Local man spreads genuine hope to those without

He uses writing and volunteerism to spread message

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published January 7, 2016

 Royal Oak author Scott Newport holds an enthusiastic Mia Wilson. Newport made a special mahogany keepsake box for Mia and her family. Newport later wrote about his gift to Mia, including the gift that volunteerism provides, for the latest edition of the “Chicken Soup for the 
Soul” series.

Royal Oak author Scott Newport holds an enthusiastic Mia Wilson. Newport made a special mahogany keepsake box for Mia and her family. Newport later wrote about his gift to Mia, including the gift that volunteerism provides, for the latest edition of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Photo provided by Scott Newport

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ROYAL OAK — After a conversation with Scott Newport, it is clear that great loss never goes away, but how you live your daily life following that monumental moment will define your being.

Newport experienced that moment the day after Thanksgiving in 2009 when his 7-year-old son, Evan, died.

It was a miracle his son lived as long as he did — at least that is what the doctors said — but it didn’t make the loss any easier.

His son was diagnosed with Noonan syndrome and related heart disease at birth.

Evan’s lifetime seemed to be defined by years in the hospital, around-the-clock care and love. At one point, his family, including his mom, Penni, and big brother, Noah, lived at Children’s Hospital for months.

Now, a makeshift intensive care room that Scott built at their Royal Oak home is cleaned out and the breathing and trach tubes are gone. The pain remains.

But something else stays too; Newport’s passion for writing and his ability to make profound connections.

Newport still makes regular trips to the hospital and is a familiar face through his decision to volunteer and validate the experience, and more importantly, Evan’s short life.

Newport writes about the value of volunteering in the latest edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back.” The book features 101 stories of purpose and passion.

Amy Newmark, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author, publisher and editor in chief, said Newport’s contribution shows that everyone has a way to help out and contribute, and that volunteerism returns good feelings.

“The book is all about volunteering and giving back, and what I love is the huge variety of stories in there, and Scott’s story was an example of a new way that somebody thought of to use his special skills to help other people,” she said. “And also, look how great it made him feel.”

Newmark said it is a great New Year’s resolution to go out and help others, but the biggest recipient is always the volunteer. That is shown through the stories in the book.

Newmark said she receives thousands of submissions for the Chicken Soup series, and Newport’s inclusion is a testament to his talent.

“So Scott should feel very honored; he is great writer and he has a great story to tell, and it is a big deal to be one of the 101 chosen to be in one of our books,” she said.

In the book, Newport tells a story of when he met Mia, a 10-month-old girl born with a serious heart defect.

Newport met the family on one of his visiting trips to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

A carpenter by trade, Newport always arrives with his toolbox looking to build a relationship in any way these families need. He doesn’t push, he doesn’t pry, he doesn’t tell them it will be OK, and sometimes he doesn’t say anything at all.

The projects he builds for the families — or that their children build with him — add meaning to their struggles and gives them a connection reaching deeper than what they may find inside the hospital walls.

For Mia’s family, the connection was formed with a shoebox-sized mahogany box — a memory box — that Newport built for the family.

“I take damaged and broken wood that nobody wants and build beautiful pieces,” he said. “And I use that in the hospital with kids with disabilities to show people that even kids that are broken are meaningful.”

Newport writes daily, waking up at 4 a.m. each morning since Evan was born and living in critical care.

Newport started by posting daily thoughts on Evan’s hospital crib, which evolved into sayings and then into stories.

“I think it was mostly therapeutic for me, to help me understand Evan’s life, right? Because as a dad, you want to fix your kid, right? And you can’t, and you’re helpless and you’re thinking what am I going to tell my friends when he dies, no one wants to talk to me anymore, and I’m up all night.”

Newport never wrote before Evan was born.

“One of the beauties of writing is writing stories about people, and a lot of times it’s just ... for them,” he said. “I just wrote it for you, that person, and I don’t care if it ever gets published; it is just a beautiful thing and I want someone to know that I recognize them, and I was able to verbalize it.

“And just to see the beauty in it and that it all goes back to my son’s life, and I think that is what helps me to cope.”

Newport serves as volunteer and committee chair of the U of M Patient and Family Centered Care Initiative; board member of the Family-to-Family Health and Information Centers; national representative for the Region 4 Midwest Genetics group; and he is the founder of the Evan Newport Hope Award and its creative and inspirational Hope logo. He also works with caregivers on the power of connecting.

He has received many accolades from those he works with, including Mia’s dad, who expressed to Newport that he experienced a moment he felt things would work out — an overwhelming expression of meaning to Newport.

“It feels like I must have made an impact on the guy’s life, which then gives my son’s life value,” Newport said.

“We all want to have value and do things that make sense so that we can continue on and use the gifts God has given us,” he said.

Going into the new year, Newport brings an immense sense of hope to others that although nothing seemingly could be worse, all life has hope, strength and a meaningful message.

Newport said his hope is to help the next Evan, who is in the emergency department right now, or in the neonatal intensive care unit, and whose parents are getting the prognosis that their child has a 50-50 chance to live, “and that somehow, what I’m doing today is somehow impacting their lives,” he said. “It’s for those families, because their son is my son.”

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