as written by Barbara Warter, President of the Warter Strong Foundation.
When our son Ryan was born with unexpected medical complications, we had no idea what life would bring. My late husband Oren turned to me and said we can't let this break us or define us. We have to learn to make our challenges part of our world.
Over the years, through triumphs and tragedies, from baby steps to gigantic leaps, between breathtaking joy and heartbreaking sadness, the belief that we can be in control of our happiness has carried us. Because of Ryan we learned how to re-evaluate, re-define and re-imagine the notion of “happy”.
You don't get to CHOOSE happy
You can't always BE happy.
You won't always FEEL happy.
But every day you can DO HAPPY.
HAPPY IS A VERB
Warter Strong is a 501 (3) (c) organization.
Our mission is to honor Oren and Ryan's legacy by empowering others
and support like-minded charities committed to helping people do happy every day.
In July 2018, the Warter Strong Foundation became official. But the roots of this foundation go back to 2014 when my late husband, Dr. Oren Warter, was battling Leukemia. The very first Warter Strong event was held in conjunction with the Gift of Life in an effort to find a life-saving bone marrow match for Oren, Through a series of unfortunate events, Oren ultimately passed away in August 2015 leaving a powerful legacy to uphold.
We continued our fundraising efforts in Oren's honor over the next few years.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2016.
Up until that point, I had learned to accept what life threw at me ... to stay strong through negative events.
When Jeff came into my world, I quickly learned that sometimes life surprises you in the happiest most beautiful way. Jeff understood, accepted and embraced my world and happily added his own children-Corynne, Grant and Gillian to the mix. We quickly realized the beauty we had in each other and decided to join our worlds... and created our own "Brady Bunch" family as Jeff liked to joke.
Jeff and I realized that there was so much more we wanted to be able to do in the name of "Warter Strong" and continue the legacy we informally began a few years ago. So for of our wedding on Thanksgiving-November 2017, and in honor of my late husband Oren, we began the legal process of turning Warter Strong into a formal Foundation.
By the Spring of 2018 the Warter Strong Foundation, application was underway.
We were excited and began brainstorming on the directions we could grow.
This is the point where we should have a happy ending to the story.
But once again, our world was turned unexpectedly and tragically upside down.
On May 24, 2018, just six months to the date of getting remarried and rebuilding our next chapter of life, our son Ryan passed away suddenly from complications related to an acute medical illness.
He was just 17 years old.
In a final act of love and generosity, Ryan gave the gift of life by donating both of his kidneys to two men in desperate need through New Jersey Sharing Network.
The first month of mourning after Ryan passed away, I found myself writing daily posts on Facebook about Ryan...lessons he taught me... pieces of him I still needed to share with others. I was honoring him in the best way I could at the time... by "sharing" him with others.
In July 2018, less than three months after we lost Ryan, Warter Strong Foundation, Inc received IRS approval.
We cried both happy & heartbreaking tears at once knowing we would be working in memory of both Oren and now Ryan. Every donation. Every time volunteering.,
Every kindness through the foundation is dedicated to both of their memory.
And in August 2018, while on our family-honeymoon... acknowledging the empty space at the table where Ryan should have sat alongside his brothers and step brother and step sisters, we brainstormed about the direction we wanted to take for our family charity. And as we tossed around catch phrases...each one getting voted down faster than the next, our son Zach offered up “how about do happy”?
That was perfect.
The Warter Strong Foundation is about an outlook..
It represents an appreciation for life and all that you have.
We are living day to day with the idea that life doesn't have to be “perfect” to be amazing.
And through the grass-root efforts of our children, we found our mantra.
What began as a bone marrow drive in honor of my late husband Oren and what became fueled by the loss of our son Ryan in has taken shape into something beautiful. We look forward to the journey of watching Warter Strong grow and unfold as we are able to help more and more people.
LEGACY. LIVING. LOVING. DOING HAPPY
With much gratitude for your support,
Barbara Warter and the Warter Sarrett Crew