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The recipient of this award will have led by example in creating environments helpful to grieving families. This individual will understand the various needs of those experiencing perinatal loss and implement practical methods to support these families.

From making apple dumplings for her brother-in-law, to hosting a granddaughter and her friends on their way to Colorado, to writing meaningful cards to dozens of people each Monday, Bonnie Burton makes the most of every day to love and serve. Bonnie’s many roles include being the wife of Bob for 61 years, a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.  She has taught private piano lessons for 49 years.  On many Sundays you will find her at the piano in her church, providing beautiful music.  She and Bob are ambitious gardeners sharing canned tomatoes, mulberry jelly, and delicious sweet corn with friends and family.  On July 27, 2015, Bonnie and Bob’s eldest granddaughter, Sarah, and her husband Nick experienced indescribable loss in the stillbirth of Rayna Harlan Lindberg.  In the midst of Bonnie’s grief, she sensed God calling her to sew angel gowns for other families who experience this deep pain.  So in 2017 she began Rayna Creations and has sewn over 500 angel gowns to be given to hospitals by Star Legacy Foundation.

Kathleen Massman’s commitment to her work with families who have lost a child has been amazing. From the support group she runs to individual support options we her commitment to families going through loss is a gift. Kathleen was drawn to a special interest and passion for working with perinatal loss families following the loss of her son Jacob, in 2011. She has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of clients including individuals, couples, families and groups. Her bachelor’s degree was obtained from The College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in English and Philosophy and her Master’s of Science in Mental Health Counseling was obtained from Capella University. Kathleen is a Certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider and she is certified by Postpartum Support International.

Shonda Knop was my nurse with two of my rainbow babies after we lost our son, Finnegan. I almost instantly felt a connection with her. During appointments she would ask about Finnegan and use his name. She never shied away from the fact that we had a loss – she embraced him along with our other children. Before every appointment our anxiety and fear were extremely high as we prepared ourselves for the worst but hoping for the best. Each time Shonda went out of her way to spend extra time with me and answer all my questions (even the irrational ones). One time in particular I was so nervous, worried, and just a having a bad day where I was almost expecting the worst. I had been experiencing high blood pressure and was borderline preeclampsia so they were very cautious about my numbers. I went in and she asked how I was doing and I started sobbing; could not even answer that question. Shonda knew that I needed to hear the baby’s heartbeat due to my anxiety and fears. She made the decision to skip right to the ultra sound and said after I saw baby I could do my blood pressure and other vitals. Luckily, baby was fine. Never once did Shonda make me feel bad or ridiculous for having that (any many others) meltdown. Each time she held my hand and did whatever she could to make me comfortable and ease my fears. I am truthfully not sure how I would have made it through my appointments without her. I am forever grateful and indebted to Shonda for all her support and care.

Brianne Kemp-Schuler is currently interim executive director of HEALing Embrace, who provides family support to loss families. She has been involved with the group since last spring. While she herself is not a loss mom, she pours her heart into this cause, while remaining aware and sensitive to making sure that she is welcome despite not having had a loss herself. She is open to new ideas as to ways to help serve these families and ensures that everything is running smoothly. These duties include creating and mailing out care packages (she has streamlined the post office trips!) and weighted bears, organizing events for loss moms and dads, supporting other pregnancy/infant loss organizations, and more. Her kind words are always positive and uplifting.

Bobbie Cohlan reaches out to anyone who is in need of support. She embodies what it means to be a peer companion. She has contacted far too many families to count through social media, email, phone, and in person. Bobbie seems to have a way of understanding how to speak to those who are grieving these losses. She is able to connect families to appropriate resources, whether it is a different doctor, a connection to a family who has been in a similar spot, information about funerals, help with understanding an autopsy, or where to turn for support with pregnancy after loss. We have heard from many that Bobbie has helped that they do not know where they would be if she had not contacted them and connected them with appropriate resources and the local Star Legacy Foundation Chapter. Bobbie does not only connect with those in the NY Metro area where she is the outreach chair, but also points families in the right direction who are grieving in different parts of the country.

Shawna Hoffman Healing Embrace embraces families through the toughest time in their lives and the work they do is beyond measure

Krista Schlegel is part of the Bereavement leadership team at Maple Grove Hospital. She has so much compassion and empathy for her families she works with. These families adore Krista, because of her genuine passion for this work. She is such a strong advocate for her patients, she will bend over backwards to make sure a patients needs are met. As hard and emotional as this work is, Krista is the first nurse to step up to care for bereaved families. Whether that means coming in early, staying late or picking up extra shifts to guarantee continuity of care for the family. The love and compassion that Krista has for this work is unmatched. This is her calling, her ministry. I am honored to work side by side with her and call her a friend. She is a great support person for the other nurses when they are caring for these families too. I feel like Krista deserves this award and recognition!

