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On September 20, 2005, Jennifer Elrod experienced a mother's worst nightmare. She left her 2-year-old son, Cayson, in the care of her boyfriend. It was the last time she saw Cayson alive. Upon arriving at Cook Children's later that day, Jennifer was told that Cayson had suffered severe injuries as the result of being shaken by her boyfriend. Doctors tried everything, including surgery, but on September 24, Jennifer lost her precious boy and in her words, "God gained a new little angel."
As you can imagine, Jennifer's heart was broken. But, in an incredible display of strength and a desire to help others, she decided to use this experience for the greater good. She wanted to create a legacy for Cayson and share their story in hopes that it can keep this tragedy from happening to another family.
In 2009, Jennifer and her longtime friend, Jeana Temple, established the Clay Shoot for Cayson. It's an annual event that comes together with an outpouring of support from family, friends and their community. Over the past eight years, the event has grown from 150 participants to a full house of 375 shooters.
Funds raised by the event benefit the Child Advocacy Research and Evaluation (CARE) Team at Cook Children's. Led by pediatricians who are board certified in child abuse medicine, the CARE Team provides medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments and preventive education. The CARE Team is dedicated to creating a safer, healthier community for all children by providing the care, support and tools to bring an end to child abuse.
While raising funds to support the CARE Team is an important part of why Jennifer continues to host the clay shoot, her main motivation is to do it for Cayson. She bravely shares Cayson's story in hopes that it can prevent another tragic loss. Jennifer admits that there are still bad days, but adds that hosting this event has helped with her own healing.
Cayson didn't know a stranger and touched many, many lives in his two years," Jennifer recalled. "Through the shoot, he continues to touch lives and his memory lives on in the hearts of many.
Your generosity does not go unnoticed by others. It is emulated by those who realize its value to the community. It is revered by those who care for our patients because it enables them to do what they do best. And it is appreciated by every patient and every family who benefits from it.
Thank you from each family, patient, nurse, physician and staff member whose life you will have touched with your generosity.