A rare ailment jolted the family of Michael and Julie Limbaugh in 2014 when their seemingly healthy third son, Dierks Nash Limbaugh, passed away suddenly on his third day of being welcomed into their perfect family. He had MCAD. According to the National Library of Medicine, Medium-Chain-Coenzyme A Dehydrogenase deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder of fatty acid oxidation which accounts for up to 1% of SIDS.
“Words are insufficient to define or describe the agonizing and excruciating hurt a parent who has buried their child feels. There simply is no English word with enough heft. In our profound loss, we found it necessary to cling to our faith in God and deliberately recognized the blessings that surrounded us. We desperately needed something positive and beautiful to emerge from this immense pain and to know that Dierks had a purpose.”
Anyone who has the gift of knowing this family knows the honesty behind those words. Many of us have witnessed the exhibition of strength and faith the Limbaughs have given to their other children and the people around them, and now they found a way to continue a legacy for Dierks so his short life will never be forgotten.
Julie explains: “On the first sun-shiny day of 2014 after a cold, dark winter and still very much in the throes of grief, our family visited our community playground. As the sunshine warmed our faces and we played, we found our smiles. We began very purposefully and intentionally visiting playgrounds to encourage, sometimes force, playing and smiling. Playgrounds helped our hurting hearts become healing hearts. These visits also revealed that our community playground at Carter Sports Park needed attention and work. At the time, it consisted of only two swings, a slide and was quite dilapidated, having not been updated in over 20 years.”
That visit began a mission to build a new playground and picnic shelter at Carter Sports Park and although Julie says it’s not a unique idea, it is the one that electrified them and “named the purpose in Dierks’ life and in his death.”
Michael and Julie formed the My Son Shines Fund in memory of Dierks with the mission to advocate and raise funds for the new playground and picnic shelter at Carter Sports Park, “determined to make this world a better place, letting his (and His) light shine.”
My Son Shines Fund has hosted pool parties, carnivals, T-shirt sales, kickball tournaments, lemonade stands and more to raise funds. It is truly a grassroots effort, but the biggest effort has been the partnership with Legacy Parks Foundation which hosted Dierks’ $10 Drive to the Finish Line in honor of Dierks’ 10th birthday on January 3, 2024.
As a Realtor for EXIT Realty of the Smokies, Julie submitted plans for the initiative with Legacy Parks Foundation to her parent company, EXIT Realty Corp. International, and was approved for the Spirit of EXIT Charitable Program which matched the net funds up to $3,500.
The Dierks’ $10 Drive to the Finish Line initiative was incredibly successful and raised $5,655.42 totaling $9,155.42 with the matched funds by EXIT Realty. This, combined with previously raised funds, will soon be allocated to Knox County Parks and Recreation to go toward the brand-new playground and picnic shelter at Carter Sports Park already under construction.
Though the period for funds to be matched has ended, donations to My Son Shines Fund can still be made online My Son Shines Fund or by mail to Legacy Parks Foundation (memo My Son Shines Fund) 900 Volunteer Landing Ln Knoxville TN 37915.
As for the Carter Sports Park? The original playground at Carter Sports Park was closed and structures removed in April 2023 due to safety concerns. Currently, the facilities at Carter Sports Park including Carter branches of both the Knox County Public Library and Senior Center as well as the ballfields and restrooms are undergoing improvements consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These improvements, including the new fully accessible playground, will ensure access for people of all abilities to the numerous amenities within Carter Sports Park.
Julie says, “It is going to be such a special place and seeing it built will be indescribable for our family – I am at a loss for words. Ask Michael, that doesn’t happen often!”
Dierks Limbaugh will be forever remembered through the laughter and joy of others through the Carter Sports Park.
All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to email@example.com