The loss of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. One local family is working through their loss by trying to help other families that find themselves in a similar situation.

The loss of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. One local family is working through their loss by trying to help other families that find themselves in a similar situation.

In the seven months since Brayden Tharp died, his family has formed a foundation to assist other families who have suffered the loss of a child as well or who have severely sick or injured children.

Brayden Kress Tharp passed away Feb. 29, 2012, from bacterial meningitis and the early stages of influenza, which compromised his immune system. He was only five years old. Since then, his family has formed the Brayden Kress Tharp Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable corporation.

The foundation, established in the memory of Brayden, has initially set its focus on helping those families who suffer the loss of a child and families of a severely sick or injured child who are having to choose between paying their bills and being able to tend to their child’s physical and emotional needs.

Brayden was a kindergarten student at Mark Twain Elementary School when he passed away. Brayden is survived by his parents, James and Melissa, and two sisters, Olivia, 12, and Morgan, 8.

James said the foundation was started as a way to “pay it forward” after the community stepped up and helped his family in their time of need.

“Without the community, we couldn’t have made it through and Brayden always cared about other people,” James said.

Back on Aug. 4, the foundation held its first fundraiser, a three-on-three basketball tournament that raised $4,000.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, another fundraiser is scheduled — a Halloween Trick or Treat 5K fun walk/run at Lions Club Park in Rolla. (See sidebar for more information.)

James said he plans to make both fundraisers annual events but move the basketball tournament to April starting next year and hold the 5K run in October, depending on schedules.

James said the foundation is still new, but already, funds raised have provided one family with a tombstone for their 3-year-old child who passed away.

“We want to help with whatever the needs happen to be,” James said, noting that while the funds may not help with medical expenses, “it’s those other things not taken care of, like gas or it might be to help brighten the spirit of the kid.

“Most people don’t plan to bury their child,” James said, adding that when unfortunate things like this happen, there can be a lot of unexpected costs.

He said when Brayden passed away, someone donated flowers for the top of his casket.

“Our big hope is that when something like this happens, instead of waiting for a fundraiser, somebody can step in” and have the funds available to assist these families, James said.

The foundation is working with local hospitals and funeral directors, according to James.

The foundation currently is focusing on those who need help in Phelps County and the surrounding area, but James said he hopes to expand the program in the future.

According to the foundation’s mission, “Parents need to be able to tend not only to the immediate needs related to the sick, injured or deceased child, but also on the needs of siblings who are often trying to understand and cope with the situation. Parents need to be able to be there for their children, whether we are talking about the child who is now sick or in pain and scared of what they are going through, or their children who are either worried about their sick sibling, or God forbid, trying to cope with the loss of their sibling. Our goal is to have resources available to help in these situations and to allow the whole family the ability to heal during these times of great distress.”

For more information on the foundation, visit or a temporary website set up for the foundation at, which includes an electronic method to donate.

Brayden Tharp Halloween 5K fun walk/run

What: Brayden Kress Tharp Foundation Halloween Trick or Treat 5K fun walk/run

When: Saturday, Oct. 13 – Registration and check-in from 3-4:30 p.m. The race starts at 5 p.m.

Where: Lions Club Park

• Register online or download a form at Participants may run or walk. There will be a separate race for children. Childcare will be provided during the race.

• Register before Monday, Oct. 8, to receive a Halloween 5K shirt. Early registration before Oct. 8 is $25 for adults and $10 for children under age 11. Registration the day of the event is $30 for adults and $10 for children under age 11.

• Dinner for adults is included with a paid entry fee. Teams with a minimum of four people receive $5 off per adult. All children will receive a shirt and medal with a paid entry fee.

• There will be awards for 5K individuals and teams and the best Halloween costumes. • The event also will include a silent auction.

• For people not participating in the race, there will be carnival games and a bouncy house, happy hour starting around 5:30 p.m., a chili supper at 6:30 p.m., dance, music and an awards ceremony at the Rolla Lions Club Den. The cost is $7.50 for adults and $5 for children ages 11 and under.

For more information: visit or email