Written by: Kayla Sykes
When Zekey was 2 ½ years old he went to the Toledo Zoo with his family. As he sat in a stroller, like most 2 ½ year-olds do at a zoo, he had his first seizure. His first seizure of what would become countless other seizures, followed by a year long battle of trying to control the episodes with meds and diet changes, which eventually led to a devastating diagnosis: Batten Disease.
Batten Disease is a rare and fatal disorder which affects a once typically normal child, completely un-creating them until an early death.
Zekey was four-years, four-months, and four-days old, when he said goodbye.
I had coffee with Breena Holt and her entire family, they instantly stole my heart. If you are from Toledo, you may have already read her story. She and her husband have written beautiful, and heart breaking personal words about their lives including their son’s painful passing. Breena shared heart wrenching stories of her son’s last days on earth, including how she arraigned his last breaths to be in a bed, looking out a window. The window overlooked the snowstorms we had in the early months of 2014.
Zekey eventually left with the blizzard.
Her heart captivating stories of faith made the misery of the blizzard of 2014… beautiful. The snow stopped all of us. We were all stuck at home with nothing else to face, but the snow fall out of our control.
Zekey was born with ambition. Breena laughed when she told me about her pregnancy, and how her water broke 10 days early. Breena’s other 3 children needed a little assistance getting into the world. Not Zekey., he came on his own, and 10 days early at that. When they finally got to hold their ambitious baby boy, they cooed over his head of hair– a head of hair that received 11 haircuts in his first year!
Before the disease took control of Zekey’s body, he was a typical, mischievous two year old. Zekey loved pushing garbage cans, garage doors, throwing his moms shoes in the toilet, throwing pots of coffee down the basement stairs, and running until his body stopped working. Unique is what he was.
Although his life was short and full of pain from the countless seizures, Zekey had joy that exuded from his soul. Every person he encountered was over the moon when they were in his presence. Zekey was the joy in sorrow, strength in weakness, and light in darkness for anyone who knew him.
In his last days on earth, our community showed it’s heart for the Holt family. Mayberry ice cream sold spoons to help cover the medical bills, while the Whitmer cheerleaders passed around a can at a pep assembly raising hundreds dollars for the family. Some businesses put up messages on their marquees, asking for prayers.
With the grieving heart of a mother, the strength of her terminal toddler, and the loving support from our community; Breena decided to give back while chasing a dream.
Sometimes dreams can be really scary, especially when you turn them into reality. But after you lose a child, there’s not much more to fear. Zekey was the strength that Breena needed. He inspired her to pursue her dreams, and the talents that were given to her.
Zekey’s story reached an ethical clothing manufacturer who knew Breena’s dream was to design fashion. As one breath was lost, another was found. This is how her Garment Collective began.
Garment Collective is an ethically sourced and redemptively made clothing line for women. It came from dreams of a young girl who later became a mother of a strong boy named Zekey. This company is now giving Artisans a life of new hope and redemption. Artisans who once were enslaved, poor and broken, are given freedom and paid fair wage, so they can provide for their families and make positive impacts on their communities.
Breena’s dream evolved into Garment Collective, a company that believes in bringing “Redemption For All”.
We can all play a part in ending trafficking.
I own one of these beautiful t-shirts, I’m wearing it as I type this story. The way it fits, and everything it symbolizes is incredible. The fact that one life came into this world, and inspired so many others, this company and movement… is amazing. The fact that one person was given roads that lead her to her dream, and strength from her son to pursue them, is simply beautiful.
Knowing that the greatest gift of all will be the day Breena meets Zekey again, and they can reflect on the lives saved with her dream, coming all from his strength.
For information on how you can help launch the Garment Collective click here