Katie Rohrhoff is the Vice President and Co-Founder of The Riley Katheryn Foundation. The Riley Katheryn Foundation is dedicated to increasing awareness of infant death and providing financial support related to funeral and burial expenses to families in Michigan whose baby has died. Through Katie’s efforts, the Riley Katheryn Foundation has been able to provide over $50,000 in assistance to over 100 families. Katie organizes multiple fundraisers per year for this organization, runs the day-to-day operations and communicates with the families and funeral homes we collaborate with.

Brittany Martin lost her son, Jaxon Kade, at 39 weeks in June of 2014. Since then, Brittany has made it her mission to advocate and support families grieving from stillbirth and infant loss. Brittany and her husband, Joshua, decided to raise money for a Cuddle Cot for their local hospital. This mission quickly turned into a full blown advocacy effort, with their goal going from purchasing one cooling bassinet for one hospital, to now having the lofty goal of placing a cooling bassinet in every Oklahoma hospital that will accept one. Brittany has now led the way to purchase 14 Cuddle Cots and Caring Cradles and placed them in Oklahoma hospitals. When she purchased the first unit, it was the first to arrive in Oklahoma at all, and now that mission has cascaded to almost all of our major hospitals having one, as well as several regional hospitals. Brittany understands the value of families having more time to grieve with their babies. Too often, families are in so much shock and devastation that they aren’t able to make the decisions to fill the little time they have with their babies with the memories they will long for. Brittany’s goal is that no family will be rushed in their efforts to say goodbye, as well as opening up meaningful discourse with hospital staff on how to best support their patients suffering from stillbirth. Her advocacy has truly made such a difference in so many Oklahoma families, and her platform has been able to provide support to so many families. She is so deserving of recognition.

Maria Kreitzer On January 27 of 2016 Maria gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Alayna Lynn. Alayna was still born at 35 weeks gestational, Maria had suffered a placental abruption. While mourning their loss Maria and her family were able to use a cuddle cot to spend precious time with their baby girl while in the hospital. Since Alayna’s birth Maria and her husband Kyle have spent countless hours supporting the Indiana Cuddle Cot Campaign, whose main focus is to make sure every hospital and birthing center have at least one cuddle cot available to their patients who have suffered this horrible loss. In three years they have already raised enough money to placed one cuddle cot in Alayna’s memory, and are working towards their second. Maria is also a registered nurse for Reid Health, and since Alayna’s birth she has become the perenatal navigator for the OB/GYN office. Her job is guiding the care for patients who are considered “high risk” of lossing their pregnancy. This puts Maria directly in the path of patients who have suffered miscarriage and still birth in their previous pregnancies. Not only does Maria track that these patients and their babies are receiving the appropriate care, she also spends one on one time with them and is able to counsel them about their previous losses and comfort their anxieties about being pregnant again. Maria has two more children, Morgan Lynn, her rainbow baby, and Hudson Ray, her pot of gold. She is able to relate to these families on a personal level, and relate to their fears of lossing another baby. Another part of her job consists of conseling woman who are experiencing a loss in the office. When a family is going through the pain of finding out their baby has passed away, Maria is right there at the bedside with them. She comforts them and gives them hope. She connects them to resources and programs to help them through grief. She also leads a postpartum support group for new moms to attend with their babies. And on top of all of this she keeps Alayna’s memory alive in all of our hearts. She is the strongest person I have ever known, and I am honored to be her friend. She goes above and beyond and shows amazing compassion when caring for families who have suffered pregnancy and infancy loss. This is why I nominate her for the family support award.

Tim Biddle This amazing soul captured our beautiful sons pictures through NILMDTS. He made a horrible dAy better and the minute I got the photos I was overwhelmed by how beautiful they were. He has an amazing ability to capture a moment. I have his pictures up all over my house so I will never have to forget Lincoln’s perfect face. This man is special because he continues to support me staying in touch and loving me my family and my current rainbow baby. He has invited me into his family and we have stayed in touch for the last three years. He has a heart of gold and gives his heart to each family he serves.

Khristie Staines I have been blessed to know Khristie since 2016. I first met her as she was having a fundraiser for an organization she co-founded called, “Footprints on the Heart”. This woman has a lot of spunk and energy, and is so kind and caring to those grieving the loss of a child. She provides memory boxes, for grieving families and gives families opportunities to connect with others who are enduring a loss. Some of the events I’m aware of are a Harley Bike Ride fundraiser, candle light rememberance event in October, sewing angel gowns, and the list goes on and on. It’s all in an air of kindness and selflessness and also an aspect of teamwork–working with others to help one another. She is amazing.

Kelli Espiritu For the past nine years Kelli has tirelessly provide support for families that have lost children from miscarriage to age 20. She has put their needs and concerns above all else in her life!

Jennifer Sommer’s heart for honoring babies lost and loving on the families they leave behind is unmatched. She has continued to do all she can to support these grieving families, even through her own loss and changing family dynamics. This is her passion and love. She coordinates efforts to send weighted bears to families, attends events raising awareness for loss families and the struggle they experience, and has championed legislation to get official acknowledgement for the deaths of these babies from our government.

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