“It was very healing to go,” Amy said. “I got to see what my 12-year-old daughter experienced. I was blessed that she took the trip because that’s where she opened her heart up to God.
“I realized the value of sending kids on mission trips is kind of helping with their eternity in heaven. Sometimes they don’t get that exposure and experience living in a small town. They need to get out of their comfort zone and go do those things.”
They’ve also taken youth to St. Louis and Tulsa Dream Center.
“We’ve shared Carlie’s story at all those locations. There’s a peace that just kind of comes over us when we get home that makes us realize that this is kind of what we’re supposed to be doing.”
The Almonds also have a son Garrett, a sophomore at CHS.
“I’m a big supporter to make sure he got the same structure as Carlie, going to youth group, going to church, having the same priorities that she did.
“We’ve been blessed because we’ve had many different mentors come into our life, and come into Garrett’s life with the right timing. We’re blessed beyond measure to have so many wonderful people in the community’s who’ve blessed us, so it’s kind of easy to give back.”
The owner of Shear Class hair salon, Amy was born and raised in Chanute, but for the first time participated in a ministry at the Neosho County Jail in Erie.
“A lot of things on this list I can say I never did before we lost Carlie. I share Carlie’s story and my story and hope that what they’re going through and the decisions they’ve made, they can still find thankfulness. And hopefully Carlie’s story can help turn around their lives.”
The Almonds have received plenty of positive feedback.
“We’ve got many messages and many families who’ve said we live more thankful because of you guys,” Amy said. “We’re blessed that so many different families are still giving to Carlie’s scholarship fund.”
The fund has provided 25 $500 scholarships in the last three years and plans are to give five more this year.
“We just want to keep continuing doing stuff for the youth of Chanute,” Amy said.
Amy was happy that Altoona-Midway did the challenge as a school - 180 students and teachers.
They got close with the Ashmore family whose son Dawson had faced some health problems.
“I looked at him, I said, ‘Dawson, there’s a lot worse things than not being able to play the sports that you want to.’ He said, ‘I know, I’m trying to live more thankful like Carlie.’”
Dawson returned to the basketball court and dedicated his season to Carlie, writing her number on his shoes.
Amy said Carlie’s story has evolved over three years.
“The story has changed probably to more that our faith has gotten stronger because of Carlie being thankful. It makes us thankful even though we don’t have her, thankful for the time we did spend with her.
“Sharing Carlie’s story actually helps give us peace to be able to keep sharing her, but also help make a difference in other people’s lives.”