Laurentian Kevin Corrin Webster. Photo / Sally Anne Photography
Named after a car, 102-day-old Laurentian was accompanied on his last ride by a 1967 Pontiac.
Provided by an unknown person, this is just one example of what Hoon Hay Food Bank founders and operators Corrin Webster and Nicole Sutherland said was an astonishing response to the death of their baby boy.
A Give a small page has 190 donations, raising $7,448 so far, and organizations and individuals have reached out to support the family.
“Normally we’re the ones helping people out, but to see everyone giving back to us is pretty amazing,” Sutherland said.
Laurentian received an emergency C-section at 30 weeks on Nov. 29, weighing just 2.2 pounds. He died on March 11.
A convoy of classic cars, including the hearse, drove to the funeral this month in response to a public call to give Laurentian a special farewell.
Sutherland estimated that around 30 classic car owners took part in the funeral procession.
“We had a huge turnout. We had a whole bunch of foreigners from car clubs all over the South Island showing up for us.”
The Manaakitanga Funeral Service covered the funeral costs and Majesteez Kai provided free catering for the funeral, including the meals leading up to it.
“They did a big hangi, they did all the food. It was amazing,” Sutherland said.
With the couple’s daughters named Mercedez and Portia, the Laurentian name followed a theme for car enthusiasts.
The first vintage car the couple brought together was a 1967 Pontiac Laurentian, which they had since sold but still held fond memories of.
At 2 weeks old, Laurentian was diagnosed with Down syndrome and associated health issues.
A fighter, he appeared to be fine but his health began to deteriorate at 60 days.
“Our little man fought until the end. We never gave up hope that he would pull through and the [neonatal intensive care unit] the team until the very end.”
To celebrate his 100th birthday, the doctors and nurses at Laurentian threw him a party with a cake and a card, and his room was decorated with matchbox cars.
The couple are grappling with the loss of their baby who meant “everything” to them.
“I can’t tell you how much we loved him,” Sutherland said.
However, they felt well supported.
“We want to thank everyone and we want to recognize the efforts of the NICU staff, they are amazing.”
The couple continued to run the food bank through the busy Christmas holiday period, a difficult task they faced while visiting Laurentian in hospital.
Now they are taking a break but plan to resume shortly.
“We hope this year to use the food bank to perhaps raise awareness about Down syndrome or The Neonatal Trust.”
Webster said his son continues to have a large fanbase.
“He’s been a gift to us for 102 days, that’s how we feel,” he said.