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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photographers get to share in the most special times in the lives of families.  Weddings, family portrait sessions, maternity photos, and other special events fill their typical sample galleries.  However, a network of professional photographers have come together to share in a time of grief and to create cherish memories.

The Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) organization has a mission to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture.  These images serve as an important step in the family’s process of grief by honoring their child’s legacy. 

In February 2005, Maddux Achilles Haggard was born with a condition called myotyular myopathy that prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own.  At just six days old, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support.  Before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son.  Puc’ photographed Maddux with his parents, before and after being removed from life support, including photos where he was free from the tubes and wires that sustained his short life. 

Maddux’s mom, Cheryl Haggard said, “That night was the worst night of my life.  But when I look at the images, that’s not what I’m reminded of.  I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought.  Those tender photographs documenting Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents inspired Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc’ to found a nonprofit organization that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their baby.

The organization is based in Centennial, Colorado, but they have volunteer over 12,000 photographers across the United States as well as forty countries worldwide. 

This feature from 2008 on the NBC Today Show is a touching view into a NILMDTS session:

How can you help?

  • Photographers can learn more and apply to be a volunteer photographer or photo retoucher via the organization’s website
  • If you work in or with a hospital, you can NILMDTS to make the hospital staff aware of the program, download a guide for hospital staff, request brochures, and find training options on the organization’s website.
  • If you know of a family who may need the services of a NILMDTS photographer, you can direct them to the organization’s website and click “Find a Photographer”.
  • Individuals can also volunteer as area coordinators or volunteer to help the existing area coordinators in your area.  To find nearby area coordinators, you can go to the Find a Photographer section of the website and enter your zip code.
  • Monetary donations can also be accepted via the organization’s website.

You can read stories of some of the families touched by the NILMDTS organization on the website, however, I will warn you that some of the stories are hard to read.

You can learn more about the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization on their website, www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org.  You can also follow NILMDTS on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Related Posts: Mikayla’s Grace, Ella’s Halo, and Project Sweet Peas

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Mikayla’s Grace

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.   ~ Walter Anderson

 

Many organizations are born from a loss or struggle.  Today’s organization is one that was founded after one of the most difficult struggles: the loss of a child.

Mikayla’s Grace was founded by Mike and Melissa Terrill in February of 2011.  They were inspired to create the organization after they experienced the premature birth and death of their second child, Mikayla Grace.  After Mikayla’s short 36 hour life, they felt the need to give back to other parents in similar situations.  While they did have support while they were in the hospital, they felt a lot more could be done.  They did not want other parents to leave the hospital with regrets of things they should have done while they did have their child with them.  They also wanted to ensure other parents had the resources they needed to continue on the journey of grieving the loss of their child.

The organization’s mission is to support families with a baby in the NICU and those who experience the death of an infant at hospitals in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  They provide NICU care packages and angel memory boxes that offer both practical and emotional support for the parents.

Mikayla’s Grace is the first organization of its kind in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  While hospitals sometimes get donations of handmade baby blankets and hats, they have not had an organization that plans to consistently donate.  The items in the care packages and angel memory boxes are also unique.  The care packages include a camera, a NICU specific scrapbook, journal, baby items, toiletries, and resources for preemie parents.  The angel memory boxes include hand and foot molds, keepsake envelope for hair, a special burial gown, other keepsakes, and resources for grieving parents.  So far, they have donated over 100 angel memory boxes and 100 NICU care packages in addition to many other items to support these families.  

In addition, they hosted the first ever Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day in October 2011.  This event brought together over 150 people who came to remember all babies who were gone too soon.  The event is planned again for October 13, 2012; you can read more about it at www.foreverinourheartsmadison.com.

Mikayla’s Grace also has an extensive list of resources for parents, friends, and family of those grieving the loss of an infant child. 

How can you help?

