When Larry Carroll woke up on April 4 it seemed like a normal day — except for the fact that his 2 1/2-year-old daughter hadn’t woken him and his wife at 6:30 in the morning as she usually would.
He didn’t think too much of it and decided to eat breakfast and watched a little TV.
As it came time for him to wake his blue-eyed, brown-haired little girl — often in pigtails — he started her favorite breakfast: peanut butter on whole grain bread, ready for her to lick the peanut butter off the bread and hand it back to daddy to eat the rest as she often did. It was a cute ritual between him and the girl he called Savvy Sunshine.
But when he went to Savannah’s room to wake her that morning, he found himself in a situation “unlike anything any parent should ever half to deal with.”
Savannah lay lifeless.
It was completely unexpected. And though blood tests are being conducted, there is still a possibility that Carroll and his wife will never know what happened.
That night, after trying to get his distraught, eight-months-pregnant wife to sleep, he took to his computer. Being a writer and producer in Los Angeles, the words started flowing into a Facebook post that would announce the tragedy to his friends. As he wrote, he anticipated the flood of condolences, wishes to send flowers and offers to help in some way.
And an idea came to him.
“It dawned on me that I just wanted to remind my wife that there’s still joy in the world. There is still a reason to go on,” he said. “I wanted to make her smile again. I love my wife. I love her smile. I love her personality.”
After Savannah’s sudden death he was scared his wife and his 5-year-old son would never be the same. And while they likely won’t — such an event changes a family forever — he thought, “I can’t make any good out of this, but I can try to take the worst event of my life and make somebody else’s life wonderful.”
Carroll thought of the “stolen moments” he had with Savannah — those moments he chose to devote to her instead of working more, getting on Facebook or doing something else. It was as simple as getting an ice-cream cone or taking her to a wall she liked to walk on while he held her hand as she blew kisses at strangers and waved at every passing dog.
Now, there are larger stolen moments, like family vacations, that he won’t ever have with Savannah, but he wanted to make them possible for another family who has a little girl. So he started “Savannah’s Stolen Moments Campaign” on the crowd-funding site Fundly.
Less than a day after writing a raw, heartfelt post expressing his anguish and his intention to raise money and gift a family with a stolen moment, thousands of dollars had poured in. As of the time of this posting, more than $63,000 has been raised.
In small doses, Carroll said, the campaign brings some sort of joy to his wife, but the wound is still terribly raw.
“Finding her toothbrush … there are constant reminders everywhere,” he said.
Then there’s the fact that every time someone donates to the campaign it sends a message to his phone. The alert sound he set up for text messages well before Savannah’s death, the happiest sound in the world, he said: her laugh.
“Every time someone donates to the fund…what I hear is Savannah laughing. Someone has done something generous and beautiful,” Carroll said, choking up over the phone, adding that it makes him think that wherever Savannah is now, she is happy.
The campaign still has 46 days left to raise money, after which time, Carroll said he and his wife will collect themselves and decide to drive or fly somewhere. He’s not sure where yet.
Carroll said on that trip they’ll find a little girl that reminds them of their own. They hope to see parents who love that child just as much as they love Savannah but who might not have the means to make that little girl’s dream come true.
“We are going to sit and watch people,” he said, be it at the mall, Starbucks, a playground, a Chuck E. Cheese. “We’ll watch people, and we’ll know it when we feel it.”
“Our hope is whenever we find this little girl, [we'll] hopefully help change her life,” he added.
The trip could be to the Eiffel Tower or to the pyramids. The sky is the limit. If it’s a trip to Disney, then Carroll said he’s prepared to let the money go to whatever the little girl points to: hats, cotton candy, the best hotel room available — anything.
“If there’s a Barbie limo out there, I’m going to find it,” he said, demonstrating the lengths he would go to fulfill such a wish.
And whatever money is left over, Carroll said, they’ll put it into a college fund for her.
Carroll and his wife only ask that after such a wish were fulfilled that they be allowed sit down with the family, share their pictures and hear their story.
“It let’s us live a little vicariously through them,” he said, adding that it’s already something they are starting to look forward to.
While not everyone can donate money and only one little girl will be changed by such an experience, Carroll sends a larger, more important and universal message to parents.
“Don’t ever take it for granted. Milk your stolen moments, steal those moments,” he said.
Carroll said for he and his wife, once they became parents, their choices centered around their children and for him specifically, much of that choice was how he spent his time.
“There is zero doubt in my mind that I gave everything that I had in those months,” he said of Savannah’s life.
Those who have heard Carroll’s story have been sending tweets to @larrycarroll, sharing the stolen moments they were inspired to take with their children.
In the coming months, Carroll said he’ll update followers on his Facebook about the campaign to find a worthy little girl.
Learn more about Savannah’s Stolen Moment’s Campaign on the Fundly page.