AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - One Amarillo fire captain fights fires during the day and helps people around the United States by night.
To date, Third Strand, the nonprofit this fire captain founded, has shipped about 25,000 ounces of donor breast milk to families across the country.
The nonprofit owner says each ounce they ship is part of a story of hope through hardship after tragedy struck their Texas Panhandle family on September 18, 2016.
At 29 years old, Kalee Joy Barton passed away shortly after she and her husband brought their newborn baby, Cru, home from the hospital.
“Less than 24 hours after they brought him home, my sister died of a heart attack,” said Kyle Joy, founder of Third Strand. “So it was completely unexpected, it was just a tough time for our family.”
As word spread of her passing, 40 gallons of breast milk from moms all over the country showed up at their home.
For Kyle Joy, a captain with the Amarillo Fire Department and Kalee’s brother, this ‘informal sharing’ of breast milk was a first.
“They showed up and she was holding a bag and I thought it was cookies,” said Joy. “So, I answered the door and she said, ‘Hey I brought my breast milk for the baby.’ That was the first time I’ve ever been introduced to this. We knew their hearts were good, It was an amazing act of generosity and love, but we didn’t know. So we set out on a mission to fix this.”
That’s how Third Strand was born.
The name comes from a bible verse hanging over Kalee’s bed where she passed away.
It reads, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
The nonprofit provides safe donor breast milk to babies who have lost a mom, those with a mom affected by cancer or those who are adopted, all free of charge.
“These moms are the third strand in helping these babies,” said Joy. “You know, you have the family,you have the baby and these moms are just braiding all that together and really pulling everything together to support these babies in their most dire time of need that they don’t even know about.”
Third Strand says moms who apply to donate milk are put through a strict screening process to meet health standards.
“All of the milk that we provide are to healthy babies outside of the hospital setting, where insurance typically won’t cover that cost,” said Joy. “These babies still deserve that best start that God intended for them."
This past February, one donor mom in Lubbock found out her daughter’s heart was no longer beating at 39 weeks.
In the depths of loss, Lindsey Risdon found Third Strand to help heal her broken heart.
“It saved me, it really did,” said Risdon. "Losing Carrigan was completely and absolutely devastating. The thought that a little bitty glimmer of hope or a small sliver of light can come out of that by donating or doing something good with her, there’s nothing that could have been better. "
“Those stories are the stories that break my heart but also fire me up to go and use their milk and their sacrifice and their love and their generosity to just go serve people,” said Joy.
Vivian Mijares received donated breast milk after a double mastectomy left her with zero breast tissue.
She turned to Third Strand to feed her twins.
“It was just overwhelming that a stranger would go out of their way to help someone, to help some children that they’ve never met in their entire life,” said Mijares. “It meant that I didn’t have to feel strangely enough guilty, guilty over the fact that I wasn’t able to breastfeed, especially in that critical period.”
Joy says while he misses his sister every day, he believes Third Strand is her legacy.
“To turn something beautiful from ashes,” said Joy. “Make something amazing from the darkest place that I’ve been in my life. So that’s what we’re about. So that’s what we’re about, just serving people, sharing God’s love, sharing our testimony, that’s what we do.”