  • The organization has an Amazon wish list to make donations to the care packages and angel memory boxes simple.  Place an order and the items will ship directly to the organization.
  • They also need volunteers, auction donations, and sponsors for their Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day in October.  Go to www.foreverinourheartsmadison.com to watch for details on this event.
  • Monetary donations also help because each memory box costs about $50 and each care package about $60.  Donations can be made on the organization’s website.
  • Handmade blankets are also accepted.  You can learn more on the donation page of their website.
  • Those near Madison, Wisconsin can also volunteer for one of their assembly days when they put together kits to be donated to the hospital. 
  • You can also check out the organization’s online auction here.

To learn more about Mikayla’s Grace, you can visit their website, www.mikaylasgrace.com.  You can also read the family’s full story for each of their children here.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.

Related Posts: Ella’s Halo and Project Sweet Peas

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Project Sweet Peas

One thing that ties most of the Blogunteer posts together is a story of a passion that drove someone to start an organization.  Today I write about three women whose stories had a common bond that brought them together to form one organization.

Stephanie Olivarez gave birth to her daughter, Shelby Grace in July 2006.  Shelby was born with a life threatening birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).  Shelby fought for her life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and has endured several surgeries since she was only nine days old.  Shelby has three older sisters that have served as an asset to her recovery.

Corin Nava gave birth to her son Gabriel in November 2006.  Gabriel presented serious complications immediately after his birth and was whisked to the NICU.  Corin was told that her son had the devastating birth defect CDH.  In January 2007, Gabriel lost his fight to CDH.  Corin went on to have three more children, one of which needed NICU care. 

Kate Crawford gave birth to her daughter Shannon in January 2007 with CDH and was later diagnosed with Hypoplastuc Left Heart Syndrome.  The combination had a 1% chance survival rate and she died in her mother’s arms at just two days old.  Kate went on to have three other children who were all premature and spent weeks in the NICU. 

These three mothers came together through an online support group where they found comfort and support.  They knew there was something they wanted to do to help families so they started filling gift bags with items they needed or wished they had during their stay in the hospital.  Project Sweet Peas was born.

The organization’s headquarters is in Pennsylvania, but there are divisions and affiliates in 18 states and Canada.  Their mission is to provide comfort to families who have critically ill children in the intensive care unit or families who experience the unfortunate loss of a child by providing care packages and memory boxes.

The strain felt by families during a stay in the NICU result in a great deal of sadness, depression, and most of all, stress.  Often families find themselves in the NICU unprepared; without the basic necessities or any simple comforts of home.  The parents are consumed by a focus on the health and survival of their newborn.  In some cases, the hospital staff can provide some comfort, but that is not always the case since their focus is providing the best medical care to the baby.  

One source of sadness is the inability for the parents to hold or bond with their new baby.  Anything that promotes closeness, touch, and other positive interactions promotes attachment with serves to keep the infant close to its mother and improve the child’s chances of survival.   

Project Sweet Peas works with hospitals to provide families with the basic necessities and comfort items through care packages.  These customized kits could contain toiletries, gift cards for food, or gas to help cover the costs of frequent trips between home and hospital.  In addition, notebooks, journals, and resources to help families keep track of progress and stay informed are provided.  Books and toys can be included to help entertain siblings.  Blankets, hats, booties, decorations for the baby’s bed, scrapbook materials, hand and foot molds or print kits, and disposable cameras could also be provided to help parents build precious memories.  When needed, bereavement memory boxes are provided to help families collect treasured mementos to remember their baby who passed away.  Since their founding in 2009, over 4,000 care packages have been delivered. 

How can you help?

  • Project Sweet Peas allows parents to start divisions of their organization in honor or memory of their own children.  Each division has been touched by a child who spent time in the intensive care unit or has passed away.  You can find all the divisions along with the story behind their creation here.
  • You can donate handmade items such as booties, hats and blankets to a local project.  Learn more and find patterns here.
  • You can find fundraisers and events hosted by the various divisions of Project Sweet Peas on their website.
  • Tax deductible monetary donations can be made via PayPal on their website.
  • You can share the variety of resources for NICU families, find stories from other NICU families, or send a care package/memory package to a family via the Project Sweet Peas website.

You can learn more about Project Sweet Peas on their website, ProjectSweetPeas.com.  You can also follow their blog, follow them on Facebook, or connect with them via e-mail.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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