Jennifer Patrick started an awareness fundraiser for Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 2004 after her son Connor was stillborn at 29 weeks gestation. The first year she had a booth at the Vernon Farmers’ Market with information about pregnancy and infant loss resources and to raise money for a Tranquility Room at the hospital where families who have lost a baby can have extra amenities and privacy.
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness fundraiser became A Walk to Remember the next year.
“I am very pleased with the support from the community and for those people who come back every year to the walk,” said Patrick. “The first year I did the fundraiser, a lady who was in her 70s came to thank me for being able to talk about pregnancy and infant loss. She had lost a child more than 40 years ago and people thought she was strange when she wanted to hold her stillborn baby. She was not allowed to talk about it and it was supposed to be as if it had never happened and she couldn’t grieve.”
Melody Miller, who had twins, William, stillborn, and, Isaiah, who lived for 45 minutes, the same week as Patrick lost her son, is also a walk organizer. She had a similar experience with a woman whose daughter had lost a baby.
“I was glad that we were able to help with resources and referral and to talk to her. It is something you think about for a long time. Sometimes I hear someone calling a child with the same name as one of the twins and it all comes back. It’s a comfort knowing Jennifer and that she understands,” she said.
Patrick said people feel sympathy but they can’t truly understand if they have not had the experience of losing a child.
“All of the boys would have been eight this year. We didn’t get a chance to build memories with them but they are part of our families and our lives and our younger children know they have older brothers. I want to help others understand something of what the parents are going through and show the parents that they are not alone and that it is all right to grieve the loss of their child,” she said. “It’s not how long that child was alive or if it lived only in the womb, but how much it was wanted and how much it was loved.”
A Walk to Remember has raised more than $13,700 to be used for the Tranquility Room, memory boxes, photo albums, bears and ribbons, as well as resource and information material for families.
“It is too hard to be on the floor and hear other people all happy and talking about their baby when you have had a loss,” said Miller. “Through our work, we are able to help the families as much as we can.”
Next year’s walk will be the last one for organizer Patrick, who feels that she now needs to spend more time with her six-year-old daughter.
“I would love to see the walk continue if someone has the heart to want it as much as I have. I don’t want to leave the people who need these resources with no place to go and I hope the fundraiser will continue in some way,” she said.
Miller said she can’t take over the walk but would help anyone who can.
“It’s wonderful to see the families out. My whole family comes out. It’s a positive way to remember my boys and give back to others in the same situation, trying to turn something bad into something good,” she said.
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness A Walk to Remember takes place Oct. 6 at Polson Park with registration from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. For registration and more information, call Patrick at 250-938-2331, Miller at 250-540-2449, The Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation office at 250-558-1362 or see firstname.lastname@example.org.