The loss of a child can bury a parent in grief, a weight so heavy that it can be difficult to get through it enough to function.
But CBS 5 News' Pay It Forward recipient found an outlet for his grief that is helping other families struggling with the same pain.
Kevin Burdick was a doting father when his first child, Dempsey, was born. But his joy was only allowed to last two hours before she suddenly turned blue and doctors realized she needed emergency heart surgery.
"That was difficult. It was going from the sheer shock of thinking you had this healthy child to knowing you had a child who was very sick," Burdick said.
Her condition only worsened when she contracted an infection, and after 31 days of fighting, Dempsey passed on.
"Any parent whose had a kid, no matter if it's short or long, you fall in love and I still love her," Burdick said.
Burdick spared no expense for Dempsey's headstone, but after walking through the cemetery, he began to feel guilty, realizing how many other families couldn't afford even a simple stone to honor and remember a life taken too soon.
"I think that memorial maker is so key to saying, 'My child lived, my child is important to me' and to have a place that you can go visit them, to remember them, to validate their life," Burdick said.
Burdick started the Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation that allows families to apply for grants to pay for their child's headstone at a time when finances should be the least of their concerns.
In the 10 years since Dempsey passed away, the foundation has provided headstones for more than 30 families.
"We had one family in Chicago, the story is on our site, where it was 30 years that the baby lived in the ground without a headstone," Burdick said.
"It shows his dedication to unselfishness and trying to help others, and I think that is something I wish I were better at myself," Burdick's co-worker, Joe Newman, said.
Newman worked with Burdick for years without ever knowing about his foundation. When he learned Dempsey's story, he immediately contacted CBS 5 News.
Newman recently surprised Burdick with a check for $500.
"This will provide two families with headstones ... thank you so much. I'm shocked, thank you," Burdick said to Newman.
Burdick said his foundation is really fulfilling the promise that Dempsey never could in life.
"It means that she's still here. It means that she's helping people. It means that her life has helped so many. It was short, but that life has gone on to help family after family with their challenges. That helps, that helps a lot," Burdick said.
If you would like to donate to help other families provide headstones for their children, log on to demsyburdick.com.
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