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Love for Leah

On this Thanksgiving week, I have many things to be thankful for, my wonderful husband, a great family, and a good job.  After writing so many stories of grief and loss on my blog, I am thankful to be blessed with two wonderful and healthy children.  I am also thankful that so many people have turned their grief into an organization to help others.  Today’s organization is just one example.

Jenny and Marc Fujinami found out they were pregnant on May 21, 2011.  They were excited and nervous just as any new parents would be.  At just 13 weeks along, they learned that there was something wrong.  Nothing was certain except that their baby girl would have a birth defect.  At 18 weeks, they learned that she had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and a Diagrammatic Hernia and were given a 1% chance that she would survive.  They named the baby Leah and continued to hope for a miracle.  Jenny tells the rest of their heart wrenching story better than I ever could.

The sad truth is that 1 in 160 pregnant women will experience stillbirth and 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, stillbirth or other tragic events shortly after birth.  After her experience, Jenny knew that more should be offered to families experiencing infant loss.  She partnered with Carolyn, the photographer and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep volunteer who captured photographs of Leah’s birth, to create Love for Leah.

Love for Leah

Love for Leah is an organization that donates Love for Leah Bags to families in Cheyenne, Wyoming who are experiencing the loss of an infant while at the hospital.  The bags include items to capture memories, books to offer advice, and a list of resources, support and helpful organizations.  You can see a full list of the items included as well as a photo on their website.

How can you help?

  • You can make a monetary donation or inquire about items you can donate.  You can learn more about making a donation on their website.
  • You can also share the story and share all the great resources they have collected with others who may benefit from them.
  • If you live in the Cheyenne, Wyoming area you can watch for promotional events or memorial events sponsored by Love for Leah.
  • Love for Leah also seeks volunteers to help with fundraisers, bag assembly, and helping spread the word at vendor fairs and other events.  You can contact them at loveforleah@gmail.com to volunteer.

You can learn more about Love for Leah on their website, Love4Leah.com and on Facebook.

Related posts: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Mikayla’s Grace, and Project Sweet Peas 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Loved Twice

Loved Twice

Kids grow fast!  Babies grow even faster.  In the first year of a baby’s life, they go through so many clothes that they sometimes barely wear an outfit before it no longer fits.  I was lucky to have several hand-me-downs to keep up with the many new sizes they needed.  Once my kids outgrew their clothes, I made sure they went to good homes.  Some went to friends with younger kids, others went to a charity garage sale, and a lot of baby clothes went to the local chapter of today’s organization.

Loved Twice started in 2005 when Lisa Klein responded to an online community appeal for donations of baby clothing after Hurricane Katrina.  Lisa had just had her first child and was deeply moved to contribute.  She rallied together with other San Francisco Bay Area mothers to collect 200 pounds of clothing for babies in Louisiana in just four days!  While she was mailing the collected onesies, swaddling blankets, and other donated newborn clothing, she realized that this simple process of recycling gently used baby clothing could be spread nationwide to help provide for infants in need. 

The mission of Loved Twice is to clothe America’s Newborns-in-need with quality recycled baby clothing for the first year of life.  They are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but they have “mail to” locations across the Unites States to help spread their donations. 

Since their founding, they have grown into an effective organization embraced by the communities they serve.  According to a 2010 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,962 babies are born into poverty each day in the United States.  Since 2005, Loved Twice has clothed 5,759 newborns with over 430,000 garments at an estimated retail value of almost $1.3 million.  Loved Twice is making a difference to those babies by providing them with clothing.  At the same time, they are reducing waste by encouraging people to reuse and recycle baby clothing and supplies.  They have kept over 57,000 pounds of clothing out of landfills.  You can watch the video below watch them in action:


Loved Twice collects and distributes baby clothes in sizes up to 12 months.  Blankets, hats, socks, bibs and board books are welcome too.  However clothing for older children as well as other baby supplies are not collected.  The clothing is distributed through social service agencies to ensure it gets to those who need it most. 

How can you help?

  • Tax deductible donations are accepted via their website to help clothe more babies.
  • Their website provides all the details for running a baby clothing drive to help newborns-in-need in your local community. 
  • You can also mail clothes to one of the Loved Twice partners throughout the United States.  You can find an updated list on their website.
  • In addition, you can join other supporters of Loved Twice by signing up to be a campaigner in the Grand Baby Campaign where volunteers each raise $1000.  The organization provides the support with over 100 fundraising ideas and the materials you need to be successful. 

