Mom Delighted By Unexpected Gift Following The Sale Of Baby Crib

By: Molly Denum | Published: Oct 03, 2023

Garage sales are a treasure trove of pre-loved items. People go to them because it is the best place to find rare items at surprisingly low prices. This elderly couple was expecting to collect unique finds when they went to their neighbor’s garage sale. Lo and behold, they were right!

They were able to find a baby crib they could easily repurpose. However, little did they know that the crib they were eyeing had a troubling history. Fortunately, the couple’s positive vibe managed to turn the situation around in the most wonderful way. Read on and find out how complete strangers changed a devastated mother’s life for the better.

Who Are The Kumpulas?

Gerald and Lorene Kumpula thought it was a day just like any other.  The couple was enjoying their retirement years in Cokato, Minnesota, and usually spent their time with their 15 children and lovely grandkids.

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Despite Gerald’s age of 75 years old, he was eager to continue the regular activities he used to do in his younger years. He didn’t want anything to stop him from enjoying the remaining years of his life. He was also a diligent up-cycler who had the habit of repurposing second-hand furniture. 

The Garage Sale That Changed Their Lives

It was during the spring of 2014 when the Kumpulas heard about a garage sale in their neighborhood. Since both were already retired, they had a lot of time on their hands. They also enjoyed rummaging through tons of pre-used items. So the two decided to visit the sale with the hopes of finding one-of-a-kind items.

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Gerald was also on the lookout for old furniture he could repurpose into something new. Meanwhile, Lorene loved getting to know the people in their community. The garage sale was the perfect event where they could both enjoy themselves. But when they decided to pay a visit, the two had no clue about the tragedy they would soon learn. 

Everything Seemed Fine, Or Was It?

The garage sale was being run by a young woman. When Gerald and Lorene arrived, they saw a slew of household items being offered for sale. There were also various clothes available, ages of which included those for infants. Children’s toys were also on display as well as a crib that didn’t seem to have been heavily used at all.

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Gerald and Lorene initially thought they would have no use for the items available in the sale. Clearly, they didn’t need any children’s furniture in their home. But Gerald took a second look at the crib and saw its potential. He immediately had an idea of how he could convert it. Little did he know there was a sad backstory to why the woman was putting the crib up for sale.

 

 The Mystery Seller

The senior citizen couple clearly had no idea there was something amiss with the items being offered for sale. Neither suspected that something was just not right. After all, a lot of parents regularly sell old baby furniture they no longer use, as well as clothes their babies have already outgrown. 

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However, this situation was totally different. Though nothing was different at first look, things started to unravel upon closer inspection. It was nothing the Kumpulas ever expected. 

A Reluctant Seller

Gerald thought nothing of the crib the first time he saw it. His first impression was that he had no use for it. For one, it was too big for their house. It was the largest piece of baby furniture at the garage sale. He also had no use for a crib, as none of his grandkids needed one. 

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Still, Gerald was considering it for a possible DIY project. When he asked the seller for specific details about the crib, he could not understand why she was reluctant to offer basic information. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. The seller seemed not to want to sell it, yet she also gave the impression she wanted to.

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Making The Purchase

The couple finally made the purchase. For a mere two bucks, Gerald and Lorene were now proud owners of the crib. Gerald was pleased to pack it into his truck and drive home. However, he never realized the historical significance the item was actually carrying.

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It was during the drive that he learned about the significance of the crib to the seller.  Apparently, his wife Lorene was able to ask the story behind the item. It was at this time that Gerald understood the reason why the seller was initially reluctant to sell it. It was a sad reason indeed.

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The Story Behind The Crib

While Gerald purchased the crib, Lorene bought the baby clothes the seller was similarly offering. Since Lorene liked to make small talk, she was able to ask the seller about the items being offered in the garage sale. It was at this time that Loren learned the truth. 

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Lorene innocently asked the seller how old her little boy was. The question was apt since the seller was now selling baby clothes her child no longer needed. But Lorene was in for a surprise. The seller had no choice but to tell her heartbreaking story. 

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A Loss

Lorene was not expecting to hear such a heart-wrenching story at a garage sale. The answer the seller gave was not something she wanted to hear. The seller explained that her child passed away in July. According to her, she and her fiancé, as well as their seven-year-old daughter, were still processing the grief of such an unexpected loss.

 

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Lorene was shocked. The seller was offering items for sale that belonged to her infant son. Though the woman’s grief was palpable, she went on to share the entire story of what happened. Lorene could not believe what she was hearing.

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She Was Valerie Watts

The seller was Valerie Watts. She was 28 years old when she became pregnant with her second baby. She made sure she was adequately prepared for his arrival. She purchased everything that the baby would need. She bought baby clothes, a baby crib, books, and toys.

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She was more than excited to have a new bundle of joy in her home. Valerie was ready to give the baby a cozy environment. She and her fiancé and their daughter wanted to make sure there would be no hitches once their bouncing baby boy arrived.

