PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Later this year, boxes filled with notes and gifts are being delivered to grieving families in our area, courtesy of a Gloucester County mom and dad inspired by their daughter.
It seemed like Clara Zlatkin was born with a smile on her face, even as she nestled in the arms of her older sisters Kayla and Lily for a family photo.
Her father, Marc Zlatkin, said Clara was “probably not even two weeks old, and she has this big smile on her face while her sisters are holding her.”
“People would say, ‘Wow, look at her smile. How old is she?'” said Clara’s mother, Karen Zlatkin.
The cheerful Clara was happy and healthy until the early hours of Monday, September 12. Her father heard a noise coming from Clara’s bedroom. Clara was having seizures. She was rushed to the hospital and then to CHOP.
“She passed that Wednesday,” Marc said. “One minute, she was just a happy, healthy baby, and 24 hours later, we’re being told that our daughter’s not going to make it.”
Doctors said Clara died from an undiagnosed metabolic disorder. She was 14 months old.
“We don’t want Clara’s light to ever go out,” Karen said, so she and Marc are channeling her spirit into a charity project, simply called Love Clara.
That love is going into colorful boxes called love packages, filled with items for other parents who have lost a child. Inside are things like a journal, an angel figurine, and an ornament imprinted with words: “My beloved child. You may leave this world, but you will forever live in our hearts.”
Marc and Karen also plan to send grieving families four books about loss, one every three months, during that first difficult year.
“It’s a way to kind of channel our pain and deal with the grief and heartache that we have, knowing we’re helping someone else,” Karen said.
To raise money, Marc and Karen are selling tickets to a July kid-friendly luau, the same theme of Clara’s first birthday party.
“What we want to do with Love Clara is help with the financial burden of a funeral cost, help with kind of try to replicate all the support we had,” Marc said, “because without that support, I don’t know how we would have made it through.”
Marc and Karen are still grieving. But they are also giving.
“The only way that we could thank all of these people was to pay it forward,” Karen said.
Clara’s Luau will be held Sunday, July 9, from 3:00pm to 7:00pm at Auletto’s, 1849 Cooper Street, Almonesson (Deptford Township), NJ 08096. Tickets are $60 for adults and $20 for children. Children under 5 are free. There are family discount packages available.
You can reach Love Clara at www.LoveClara.org
Tickets for the July 9 luau fundraiser can be purchased at