Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman and Husband Create the Dogwood Project in Memory of Late Brother
Beauty can bloom from the darkest tragedy, an understanding Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman and her husband, Stephen, learned through the creation of the Dogwood Project, a non-profit organization designed to carry on the legacy of Stephen's late brother. Allen Schlapman was senselessly killed by a drunk driver while visiting his brother and sister-in-law over the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday.
The tragedy shook the Schlapmans to their core, but a gift from an unlikely source sparked hope for the grieving family.
"My wife got a message from a friend whose family wanted to do something for their friends who had just lost their brother and uncle," Stephen Schlapman shares with Taste of Country. "They had ordered a tree for them to plant in their yard in his memory, a Dogwood tree."
Just days earlier, Allen stood on that very property discussing his love of Dogwood trees with his brother -- an occurrence the gift-givers knew nothing about. "They had never met Allen," he further reveals. "They had no way of knowing how much he loved Dogwood trees."
More outpouring support -- directed toward Allen's 9-year-old daughter, Rachael, -- led to the full-circle moment that would soon evolve into the Dogwood Project.
"She had received flowers. As a matter of fact she got three flower deliveries that day," Schapman recalls. "That small gesture helped that little girl know that someone cared about her, that she is special and important and it helped her start moving forward in her new life."
"The Dogwood Project will help kids who lose a close relative as they go through the grieving process," the LBT singer's husband explains of his mission. "We will send the youngest children a teddy bear, we will send girls 5-12 a flower arrangement and we will send boys 5-12 a young Dogwood tree. If we can secure the contributions, we will also send the children a small shovel to help them plant the flowers/tree with an adult as a way for conversation to begin."
The Dogwood Project will focus its efforts in middle Tennessee, but Schlapman and his team hope to expand their outreach as the organization grows.
"Ultimately, we hope to expand beyond the initial expression of love and support to help ensure that each and every child has access to grief counseling so that they can learn how to envision and create a future without this person they so loved," Stephen reveals.
Schlapman's biggest supporter is his wife, Kimberly, who stands by her husband as he channels his grief into a vibrant creative energy. The singer fully understands how deeply tragic it is for a child to lose a parent.
“The events of my brother-in-law's death are something that we could have never imagined. As I watched his daughter learn the news that her daddy had died, I wanted to take that excruciating pain and transfer it all to myself," the Little Big Town singer tells Taste of Country. "A child should not have to grow up without a mother or daddy, but that is the devastating reality for some."
"The Dogwood Project will seek out and reach out to children like my niece and give them what might be their first glimpse of hope after the death and funeral of their loved one. The Dogwood Project stands for comfort and hope and purpose and life," the 'Tornado' singer states.
To learn more about the Dogwood Project, or make a charitable, tax-deductible donation, click here.