You can learn more about Loved Twice on their website, www.lovedtwice.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Diaper Drive

The Diaper Drive

I cheered when my youngest child was potty trained and we no longer needed diapers in our house.  While I hated buying, changing, and disposing of diapers, I am glad I didn’t have to worry about affording diapers.  A healthy change of diapers can cost $75 to $100 or more per child per month.  Many safety net programs do not cover diaper expenses.  Today’s organization is working to make a difference.  

When Jason and Kristen Grode were cleaning out closets, they found a bunch of leftover diapers.  Kristin started researching where to donate open packs of diapers and found that there was a huge need for diapers in their area.  She also found that no one was advocating for this need in her community, but other communities did have diaper banks.  She decided that she wanted to bring a diaper bank to her community and The Diaper Drive was born. 

Founded in May of 2010, The Diaper Drive is based in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.  They also have branches in several other areas of Minnesota as well as Fargo, North Dakota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  They also have plans to expand into Wisconsin and Iowa soon.  Their mission is to work with the public to collect and distribute diapers to local families in need.  Their motto is “No Child Wet Behind.” 

The organization does not give diapers directly to individuals; instead they work with many other 501c3 nonprofit organizations that already serve families in need of some support.  Since their founding, they have collected and donated nearly half a million diapers.  If you or someone you know is in need of diapers, The Diaper Drive website does list several agencies that can help individuals directly.  The agency page also provides information for other organizations to sign up to partner with The Diaper Drive. 

How can you help?

  • The Diaper Drive has several drop off locations throughout the areas they serve.  You can find an updated list on their website.
  • Volunteers are always needed to help with fundraising events and diaper drives.  They also have opportunities to come to their office to sort and repackage diaper donations.
  • Volunteers are also needed for marketing as well as setting up diaper drives at local churches and businesses. 
  • An updated list of volunteer opportunities can be found on their website.
  • You can also make a donation to support their mission on their website.
  • Individuals and groups are always welcome to run a drive of their own to collect diapers.  There are great materials to support your drive on their Diaper Drive 101 page.

You can learn more about The Diaper Drive on their website, www.thediaperdrive.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and via e-mail

For those not in the service area of The Diaper Drive, you can visit the National Diaper Bank Network to find an organization near you. 

Related post: The Detroit Area Diaper Bank

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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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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Operation Shower

I have had two babies and each time friends and family threw me a baby shower, my husband was even dragged to the one that his family threw for us.  Some military wives do not get to have their husband by their side during pregnancy and may not have friends or family nearby.  Today’s organization helps fill in the gap for those women.

Operation Shower is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization dedicated to celebrating and honoring military families.  They provide joyful baby showers for military families to ease the burden of deployment.

The organization was founded in 2007 by LeAnn Morrissey after she asked for ways to support her uncle who was deployed overseas.  He asked her to send a card to four women who were expecting babies.  Rather than just send a card, LeAnn sent a “shower-in-a-box” to each woman.  She received overwhelming support from her friends and delighted thank you notes from the moms.  She decided to continue to honor the women at home whose sacrifices are not always seen.  She joined with Kris Jackson to hold the first unit-wide baby shower at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in June of 2007.  It was from the success of that shower that Operation Shower was born.

Since 2007, Operation Shower has hosted 17 beautiful showers honoring over 600 military mothers-to-be all across the country. They are growing rapidly and in 2012 plan to host at least seven showers for about 300 military expecting moms.  These showers not only provide mothers-to-be with a signature “shower-in-a-box” full of high quality products, but also a shared experience and a chance to meet and interact with other women in a similar situation.

I think this line from the Operation Shower website sums this organization up nicely, “Operation Shower was founded specifically because we know that moms in a military family who hold it all together at home — moms who go through a pregnancy without their spouse by their side, deployed to a another part of the world, proudly serving our country, but wishing they could do more for those at home — these moms deserve our support, our thanks, our love and of course, they deserve a party!”

You can watch a great video about Operation Shower here.

How can you help?

Individuals and groups can volunteer with Operation Shower by collecting donations or hosting a product party to collect donations.  There is even an easy opportunity to shop the Operation Shower Wish List at Amazon.com.  If you are near one of the shower events, you can help with decorations, setup, and cleanup at the event.  Volunteers can also offer their professional services, help secure party rentals, and assist with administrative tasks.  You can visit their website to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

In addition, monetary donations are accepted on the organization’s website.  Donations are used to purchase items for the showers to ensure that all the boxes at a shower include the same items.

You can learn more about Operation Shower on their website, www.operationshower.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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