Leading with love: Sycamore family honors infant son who died with acts of kindness

SYCAMORE – Tyler and Katy Fillipp of Sycamore are honoring the memory of their 5-month-old son Beckam by leading with kindness and urging others to pay it forward.

Beckam North Fillipp was born Sept. 3, 2019. His birth, along with his older brother Brixon’s, was made possible through surrogacy.

“We struggled with infertility, and Beckam’s name honors our sister-in-law, who was our surrogate, and the incredible selfless gift she’d given us twice,” Katy Fillipp said. “Her middle name is Rebecca, and Beckam means ‘of Rebecca’s home.’ A lot of love made Beckam possible in our lives.”

Beckam was found unresponsive at daycare and died Feb. 3, 2020.

“When he passed away, our world and our hearts were shattered,” Katy Fillipp said. “Because love was such a focal point for our family, we knew the only way forward through this horrific loss was with love.”

To honor Beckam’s memory, the family placed Buddy Benches at South Prairie Elementary School, where he would have attended. Buddy Benches are a way for other children to include a child who is feeling left out. A lonely child can simply go and sit on the bench. Other children then see this child and go and invite them to join in play. The quote they chose for Beckam’s Buddy Benches was, “One friend can change your whole life.”

Their extended family has helped others by handing out gift cards outside Aldi, holding a month-long clothing drive for the homeless, collaborating with a baker to benefit a pay-what-you-can food truck and hosting a food drive in Geneva.

On Beckam’s birthday, Sept. 3, the family took cookies to the DeKalb and Sycamore fire and police departments and took sandwiches to the emergency department at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. Katy Fillipp said she “felt it was important to show gratitude to their communities’ first responders as a way to lead with love on such a sorrow-filled day.”

Since November, the family has partnered with local businesses to “Pay It Forward with Love” on the third of each month.

“The events are for anyone that chooses to spread love, and we’re grateful people want to join us,” Katy Fillipp said. “We wanted to do more, so we started partnering with local businesses on the third of each month to impact others in the community outside of our circle of family and friends.”

In February, a month-long food drive was held for Spartan Food Pantry in Sycamore. The food drive collected 1,187 pounds of food, 92 pounds of baby items, 69 pounds of personal items, 40 tubes of toothpaste, 61 toothbrushes, 137 rolls of paper towels, 566 rolls of toilet paper and $8,365 in monetary donations.

For each monthly event, the Fillipp family donates $100 to a local business. The money is used by the business to offer a special.

When partnering with Coroco Coffee Roaster Collective, customers received one free drink per order. Eggspress and Pub 64 matched the family’s donation and offered $5 off each order until the donation ran out. The Dirty Bird partnered with the family on April 3 and matched their donation as well and offered $5 off each order until the donation was used.

“When Katy contacted me, I thought the message of honoring her son was really powerful and a great way to spread positivity even with such a great loss,” said Karen Weckerly, president and CEO of Coroco. “We had many positive comments and one customer said they’d be interested in doing something similar to pay it forward for someone they’ve lost.”

When Katy Fillipp stopped by VIP Cleaners to speak about a future partnership, owner Min Kim said he would offer a deal on the third of every month for a year: the first 20 orders of $5 or more will receive $5 off.

“I just wanted to help,” Kim said. “I have kids, too, and I could only imagine how difficult it’d be to lose your child. It’s a nice way to honor the memory of her son. I think everyone needs a little help every now and again, and it’s important to step up and take care of others as much as possible.”

Tyler Fillipp said the main goal of the Pay It Forward with Love events is “to make sure Beckam’s name is not forgotten.”

“For us, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “The events help us remember his name and him, that he was real and was here. It’s a reminder of him.”

Tyler Fillipp said his family didn’t expect the outpouring of support from the community and businesses.

“We thought the events would be a way to give back and spread joy, but the fact that everyone is stepping up with events and donations really blows us away,” he said. “If we can spread one message, it’s to be kind and spread love.”

In the future, the Fillipp family hopes to start a 501c3 nonprofit organization and hold charity events.

“We hope to one day provide scholarships within the community to kids that are kind and have big hearts, not necessarily the smartest or most athletic,” Tyler Fillipp said. “With how short Beckam’s life was, we realized how short life is. It takes just as much effort to spread hate as it does to spread love and kindness.”

“We realized there was no other way forward than a path forged in love,” Katy Fillipp said. “It has been truly amazing to see the heart and soul of the community come together to want to spread a message of love. We are so grateful and thankful.”

Referencing the food drive the Fillipps held for the Spartan Food Pantry for the month of February, Katy said “Each dollar donated or canned good donated was another person that learned of Beckam and will remember him. Hopefully they will choose to continue his legacy by being kind and leading with love.”

Participants can use the hashtag #bnflovedbeyondmeasure to share their photos on social media of acts of kindness and paying it forward. Any act of kindness or love is welcomed by the Fillipps.

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.