INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis mother got a big surprise from her coworkers Wednesday.
When Antonia Bailey stepped off the elevator at work, she walked into her late son's high school graduation.
Bailey's son and daughter, Nicholas and Ashlynn Nelson, were shot and killed nearly two years ago. Her colleagues at Kindred Hospital Indianapolis North noticed her online, fighting tears while congratulating the mothers of other graduates.
"I felt like I was being punished just for doing a good job and feeding love into my kids," Bailey said. "Just seeing everyone get to graduate and not see my children make it to the next step."
Nicholas would have graduated from Lawrence North High School this spring. In addition to balloons and cake at the party, Bailey's coworkers surprised her with her son's high school diploma and not just his class ring, but his sister's ring, too.
"Even though I would have loved to have him physically here with me and to be able to see him walk across that stage, you take what you can get," Bailey said Wednesday.
Nicholas was 16 and his sister 15 years old when they were fatally shot inside their home on the east side of Indianapolis.
Drew Tharp, who served as Nicholas's mentor at Lawrence North, keeping him on track for college, was invited to join Wednesday's celebration.
"We would go meet with different colleges and talk to different admission counselors and talk to program heads," he said of his time with Nicholas.
Nakia Tremble, CEO of Kindred Hospital Indianapolis North, fought back tears during the makeshift ceremony.
In September 2019, Bailey was named the hospital's employee of the month.
"Employees of the month are nominated by their peers. We are not a bunch of leaders sitting in our offices saying, 'This person should be it,'" Tremble said. "Despite losing her own children, through her website, NelsonSiblingsUntold.org, Antonia now helps other moms and their children."
"I know what it's like to be a single mother of three and I know the struggles that we face," Bailey said.
In an interview with 13News shortly after her children were killed, Bailey said Nicholas had dreams of becoming a video game designer and had already created a few before he died. She said he spent long hours at the Marion County Public Library researching and playing video games and would often sit and read until closing time.
He had also taken an interest in the sport of fencing, thanks to a mentor.