Rory Feek Built His Special Needs Daughter a School to Honor Joey’s Wishes
Former Joey + Rory singer and guitarist Rory Feek is sending his 4-year-old daughter, Indiana, off to school in a very special way, thanks to money that fans sent his family after his wife, Joey, died of cancer.
Joey + Rory shot to national attention after competing on Can You Duet in 2008, and the couple went on to release a string of records, tour and host a popular variety show. Joey gave birth to Indiana in February of 2014, and Indiana was diagnosed with Down syndrome in the following days. Joey was diagnosed with cancer that May, and Rory chronicled her brave battle against the disease in his blog, This Life I Live, which drew the support of fans from all over the world. Joey Feek died at age 40 on March 4, 2016, and Rory Feek admits in an essay he wrote for the Today show that he was unsure about Indiana's future.
"Joey’s plan had always been to home-school Indy. To raise and teach her at home," he reveals. "But now, it was clear that we would have to come up with a different plan."
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He enrolled her in an integrated pre-school called High Hopes, where she was able to learn to walk and talk, but he knew that was only a temporary solution since Indiana would reach school age in a couple of years. He began to formulate a bold plan for her future, based on something remarkable that happened after his wife's death.
"In the days and weeks that followed Joey’s funeral, we received hundreds, if not thousands of cards and letters in the mail from people expressing their sympathy for our family and all we’d been through," he writes. "They told of how they had prayed for us and how they are praying still. And in many of those envelopes there were $5 bills. And 10s and 20s, and change and checks of all sizes." All told, the money added up to nearly $100,000.
Feek decided he would honor Joey's wishes and find the best school situation for their daughter by using that money to build a one-room schoolhouse on their farm, and he enlisted his community for an old-fashioned barn raising. He named the school Hardison Mill School after a similar one-room schoolhouse that had served the area a century earlier, and on Monday (Oct. 1), Indiana started her first day of school in the new schoolhouse with about a dozen other kids.
Feek calls it "a day when something beyond heartbreaking became something beyond beautiful," adding, "I stayed for a long time this morning and watched Indiana play with her new friends on their first day of school. And as I watched, I thought of how blessed we are, and how wonderful it is to be part of using our blessing to bless others. And I couldn’t help but think of what the future might hold, of what this school will become in a year, or in 10 years. And of what Indy will learn here and how this will change who she is, and who we all are."
Rory Feek has also written a book about his life with Joey titled This Life I Live, and he produced a documentary called To Joey With Love. He has also resumed performing concerts in the theater at the family farm, and his most recent project is a children's book titled The Cow Said Neigh! A Farm Story.
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