Editor’s Note: This is part of a special series, Moms Who Wow Us, where we partnered with , , and the show to honor everyday heroes ahead of Mother’s Day. You can read about all the moms we’re celebrating here.
Every expectant mother’s worst nightmare became a reality for Jessica Bachus, 40, on January 23, 2007 — her second daughter Kenzi was stillborn at just 24 weeks. Before Kenzi’s passing, Jessica and her husband frequently talked about the day when both of their daughters could play together, and how there would be double the number of dolls under the family Christmas tree.
“When Kenzi passed away, all of my hopes and dreams went away too,” Jessica says. The Colorado-based mother was overcome with emotion, but she eventually decided to channel her grief into honoring Kenzi’s memory.
Jessica knew that even if she couldn’t give dolls to both of her daughters that year, she could still make the holidays special for another little girl. With the help of her husband, Kyle, and their daughter, Bailey, she collected more than 150 dolls to gift to underprivileged girls in the community.
“When I saw a family pick up a doll that we donated, I cried tears of joy for the first time in almost a year,” Jessica says. So, she continued to collect dolls and founded , a nonprofit dedicated to supporting financially-strapped families in Colorado with toys, food, school supplies, and more.
Now going into its ninth annual giveaway, the Dolls for Daughters and Toys for Boys Program operates five toy shops in the state of Colorado on the first Saturday in December. At the events, parents are able to choose at least one new gift for each of their children free of charge.
“The majority of the families in our program make less than $15,000 a year,” Jessica says. “And a lot of the children are used to getting hand-me-downs — this is one time we guarantee that what they get is brand new.”
Jessica has also launched two spin-off programs: Packz 4 Kids, which provides children with backpacks full of school supplies, and Kenzi’s Kidz, which supports underprivileged families long-term. Since Dolls for Daughters' inception, more than 48,000 children have been served and more than 323,400 items have been gifted to the families.
Jessica and her husband now have four children—“three that walk and one that soars,” they say of kids Bailey, Kam, Karson, and Kenzi. “We talk about Kenzi all the time, and last year our goal was to serve 10,000 kids since she would’ve been 10. It was a big number and we surpassed it,” Jessica says. “For our living children, volunteering is a beautiful way for them to give back, honor their sister, and to learn that even from your greatest tragedy can come something beautiful.”
Find out how to support Dolls for Daughters at .
GET MORE INSPIRATION! In the series “Amazing Moms Today,” airing the week of May 7 on NBC’s Today, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will highlight moms making positive changes in their communities.
Giving back is part of 's DNA, which is why they're applauding these inspiring moms by providing roundtrip flights for their appearance on NBC's Today.