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Starting A Family

Valerie and her fiancé got engaged in the same year she got pregnant. However, the two decided to hold off on their wedding until after she had given birth. They wanted to prioritize the baby and focus on nurturing the child prior to them getting married.

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They even had a name for their would-be son. They named their unborn child Noah. At first, everything was going smoothly. Her pregnancy was deemed by doctors as healthy. However, it was during the final term that she started to notice a few issues.

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The Final Days

It was only during the final days of Valerie’s pregnancy that she noticed something was not right. She felt there were problems when she sensed she had very few fetal movements. What was going on?

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Valerie was clearly concerned about her baby’s lack of movement. However, she knew she was a mere week away from delivery. She also had little time available to go to the doctor. She tried to dismiss her fears and went on with her life feeling hopeful that everything would turn out alright.

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Praying For The Best

When Valerie was interviewed by Fox 9 News, she expressed her anxiety at the absence of movement from her baby during the final week of her pregnancy. She couldn’t help but declare her worry.  She knew the lack of movement was not good at all, yet she didn’t know what to do.

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She could no longer hide her nervousness. She discussed her fears with her partner Jimi. Both of them eventually agreed to wait until she delivered the baby. The couple did their best to hope for the best. After all, it was the least they could do during the remaining days prior to her giving birth. 

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The Day Of The Delivery

It was on the 22nd of July, 2013, when Valerie finally went to the hospital. She was in labor for a lengthy period of time. She spent a long and arduous period in the delivery room. Eventually, the doctors found it necessary to deliver Noah via cesarean section.  

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At last, Valerie and her fiancé could finally see their adorable bundle of joy. Alas, they were given heart-wrenching news. What they learned contributed to the unexpected reason why Valerie had to sell baby Noah’s crib to the couple.

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No Heartbeat

Even before Valarie was able to hold her little Noah, she was told that he didn’t have a heartbeat. The doctors discovered that Noah was stillborn. Though Valerie and her partner would be able to hold the child, he would not be alive.

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Valerie and Jimi were extremely devastated. They didn’t expect they would be holding the lifeless body of baby Noah in their arms nine months after waiting for him to come out. Their sadness was heartbreaking. 

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Complications

According to the doctors who delivered Noah, it seemed that the fetus experienced a complication near the final period of Valerie’s pregnancy. One of the causes of the problem was the umbilical cord.

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Apparently, the baby’s umbilical cord managed to get tangled or was constricted in some way at a certain point during the pregnancy’s final term. This explained the absence of movement Valerie felt during the last days of her carrying Noah. 

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A Rare Condition

The umbilical cord is critical for the survival of the fetus inside the mother’s womb. Its purpose is to function as a supply line. It is where nutrients and even oxygen from the mother’s body are transferred to the child. Once the fetus is deprived of oxygen, it will be unable to survive.

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Though such an occurrence is extremely rare, accidents in relation to the umbilical cord do happen. According to data from the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, only 10% of recorded stillbirths were due to umbilical cord related accidents inside the womb. 

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She Can’t Let Go Of The Crib

Noah’s passing was extremely traumatic for Valerie and her family. As a mother, there was not a day when she didn’t grieve for her son. She also couldn’t find it in her heart to part ways with all the unused baby clothes, crib, books, and toys she had bought in anticipation of his arrival.

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Valerie didn’t want to let go of all the unused baby supplies she kept. It was her only way of dealing with the loss. She still wanted a part of Noah with her, and the baby items were one way for her to be with him. Still, she knew that holding onto them forever was not possible.

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Being Brave

It was in May 2014 when Valerie was able to gather the needed strength to face her grief and fears. She collected her strength and managed to organize a yard sale. Among the items she planned to sell were the baby supplies that were supposed to be for Noah. 

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Though she still felt emotionally attached to the baby items, she had to move on. Noah’s belongings still held a special place in her heart. The crib was especially difficult to part with. But she knew it was the best thing to do. It was her reluctance that Gerald sensed right away when he asked Valerie about the crib. At that time, he had no idea of the purpose of the garage sale Valerie set up.

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Selling The Crib

In her heart of hearts, Valerie had no intent to sell Noah’s white crib. It was the only tangible memory she had of her boy. But she managed to change her mind when she listened to Gerald. The moment Valerie learned the reason Gerald wanted to buy the crib, she couldn’t help but let the crib go.

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She somehow felt at ease when she learned that Gerald would repurpose the crib into another piece of furniture, highly likely a headboard. Valerie felt she was going to gain closure from her pain and grief as the crib would be converted to “something nice.”

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The Kumpulas Understand Her Experience

Gerald learned about Valerie’s life story through Lorene. When his wife told him of what Valerie went through, he instantly resonated with Valerie’s experience. Gerald not only empathized with Valerie, they actually had a similar story.  

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The first granddaughter Gerald and Lorene ever had was stillborn. It was many moons ago when they also held their grandchild in their arms. They also grieved for the life their grandkid would have led. Though Gerald and Lorene have many grandchildren now, they still remember the pain of losing a grandchild. 

