July 16, 2019 6:01 pm
Updated: July 16, 2019 6:57 pm

Parents of drowned Calgary boy start foundation for grieving parents

WATCH: Parents of a Calgary boy who drowned last year in Florida are speaking out, hoping to ease the unimaginable pain for other parents going through the loss of a child. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, Luke and Ashley Catto have started a foundation in Noah's name to raise awareness about organ donation.

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The Catto family was savouring the final days of their Florida vacation in March 2018.

Luke and Ashley were packing up their condo with their three-year-old son Noah and younger daughter Abigail.

READ MORE: Community supports family of Calgary boy who drowned in Florida

“A couple minutes had passed and Luke asked me where Noah was. I said, ‘He’s watching TV.’ And Luke said, ‘No, he’s not,'” recalled Ashley.

“We ran to the front of the house because we don’t have pools in Calgary and we didn’t think about the backyard because, at our house, Noah went to the front with all his friends. So we went to the front and started looking and that’s when Luke realized he went to the back. So that’s when we went to the backyard and found him.”

Noah was recovered from the pool by his dad and died the next day.

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When Luke and Ashley left Orlando, they thought no one in the world knew what they going through.

“It’s a year of shock and just living in survival mode day to day. That’s how I would describe the first year,” Ashley said.

“The second year, we were warned, is even worse and it is true because the shock actually wears off and you are hit with this reality that this is actually your life. It sounds really weird but for a year, I kept having hope that Noah would wake up in his room or he would walk into our bedroom and then one day, you just realize that is not going to happen.”

Luke and Ashley donated Noah’s organs to three families.

“If there is any ounce of me that could stop this from happening to another parent, I would want that. That’s why we decided to donate his organs. It was a way for Noah to live on and so it gives me hope that one day I will hear his heartbeat again,” said Ashley said.

The couple said connecting with other parents who have lost children has also been a lifeline.

“I think bereaved parents are warrior parents. They are different from other parents in that they have to walk every day on this earth without their child,” Ashley said.

The Catto family pictured in December 2017.

Courtesy: Catto family

Luke and Ashley have set up the Noah Samuel Foundation. They hope to connect grieving families with each other, raise awareness of organ donation and provide financial support to help pay for things like funeral costs.

“Anything that basically our neighbourhood did for us, we are trying to do that for other people. We believe that was the template that was set for us so we can show people the love that we were given during that time,” Luke said.

The couple said neighbours in their community of Auburn Bay have been a huge help to them, both financially and emotionally. Luke said sometimes people can feel awkward talking to parents who have lost a child but he said talking about the child is comforting — not opening up a wound.

“It’s not about saying the right thing and it’s not about giving them hope. It’s about being present in the moment with them and listening and observing and just being there. That’s all they want. And talk about their children. They love to talk about their children,” Luke said.

WATCH (July 14, 2019): Luke and Ashley Catto join Global News Calgary to discuss the Noah Samuel Foundation and how they’re trying to raise awareness about organ donations.

On Saturday, July 20, the Noah Samuel Foundation will be hosting a fair at the Auburn Bay Drive field to thank the community, raise money and celebrate what would have been Noah’s fifth birthday. Everyone is welcome to attend.

“We thought this will be our undoing but you do survive and you come out stronger. We are not there yet, let’s be real. We are far from that but we have survived a year and a half,” Luke said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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