OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - At the Open Door Mission's Lydia House, there is a room called Finnegan Birthday Blessings. It's stocked with gifts for children whose birthday passes during their stay at the shelter.
Every year for the past nine years, Amy and Robbie Kent have brought a bigger and bigger bundle of toys for the room.
“The first year we came with just a few bags," Amy said. "And then now, as you saw, we have to use two carts.”
Throughout the year, mothers staying at the Lydia House, many who have only arrived with the clothes on their backs after leaving violent homes, are able to pick out a Barbie, dinosaur, or board game to wrap and give their child on their birthday.
“We don’t want anyone to struggle, and just knowing that we can alleviate that for them even if it's just one small, random thing in their lives," Amy said.
Candace Gregory, CEO of the Open Door Mission, said the number of families this generosity has touched over the past decade would be hard to put into numbers.
“Any child that has experienced homelessness and had a birthday has had a gift because of the Finnegan Birthday Blessing Room," Gregory said.
For the Kent’s, the yearly tradition is an opportunity to remember a child of their own - Finnegan, who born stillborn 10 years ago.
Each year they host a birthday party for Finnegan, inviting their friends and family to bring presents that match the age he would have been.
Then they make their annual visit to the Lydia House to share in those gifts and the memory of their son.
“We love coming here," Amy said. "It really takes away some of our pain, but it's a sad time for us too.”
Gregory says over the past nine years, she’s witnessed not just the joy that the act of generosity has given to families staying at the house, but also the way it's helped Finnegan's parents.
“Over the years there’s just been a lot more laughter, a lot more smiles, and a lot more engagement in this healthy grief process of recognizing Finnegan," Gregory said. "And that, 'Hey, he would have been six this year, seven this year and now 10 this year and this is how we are recognizing him.'"