Emerson, Crystal and Ellington Hewitt preparing to release balloons in memory of Parker and Haley (photo by Allen Wallace)
Crystal and Craig Hewitt’s story is a story of faith. Faith in God kept them going when their two oldest children, Parker and Haley, died when a garbage truck hit Crystal’s car on June 29, 2009. Faith kept them going when Crystal, critically injured in the wreck, was told she would never be able to have another child. Faith kept them going when Crystal did become pregnant again in 2011 only to learn that their daughter, Ellington, was born with spina bifida and they were told she might never walk and could have serious developmental problems.
Trials like those might have broken many people, but Crystal and Craig persevered. They founded the Hewitt Foundation in memory of Parker and Haley, and Saturday morning, hundreds of people gathered at Crooked Creek Park in Chapin to support the cause at the fourth annual Hewitt 5K Run and Walk. Their faith remained strong, and kept them going, but handling the loss of two children was never easy, and still isn’t.
Crystal’s voice was filled with emotion and her eyes brimmed with tears as she welcomed the crowd Saturday, and again after the run/walk as she led the annual ceremony in which white balloons are released in memory of Parker and Haley and other children who have, as she put it, “gone to heaven ahead of us.” The 5K is held each year on the Saturday nearest June 29, and seven years after the wreck, it’s clear that Parker and Haley will never be forgotten.
“The support of our friends and family and the community makes it easier each year, but there’s still always that longing for Parker and Haley to be here with us too,” Craig said Saturday. Crystal agreed, adding that the passage of time is both blessing and curse. “The more years that go by, it’s just the longer we haven’t seen them, so it’s a different kind of hurt.”
The Hewitts have also used the 5K to assist other families dealing with the loss of children or serious illnesses. For all the sadness they’ve endured, there was plenty of happiness Saturday, as hundreds ran and walked while others cheered them on. Among those waiting at the finish line with high fives for the participants were Ellington Hewitt, who has defied all predictions and can not only walk but run at 5 years old, and her 3-year-old brother Emerson: both miracle children in their own way, both proof that sometimes things happen despite the predictions of the best of scientists.
All proceeds from the 5K go to the Foundation, and the money is used for projects to make the community a better place in memory of Parker and Haley. This year, the Foundation gave Easter baskets to children in need and helped pay for renovations of the basketball courts at Chapin Baptist Church.
Crystal said special surprises are already in the works for next year’s fifth annual 5K, and thanked the crowd who came Saturday morning. “I’m glad to be doing life with you,” she said. She added that she and Craig have four children, even though “only two are here with us today.”