Savannah Summer Camps 2023

Missing Emma Blu: A Wilmington Is. family’s story

Below is my recent column for the Savannah Morning News, published Sat. April 26. The column is published every other week in the Accent section of the newspaper. Got an article idea? Email it to

You don’t stop parenting a child when that child dies.

After Emma Blu died from a sudden illness in November 2012 – just shy of her 5th birthday, her parents Allyson and Blu Harvin of Wilmington Island did not end their commitment to advocating for children and adults with Down syndrome.

Allyson did not stop her strong involvement with the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society in Savannah, a group the Harvins had immersed themselves in after Emma Blu was born with Down syndrome.

The Harvins didn’t withdraw from the many strong LDSS friendships they’d made. Down syndrome advocacy still is a part of Allyson’s life.

“If I can help in any small way to improve the world for families affected by Down syndrome and differently-abled adults, there’s satisfaction in that,’’ Allyson said. “We want to be good stewards of who Emma Blu was.’’

Emma Blu was a little girl whom friends describe as always having a smile on her face and lighting up every room she entered. Emma Blu touched so many lives of people in Savannah. Her bright memory is present every time members of LDSS gather as they will this week for the annual Night of Champions. This fifth annual community event will be Thursday, May 1 at 6 p.m. at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa – Hotel Grand Ballroom. Night of Champions recognizes area businesses that employ differently-abled adults, including those with Down syndrome and celebrates the contributions made by these employees. This year’s Night of Champions will be hosted by celebrity chef and author, Jamie Deen. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased online at

The Harvins, of course, will be there.

But, honestly, not without some emotional toll.

They so want to continue to advocate for children and adults with Down syndrome. But doing so involves unspeakable heartache over the loss of Emma Blu.

Last year, the Harvins decided not to attend the Buddy Walk –a huge, celebratory LDSS fundraiser held every October in Forsyth Park. The Harvins had gone every year after Emma Blu was born. They toted her on her first Buddy Walk when Emma Blu was just 10 months old and Allyson was pregnant with Edison Kate.

Every year for the event, the Harvins always went all out –with the decorated wagon, poster board collage of family photos, tents and teams.

Last October was the first Buddy Walk without Emma Blu. The Harvins couldn’t bear it.

But they will be back for Buddy Walk 2014 and all the others, Allyson said.

After all, the Harvins want their daughter Edison Kate, now 5,to grow up in the loving, accepting community that the LDSS group is – even though she does not have Down syndrome. Edison Kate refers to the group as “Sissy’s Buddy Walk friends.”

At Emma Blu’s last Buddy Walk in 2012 shortly before she became fatally ill, Emma Blu “walked” atop her daddy’s shoulders and was convinced that all 3,752 people in the park are there just for her, Allyson recalls.

Emma Blu smiled, waved to crowd and gave high-fives to SCAD baseball team who cheered her over the finish line.

No wonder this community wants to keep Emma Blu’s spirit alive.

One way of doing that is now, every January around Emma Blu’s birthday, her loved ones, friends, therapists, teachers, doctors, anyone whose lives where touched by Emma Blu, gather for the an informal 5K run in Daffin Park. Memory Run for Emma Blu & Edison Kate’s Fun Run, led by Emma’s younger sister, benefit the LDSS and its Camp Buddy program, held during the summer months the camp promotes retention of what the children were taught during the school year by providing educational and recreational activities to children with Down syndrome.

What gives Allyson strength amid all her grief?

Her strong faith. Even before Emma Blu was born, the Bible verse Isaiah 41:10 had always come to Allyson. She didn’t understand then. Now she does.

In the hospital with Emma Blu before she died, Allyson prayed and prayed. She was desperate.

Searching for some answer to her prayers, Allyson looked up. Even though they had been in the hospital for three days, for the first time, Allyson noticed that Emma Blu’s hospital room number was 4110 – same as the Bible verse. Allyson knew God was trying to tell her He was there with them.

And still is.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

For more information about the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society, please visit

Contact Anne Hart at