Out of tragedy, couple finds way to help children
PITTSFIELD, Mass.—On the 20th anniversary of the snowy-road crash that took the lives of their three children, John and Elizabeth Moritz say they've been able to remain strong through the years by dedicating their lives to helping orphans around the world.
"It's you know, amazing to me, in some ways, that we've survived and gotten this far," said John, 55. "Time helps, but we still have a hole in our hearts."
On Jan. 9, 1992, the couple's children, Joshua, 11, Kristen, 9, and Daniel, 8, were riding home from their school in Pittsfield with a carpool driver when the vehicle went out of control on Route 7 in Lee. The three Moritz children died instantly.
Lost in the darkest days of their lives, the Moritzes say they found strength in their faith, through which they rose up and founded Hearts of the Father Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to helping abandoned children around the world.
"We had a family one morning and after that, they were all gone," said Elizabeth, 54. "We were asking God for direction, why we were still here and what we should do with our life."
John says the answer came: "We felt God asking us if we would go and love other children."
Since they founded the outreach in 1995, the couple has raised and distributed more than $3 million. It currently supports more than 225 children in Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, India and Cambodia.
While seed money for the organization came from insurance settlements following the accident, ongoing funds have come from donations and from Aquatic Designs, the family's swimming pool business in Sheffield.
The couple says they've been able to move their lives forward since the tragedy. They said they find joy in seeing the children they're helping during regular trips abroad to the orphanages the charity supports.
"Our children are not here, but their legacy continues through the children we help," said Elizabeth.
And the couple that once promised they'd never love another child now lives in Austerlitz, N.Y. -- with their adopted daughter, Lily, 15.
But they say as much as they've been able to get past the horrible tragedy that struck their family 20 years ago, the pain is still real.
"The grief comes in waves," said John. "Life goes on for everybody else but you're still in a time warp. It's surreal."
Online: Hearts of the Father Outreach, http://www.heartsofthefather.org