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Cody's Story

The Cody Project Story

Cody Foster came into the world in 2000, but he lived less than three weeks. He was the first son and for his parents Sandy and Russ Foster. The Foster family started with their daughter Courtney who was born in 1998. Two years later the family was expecting their second child. Cody was born three months premature early that July. Complications set in quickly and Russ and Sandy felt that fragile dream beginning to break apart.

Cody never saw life outside of the walls of Swedish Medical Center, the nearest hospital with a Level 4 neonatal intensive care unit meant to tend the most in-need babies. He never felt the sun on his tiny face, not even through a window. He never once felt his father’s arms around him. Cody was delivered by emergency caesarean section in the late morning of July 6 following a frantic night for Sandy of unexpected complications, his life raced toward an end at terrifying speed. At first, he seemed fine: he opened his eyes and responded to the nurses’ touch. Cody struggled for life. After ten days, the infection he was born with was difficult to diagnose and thus even harder to treat took its toll. He then suffered a brain hemorrhage on his third day, and it was not long thereafter put on life support. Cody suffered another brain hemorrhage on his sixteenth day. Family and friends rushed to the hospital to be with him as he was placed in his mother’s arms…where he passed. ​

The clothes Sandy and Russ had brought for him to wear on his first day home came back with them unworn. The Dallas Cowboys decorations on the walls of his nursery were taken down. Cody Foster was laid to rest in a in a modest grave, with a small headstone, in his small coming-home clothes.

CODY’S LEGACY - The heart is a fertile ground for grief; that grief can grow amidst the heart’s rocks in stony silence.

While Sandy mourned, Russ buried his sadness and hid his emotions. Losing Cody devastated both of them, but Russ profoundly felt the boy’s absence. Despite nagging fears about Sandy being at-risk for future pregnancies, they sought expert medical guidance and had another child two years later, a healthy little girl who they named Megan. And though their family of four was and is a happy one, Russ struggled with his grief and with the desire to keep Cody alive in the family’s memory.

Courtney, Cody's older sister, has her own blurry memories of hospital corridors and adults swirling around her, a frenzy of activity as she was shuttled back and forth. At Cody’s passing, she had been assured that Cody would forever be her guardian angel, and as Megan grew older, she accepted that same belief. His presence in their lives—through their parents’ recollections and through their collective acceptance that his spirit is always near—has, over time, given Russ the chance to focus and channel his grief into something bigger than himself.

Upon Cody’s death, friends gave the Foster family a Japanese maple that they planted in the front yard, where they could see it and be reminded of Cody every single day. After thirteen years of consideration of that tree as it grew and blossomed season after season, Russ finally took steps in the spring of 2013 with the passing of his mother to extend Cody’s legacy into the lives of other families who must deal with terrifying childhood ailments like cerebral palsy through The CODY Project.


Neonatal intensive care units (NICU) like the one in Swedish Medical Center where Cody spent his short life are extremely costly to build, and stays there can cost thousands of dollars a day. A recent study shows that a child born prematurely can spend as much as two months in an NICU at a cost into the hundreds of thousands. The CODY Project begins with kids and their needs. While cerebral palsy and the NICU at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle figure prominently in the CODY Project’s initial fundraising charity goals, the long-term intentions are much broader. With a board of directors to keep the project true to course, Russ and Sandy Foster intend to establish an endowment and donations for other causes and illnesses such as Autism, Down syndrome, Juvenile Diabetes and Cancer.

The CODY Project is personal—it originates with the inspiration of one family and is maintained with family and friends. Many of the people associated with the project, all of its board members work uncompensated for their efforts. This ensures that as much as possible of the donations support the children and families.

 The CODY Project is dedicated to the memories of Cody Foster and Joyce Claire Nicholson Foster, Russ’s mother. Without you, Mom, this heart would have never beat at all. And without you, Cody, this heart would never have beaten so strongly.