AURORA (AP) - Jimmy and Linda Yip still haven't quite fathomed the twist of fate that took their only child but wound up giving them hundreds more from Asia to Africa to the Americas.
But they do know that through their work with the Nathan Yip Foundation, named after the son who died 7½ years ago in a Denver auto accident, the young man has a legacy that outlives him.
"We used to have one kid, and now we have so many more to take care of," said Jimmy on a recent afternoon, as Linda poured fresh-brewed tea in the kitchen of their Aurora home. "We appreciate their happiness and the smiles on their faces."
The children are students who are being educated at schools the Yips have built in China, Mexico and Rwanda. The fifth and latest school, Li Zi Elementary, was dedicated in April in Fang Zhao, a remote village in China's Guizhou province. A sixth, also in China, is planned.
So out of a terrible accident springs this: renewed faith for the grieving parents and gratitude from nearly 1,000 children who have benefited from their work.
It has been a long journey for the Yips. Linda grew up in Taiwan, Jimmy in Hong Kong. They met in Colorado 30 years ago, fell in love and married.
The Yips are entrepreneurs, involved in real estate and land development. They also run Peliton, a company that helps businesses with human resource and payroll services.
Nathan was born in 1983. June 3 would have been his 26th birthday. He was halfway through his freshman year at the University of Denver when the car in which he was a passenger flipped in a sharp curve at East Sixth Avenue and York Street, killing him.
A few years before Nathan died, Jimmy had taken him to China. They visited an orphanage, where the boy was struck by their plight. The children were his age but, unlike him, had little apparent chance of a bright future.
"He was interested in helping those kids, and we talked about setting up a program to do that," Jimmy said. "That never got done because I was busy with my job, and he was busy with his schoolwork."
Then Nathan died.
The loss of their son was made even harder by the fact that Jimmy's mother and sister, who were close to Nathan, were living with the Yips.
"We were very depressed," Jimmy said. "But after a week of talking, Linda and I decided we wanted to hide our sorrow to help make our family happier."
From that goal, an idea.
"At the funeral, people had donated money to the family, and we decided we could use the money to do something to honor Nathan," Jimmy said. "Because he wanted to help poor kids go to school, that's what we decided to do."
The Yips' first charitable foray was in Laredo, Mexico, where they built a school dormitory and donated a bus.
Thanks to that helping hand, nine children in that school have managed to go to college. The Yips have underwritten a school in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and an orphanage in war-torn Rwanda.
But their main thrust is in China. Low construction costs there let foundation dollars go further than they would in many countries.
A school can be built for $50,000 to $75,000, and the Yips plan to build at least one a year for the duration. Since neither has hit retirement age, they hope to have a long run.
The schools typically hold six large classrooms and two offices for teachers. The Yips provide new furniture and underwrite the costs of textbooks, supplies and sundry fees for most of the children.
"Many of the buildings in China are poorly constructed," Linda said. "We use high construction standards so that we don't have the situation in last year's earthquake in China, where so many children died when their schools collapsed."
The Yips have friends in China who oversee the construction, help them scout for the neediest villages and most viable sites, and make sure the money is properly routed.
"Most of the schools are in remote locations, where other people are unwilling to go," Linda said.
Sometimes the travel gets dicey. Jimmy pulled out a photo of his vehicle nearly mired in mud beside a landslide. "We had to walk to the village," he said. "The car wouldn't make it in."
The countryside reminded him of Colorado, except with breathtaking poverty.
"Here's how the people describe their situation: They never have 3 miles of flat land, never have three straight days of sunshine and never have more than three pennies in their pocket," Jimmy said. "That's how poor they are."