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Helping Out

Gerald and Lorene wanted to do more than just feel sorry for what Valerie went through. They talked about what they could possibly give her. The Kumpula couple knew how difficult it was to part with a crib that held such a sentimental value. Since they were already retired, they had more than enough time to assist a mother who needed all the support she could get.

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Gerald finally decided to convert the crib into something that Valerie would find useful. He no longer wanted to use the crib for his DIY project. However, he still had no solid idea of what he should make that would help ease Valarie’s grief.

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What Should He Do?

Gerald initially decided to create a headboard out of the repurposed crib. However, as he was looking at the crib each night, he thought it should be converted into something that could help Valerie and Jimi. In the end, Gerald settled on making a bench.

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In the interview he had with TODAY, he explained how an unused crib would only serve as a sad reminder of what could have been. He then stated that a bench would actually function as a symbol to honor a memory. 

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A Memorial

Once Gerald went back home, he made sure he placed the crib on his work desk. He was ready to transform the crib into something that would not make it totally unrecognizable yet also something pleasantly new. To do this, he made sure he would not paint over the existing white wood. 

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Instead, Gerald removed the crib’s beans and converted them to become the chair’s backing. Then, he utilized the scalloped edges of the crib to highlight or accentuate the bottom portion of the chair. Though the end result would only allow it to fit a single person, it was still large enough to make a positive impact.

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The Unexpected Gift

A mere week after they purchased the crib, Gerald and Lorene went back to Valerie’s home. When the grieving mom saw the old couple, she was surprised. She did not expect them to be back. She also never imagined they would return with the crib. Yet they really didn’t come back with the crib because the crib was no longer there.

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In its place was a memorial bench. It was a pleasant gift from very kind strangers. Valerie could no longer hide her tears. The instant she saw how Gerald converted the crib to a bench, she couldn’t help but express how beautiful it was. The Kumpulas’ generosity restored Valerie’s belief that kind people still existed in the world.

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New Life

The effect of the bench on Valerie and her partner Jimi was what Gerald hoped to see. Valerie felt more at ease looking at the bench than at an empty crib. While the crib only functioned as an unfortunate reminder, the bench seemed to have breathed new life into the memory that they have of their son. Thanks to the Kumpulas’ efforts, Valerie and her family’s grief seemed to have been similarly converted into something positive.

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Valerie expressed how she was joyfully overwhelmed by the gift she received from the couple. She was more than happy that the crib was not sitting unused in an empty room. She could now sit on the bench, hold her son’s toys, and think about him.

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Payment Not Accepted

Valerie insisted that she pay Gerald for his effort in repurposing the crib. However, Gerald refused to accept any payment from Valerie. It was his deep desire to do something for Valerie and her family. He wanted to do something good and help someone feel good. For Gerald, the joy Valerie felt was more than enough.

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In the interview Gerald had with TODAY, he described how he only wanted to do something nice for someone. He also wanted to help. Clearly, Gerald’s selfless intent helped the Watts family to heal and move on from the loss of their baby Noah. 

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An Inspiration 

Gerald’s earnest actions were so inspiring that news of what he did spread like wildfire. Numerous news outlets made a report on Valerie’s story. When a lot more people learned of what Gerald did, they couldn’t help but be touched by his sincerity.

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Some even expressed their opinion on what Gerald did. According to Amy Vickers, a business owner who converts wedding gowns to “angel gowns” for would-be mothers who have lost their babies, the bench was important for Valerie’s healing. Vickers believed that it didn’t take away the hurt the family felt, but it served as a reminder that the life of their baby meant something.

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Where Is The Bench Now?

Currently, the bench is housed in the Watts family’s living room. It is also lovingly decorated with Noah’s teddy bear and blanket. A bookshelf next to it has his handprints., photos, footprints, and ashes. 

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For the family, the bench is a special place where they can sit and stay silent while connecting to Noah. Valerie’s daughter, seven-year-old Nevaeh, also uses the bench as it is perfectly sized for her use. It is low enough for her height and small enough for her size. 

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Social Awareness

The touching story of Valerie and Gerald similarly helped bring awareness to the phenomenon of stillbirth. Not many know that one in 160 births in America are stillbirths. In the United States alone, approximately 24,000 infants are stillborn each year.

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The Stir’s Maressa Brown believes that Valerie’s story serves as a reminder of the sufferings of many women who are similarly struggling silently. Brown advocates that they, too, deserve much-needed support. She added that the crib bench could provide hope to other families who have gone through the same thing. Could there be more crib benches in the future?

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Hopeful Future

Despite the traumatic loss Valerie experienced, all is not lost. She is very hopeful for what the future will bring. Since she got married to Jimi in 2014, she has continued to take good care of her daughter. She also works as a babysitter.

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The bench still gives her emotional comfort. Valerie believes that every time she sits on the bench, she can feel Noah’s presence. She described it as a feeling of peace, as if “everything is going to be okay.”

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