Eight years ago, the Hagan family’s first-born child, Libby, almost died from a medical error which deprived her brain of glucose for 18 hours. The newborn had already suffered birth trauma and was in the NICU when she was overdosed with insulin — an adult-strength dose that had not been diluted, according to her father, Lane Hagan. Following this catastrophe, the Hagans were told that their precious baby girl would likely only live a few months. “Fortunately they were wrong, and she began proving them wrong quickly,” Hagan said.
The strength of this family — now larger with the arrival of Libby’s three siblings — is in their faith and perseverance — not only on a personal level but what they’ve given numerous other families in difficult situations. Though the Hagans were able to take legal recourse for what happened to Libby and regain financial stability, many families are not so fortunate. This realization became the inspiration behind their Alabama nonprofit, Libby’s Friends.
“I had the idea to give back — so many people have been invested in Libby’s life, and I wanted to help other special needs families,” said Hagan, who is now the nonprofit’s executive director. “I had my idea saved in my phone, and I showed it to my wife, and she said, ‘What can we do to make this happen?’”
Though the pandemic slowed things down slightly, Libby’s Friends was “off the ground and running” by August 2020. The nonprofit’s ambitious goal is to raise money to assist families with equipment, devices and therapy costs for special needs children. As of press time, about 75 families had been helped.
“Libby’s Friends was introduced to us by [our son] Brooks’ speech therapist, Francie Clark at Let’s Play Therapy,” said Kali Belyeu, a resident of Fairhope. “We were getting close to the max number of therapy visits that insurance would pay for, and she gave us the information for Libby’s friends and suggested we reach out to see if they could help. Which they did, and it was the biggest blessing to us!’
Hagan looks forward to additional families benefiting through grants. After a colleague who runs another nonprofit shared how invaluable grants have been for her, Hagan set about researching and applying. As you read this, Libby’s Friends has been accepted into the Tum Tum Tree Foundation.
“They applied in January, and we had a committee meeting, and they were a great fit,” said Ashley Blomeyer, executive director of the Tum Tum Tree Foundation. “We love to support grassroot startups in the area that many people haven’t heard about — that are impacting the lives of children who face illnesses and complications. This will be Libby’s Friends’ first year with us, and we’re hoping to develop a lifelong partnership with them.”
“The majority of money that comes in our doors goes back out into the special needs community,” Hagan said. “We strive to spend more than 90% of our funds on the community that needs it most. I am hopeful that we can use grant money this year to impact at least 20 families across the state.”
Belyeu felt that the Hagans’ own personal journey has allowed them to address the mission of Libby's Friends with unparalleled levels of compassion and understanding.
“Nobody knows the emotional and financial burden of having a child with special needs or development delays until you become a parent of one,” she shared. “The Hagans are some of the most kind, generous people I have ever met, and the work they are doing is incredible. To have an organization like Libby’s Friends come in and take part of your burden away is just an indescribable feeling of joy and relief.”
To learn more or donate, visit libbysfriends.org.