It’s not uncommon to hear about people doing random acts of kindness in hopes of making someone else’s day better. For Jon and Shannon Ackerman, it’s a monthly tradition.
The couple from Parker, Colorado, spreads kindness every month on the 16th—a day that serves as a reminder of both incredible joy, as well as unspeakable pain. Shannon says the couple has “learned the hardest way” that life doesn’t always go according to plan.
On March 16, 2016, Shannon gave birth to the couple’s second child, Eli. Though their daughter, Callie, who was a year and a half at the time, was born healthy and thriving, Jon and Shannon knew early in their second pregnancy that Eli’s future looked much different.
The unborn baby boy had a rare genetic disorder that meant his skull would not fully form and his kidneys would not function.
“We were praying so hard the doctors were wrong,” Shannon said.
Eli was born perfectly imperfect, and as quickly as Jon and Shannon welcomed their newest bundle of joy, they also had to let him go.
“The day came to meet him and he was just beautiful,” Shannon said.
Jon and Shannon decided to do something in honor of Eli, and the life that he was robbed of far too soon. Three months after his birth, Shannon took it upon herself to do random acts of kindness in Eli’s name. They shower those who might need a pick-me-up with random acts of kindness and call it “The Eli Effect,” something they believe could have a tremendous impact and inspire others.
“Every parent is proud when they see their child making an impact,” Shannon said. “That was something I thought would be a dream I’d have to put away. I’m realizing I don’t.”
It was around the same time they started their monthly tradition of random acts of kindness that the Ackerman’s also tried again to get pregnant, in hopes of growing their family. Though both Shannon and Jon are carriers of the recessive gene that caused Eli’s syndrome, they had a 75 percent chance of giving birth to a healthy baby like Callie.
With little effort, they became pregnant again! But the couple quickly learned that their unborn son, Joey, had the same disorder as his brother Eli.
“We went in for a routine ultrasound and I could see it,” Shannon said. “I knew what to look for and my heart just dropped. We knew we were going to bury a second baby.”
I cannot imagine losing one child, let alone trying to fathom the pain and grief that comes when you are carrying a baby who will only live for a few minutes.
The couple once again prayed for a miracle.
Joey was born on January 17, 2017. Just like the day Eli was born, Jon and Shannon were filled with both joy and pain. As quickly as Joey had arrived in this world, he had to leave it.
Shannon and Jon know better than anyone that “nothing goes as planned.” For now, the couple has decided to continue their tradition of spreading the Eli Effect on the 16th of the month. They hope to find a new way to honor Joey on the 17th of each month. Ultimately, they want to share their love with those who need it.