How One Local Family Created a Lasting Legacy During Their Darkest Days
There are moments in life that leave you different than you were before, and you know you will never be the same. Experiences that change who you are at your core and shape who you will be forever moving forward. Shelley and Marshall Pinkston faced one of these life altering moments in September of 2018 when their son, Hayes, unexpectedly passed away.
No one ever anticipates or plans to lose a child, so there’s really no way to prepare for it. In the midst of the tragedy and chaos that the Pinkston’s faced in the days, weeks and months after Hayes left this world, they simply remember being taken care of on every level.
“People loved us and took care of us. They paid our bills, mowed our yard, brought us food, and showed up for us day and night. They were the hands and feet,” Shelley said.
It was the outpouring of love and support that the Pinkston’s received that spurred their idea of creating an organization to help families walking through child loss just as they had been helped with the loss of Hayes. Shelley recognized that not all families were fortunate enough to have the community and resources they had access to. She and Marshall also wanted a way to honor Hayes and keep his legacy alive.
Enter Stick Horses & Capes- a local non-profit organization created to provide financial assistance to bereaved families that have lost a child from birth up to 17 years of age.
The organization was founded to meet the needs of families that they don’t even know they have yet as they navigate tragic circumstances. When a family dynamic shifts in such a drastic and sudden way, people typically go into survival mode. Stick Horses and Capes hopes to provide something during each family’s journey to help make life a little easier in that moment or on that day, because unfortunately life doesn’t stop when a traumatic thing happens.
“The financial assistance we give to families is to help them pay a mortgage, pay for a funeral, pay for therapy, or do something to escape the nightmare and make memories with their favorite people,” Shelley said. “It’s a way to love them and remind them that people are praying when things get quiet and grief steps in.”
The Askew family is just one family of many, that have been blessed by the mission of Stick Horses and Capes. In October of 2022, Angela, Shawn and Bella Askew lost their son and brother, Boone, in an automobile accident just weeks before his 18th birthday. Boone was a cowboy that loved life, other people, and Jesus, and while his death was hard, the organization provided a little light for the family as they journeyed through the unimaginable. Angela, Boone’s mom, recalled the sweetest letter accompanying the funds given to them from Stick Horses and Capes and was inspired.
“Our family talks a lot about using our loss for good even though we are incredibly heartbroken. We talk about answering God’s calling on your life no matter how difficult the circumstances may be,” Askew said. “The mission behind Stick Horses and Capes, and how the Pinkston’s have chosen to honor Hayes through it, is a perfect illustration of this.”
She also recognizes that it’s a team effort.
“Growing up in Abilene and Albany and now living in Comanche, our family is so thankful for the people and businesses of the Big Country and beyond that support the mission of Stick Horses and Capes. We are forever grateful to everyone involved,” Askew said.
So, while the Pinkston’s created it and Hayes inspired it, Stick Horses and Capes could not and would not be what it is today without the support of the community and families that have been involved throughout the process. In addition, the nine serving board members that volunteer their time and energy are also instrumental in making it the best organization it can be.
Will Clay is one of those board members and his family is one of those families. His wife, Krista, and children, Caden and Kylie, are all involved in giving back and furthering the purpose and mission of Stick Horses and Capes.
According to Clay, he and Marshall Pinkston go way back so when Shelley told the Clay family about the idea of helping others going through the loss of a child, they knew they wanted to be a part of it in any way possible.
“Stick Horses and Capes is something you don’t pass up when you get the opportunity to involve yourself and your family in,” Clay said. “I am so proud to be a part of a cause that makes a difference for families across the United States in their time of need.”
Angela Askew agrees that the organization’s work truly makes a difference.
“The love and support shown to families who are grieving the loss of their children, whether it be through prayer or a monetary donation, is greatly appreciated,” Askew said. “Stick Horses and Capes is the perfect example of an organization exemplifying the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Since its inception in 2019, Stick Horses and Capes has been able to support more than 60 families during their time of loss, a scholarship fund has been established through the Community Foundation of Abilene, and they have been able to invest money to ensure that this legacy is one that will last. If you would like to get involved, the non-profit has two fundraisers annually for the community to support, in addition to traditional giving.
OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE
What: Abilene Gives, hosted by the Community Foundation of Abilene
When: Held the first Tuesday of May each year, Abilene Gives raises awareness for local charitable organizations and enables people that love their community to easily give back
What: Stick Horses and Capes Clay Shoot
When: Held annually each September
Details: This event is all about making memories with your favorite people all while giving back. Featuring the clay shoot, a catered dinner, awards, live music, and a live and silent auction, you are guaranteed a great time.
Other Ways to Give: Donate online at stickhorsesandcapes.org or simply mail a check donation to Stick Horses and Capes, PO Box 4079, Abilene Texas, 79608
By Nicole Fletcher
Photos by Shayli Anne Photography