Parents of Nathan O'Brien establish charity: 'We're exchanging grief for hope'
Published Wednesday, October 29, 2014 4:23PM EDT
The parents of a five-year-old Calgary boy who disappeared in June have set up a new charity to honour his memory.
Four months after Nathan O’Brien vanished, along with his grandparents, his parents have established the Nathan O’Brien Children’s Foundation with the help of a man in North Carolina who was touched by the family’s tragic story.
The five-year-old had been staying over with his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes, on the weekend the trio went missing. Their disappearance prompted a massive search.
Though their bodies have never been located, Nathan and his grandparents are presumed dead. Douglas Garland has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one charge of second second-degree murder in connection with their deaths.
The family says they want to help their son’s spirit live on by helping other children fulfill their dreams.
Nathan’s father, Rod O’Brien, says the endowment fund is also an opportunity for his family to heal.
“We’re exchanging grief for hope, and we’re moving forward as a family, we’re reinventing ourselves,” Rod O’Brien said in an interview with CTV Calgary.
Many people were touched by the tragedy, including William Neisler, of North Carolina, who reached out to the family. Neisler has donated $1 million to establish the charitable foundation.
“Just seeing the picture of Nathan; that innocent, angelic face of his,” Neisler said. “It just tugged at my heart.”
Neisler said Nathan’s parents “just don’t want to mourn” their son for the rest of their lives.
“They want to move beyond that and do something positive in his memory,” Neisler said.
The O’Briens will choose charities each year and give grants with the interest earned on the $1 million.
The gifts will benefit disadvantaged children with a focus on health, safety and sports.
“This charity is helping lift us up and our charities of choice,” Nathan’s mother, Jennifer O’Brien said. “So together, I think it’s a really beautiful thing.”
Registered in North Carolina, the charity’s incorporation documents said the foundation is “committed to honouring the memory of Nathan O’Brien and his legacy of compassion and kindness by helping improve the lives of children … giving them the opportunity to live, hope and pursue their dreams.”
Rod O’Brien calls the charity “a miracle.”
“Most people never get this opportunity that’s been granted to us to do something for our son Nathan in his name.”
With a report by CTV’s Bill Mcfarlane