IRMO, SC (WIS) - Jacoby Latta's smile was as bright as his personality.
"In the morning, you know, Jacoby was the alarm clock for the family. You know, 'Hey! The sun's coming up! The sun's coming up!'" said his father, Stuart Latta.
"His favorite Avenger, I would say, would be Captain America," Xaviera Latta said.
Jacoby was the first-born son of Stuart and Xaviera. They said Jacoby was the son that they prayed for. But, back on May 31, 2014, God must've blinked, Jacoby's parents say. The "blink" happened at Irmo Community Park during a church picnic.
"Your world is turned not only upside-down but inside-out," Stuart said.
That day, a large tree branch dangling over the park's playground snapped.
"It hit two adults along with Jacoby. The adults received minor injuries, but the injuries Jacoby received were fatal," Stuart said.
The grief was and still is constant. Even the simplest TV commercial or song on the radio can set it off again.
"It's like the combination of a nightmare and Groundhog's Day together," Jacoby's father said.
Stuart, Xaviera, and their other children needed help.
"We had a difficult time finding anything that was for the family unit," Xaviera said.
The only fitting bereavement camp they found was in the Atlanta area, they said.
"Why do we have to drive to Georgia for something like this?" Stuart said.
Out of that frustration came inspiration. The couple has established their own nonprofit to host their own bereavement camps in the Midlands – a way to help the parents, siblings, and grandparents whose wounds are fresher and a way to remember their fallen Avenger. It's a non-profit fittingly called Jacoby's Shield.
"His shield provides a source of strength and protection, and those that are behind the shield are protected by his love," Xaviera said.
They plan to hold their first camp this October at the White Oak Conference Center near Winnsboro. They encourage anyone who's interested to go to jacobysshield.org. They'll also be raising funds for their new non-profit with a 5K on April 21 at Saluda Shoals Park East. For information about the 5K, visit https://www.runhard.org/pages/race-superhero.php.