March of Dimes launches child-loss support efforts

WHITE PLAINS, NY: March of Dimes, the nonprofit voluntary health agency, has unveiled a three-years-in-the-planning media initiative to offer bereavement education to parents who have lost an infant.

WHITE PLAINS, NY: March of Dimes, the nonprofit voluntary health agency, has unveiled a three-years-in-the-planning media initiative to offer bereavement education to parents who have lost an infant.

The endeavor was brought about after Joe and Marcia Bannon's son was stillborn. Bill and Jaye Zessar, the grandparents of the child, came to the March of Dimes searching for information on how to cope with the loss of their grandson, and were surprised to learn that there was no information available on that topic.

To honor the lost child, the couple made a donation to the March of Dimes so that the organization would be able to create a packet of bereavement materials. It has worked with nurses and physicians over the past three years to develop the information.

Each bereavement packet contains a booklet explaining the emotional issues about child loss, information for friends and grandparents on how they can help, an inset card to address the concerns of parents thinking of another pregnancy, as well as fact sheets on miscarriages, and a "memory envelope

to allow parents to provide personal information such as a photograph or footprint of their child.

The materials have been distributed to the March of Dimes resource center and all of its chapters throughout the country. Tens of thousands of packets will be distributed in English and Spanish, and will be available through the toll-free number 888-MODIMES.

The materials can also be downloaded from the new marchofdimes.com/loss web page. Parents who have more specific questions can contact the March of Dimes resource center by clicking "Ask mama

on the that page. The couple will then be connected to a qualified healthcare expert.

An in-house team of three is in charge of contacting the media, distributing the packets, and raising public consciousness about child loss.

The group is also linking with pregnancy websites, and is providing specialty information to nurses on how to provide more compassionate care for parents who have lost their children.

Bill and Jaye Zessar have been outgoing in speaking to the press about the campaign.

The story was broken on AP, and picked up by CNN.com. Several morning TV shows have approached the organization about taping segments. Because the March of Dimes currently has a limited number of kits, it is hoping to grow awareness slowly rather than risk running out of kits for those who need them. To that end, the organization is being careful about what media inquiries it responds to.

"We're trying to build the buzz slowly to decide if the interest is great enough to continue after we hand out all the information packets," said Michele Kling, a spokesperson for the March of Dimes.

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