CHARLOTTE – March 22 was Charlie Holt’s seventh birthday.
But after a tragic and unthinkable accident at a downtown Atlanta restaurant on April 14, 2017, he spent it in heaven. Even with the loss of their first-born son, and just moments after Charlie tragically was taken way too soon, his parents, Rebecca and Michael Holt, made sure some of their son’s organs were donated so he could live on.
When his heart couldn’t be used as a donor, the couple came up with a way for Charlie, and what they describe as his huge heart, a chance to live on forever with the creation of the Charlie’s Heart Foundation.
The nonprofit aims to aid vulnerable children and families who need their help through love and support. It’s a vision they got from their Charlie, whose legacy they are keeping alive.
“We wanted to make sure Charlie is still living on,” Rebecca Holt said. “We don’t get new physical memories of him, but the foundation allows us to create new memories for his name so people don’t forget the little boy that we love so much.”
When south Charlotte residents Rebecca and Michael Holt held Charlie’s celebration of life ceremony with his friends shortly after his passing, they decided to hold a carnival because of their son’s affection toward the pageantry, sights and sounds of such events.
It was a huge success. It also got the Holts thinking of ways to raise money for their vision.
Soon, the idea of Charlie’s Carnival was born.
Rebecca Holt said she was hoping last year just to break even and not have to pay anything out-of-pocket. But the carnival went just how Charlie would have liked it. The event raised nearly $15,000.
The second annual event, held March 30 at Stumptown Park, raised $25,000.
“What’s wonderful about the carnival is that it’s an event anyone can come to,” Rebecca Holt said. “It’s not a fundraising event where you have to buy a table or wear a black tie. Just come and give what you can. If that’s just your presence, then that makes it a successful day to us.
“People just coming out and being there makes my heart full.”
The Holts are working with two nonprofits: Addis Jemari, which means “New Beginnings” in Ethiopian dialect, is a charity out of Raleigh that helps implement a family empowerment program in Ethiopia; and A Glimmer of Hope, based in Austin, Texas, which focuses on eliminating extreme poverty in Ethiopia.
Both are dear to the couple’s heart.
Rebecca Holt said making good out of an unimaginable tragedy is what keeps her going. But, most importantly, it’s what keeps the pulse on Charlie’s heart.
“I think I work every day to make sure that we’re honoring Charlie and what we feel like he would have done had he been able to live into adulthood,” she said. “I hope that Charlie is proud of us. But, most of all, I just hope Charlie knows how much we love him. We will always work for him to live on in this world.”