-- A Florida mom’s tradition of leaving elaborate notes in her 6-year-old daughter’s lunchbox has turned into a communitywide effort to support the girl after the sudden death of her father.
Julie Clarke, of Tampa, Florida, began leaving colorful notes with poignant quotes in her daughter Amelie's lunchbox last year.
“She would bring the lunch notes home and I’d take a picture and I always thought I could make a book when she graduated college or high school,” Clarke, 45, told ABC News. “I knew I wanted to have a record of these notes I’d make for her.”
Julie and Amelie Clarke’s lives were turned upside down on May 1 when their husband and father, John Clarke, died suddenly at the age of 53 after being stung by a wasp while doing yard work at the family’s home.
Clarke kept Amelie home from school in the week after her dad’s death. With no lunchbox to fill with notes, family and friends who knew of Clarke’s tradition began making their own lunchbox notes for Amelie.
“My friend’s daughter, Alice, wrote Amelie a lunch note to make her feel better,” Clarke said. “It just started to snowball.”
Some of the notes are even addressed to Clarke herself, and may be helping her even more than Amelie right now.
“She’s so little that she doesn’t completely get what’s happened yet, so I’m kind of keeping them as an ace in my pocket so when she's feeling down I can pull them out,” Clarke said. “They just want you to feel better and they’re so comforting and it’s so nice to know that so many people are thinking of you and helping you get through the roughest time.”
Clarke, who has been thrust into the role of being her family's breadwinner, said she may even use the lunch note idea and her creative spirit to start a business to support herself and Amelie.
"I'm thinking of creating a book of lunch notes for other parents to use," she said. "I have some friends who are more business-friendly who are trying to help me figure out how to use my creativity."