October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. On October 15th, organizations and communities across the U.S. will come together to raise awareness for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death System, the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old) and other life-threatening diseases, many of which continue to bring about unspeakable heartache for millions of parents around the country.
Given the importance of the month and the October 15th event, it’s only fitting that we salute the TEARS Foundation as our second Non-Profit Spotlight this month. The Seattle-based 501 (c)(3), with local ties in LaGrange, IL, has been providing emotional and financial support to bereaved parents and families since 2002. In 2012 TEARS commemorated its 10th anniversary, noting that it had helped more than 1,000 families through its services.
TEARS aims to “compassionately lift a financial burden from families who have lost a baby by providing funds to assist with the cost of burial or cremation services,” according to its mission statement. TEARS also provides free support groups and specially trained “peer companions” (generally a bereaved parent or family member that has been through similar circumstances) that have completed a highly comprehensive TEARS training program. Peer Companions make themselves available to speak over the phone or in person.
“We believe that every baby’s life deserves to be honored and memorialized in accordance with the grieving parents’ wishes and are committed to helping bereaved parents with this experience,” continues the organization’s mission statement. “We also believe that every grieving parent deserves access to ongoing bereavement support.”
The non-profit has received recognition and awards both for the foundation and for its founder, Sarah Slack, including the award for Innovation in Service by the Non-Profit Excellence Awards and the Pay It Forward Award by Principal Global Financial; Slack was named a finalist for People Magazine’s Heroes Among Us Award in 2009, and was named one of the Top 5 Women of the Year by Seattle’s Evening Magazine.
Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks selected the TEARS Foundation to be a charity partner of the Super Bowl-winning cornerback’s Blanket Coverage Foundation, which held the second annual Richard Sherman Celebrity Softball Game earlier this year, bringing even more attention to the foundation and its mission of support.
Each day, 13 babies will be lost to SIDS and other sudden, unexpected infant deaths. More than 70 new mothers will suffer stillborn pregnancies, and countless lives will be lost to miscarriage and other complications with pregnancy. Locally, there are over 1,500 infant deaths in Illinois each year, a near incomprehensible reality that can be devastating in more ways than one. Thanks to the TEARS Foundation, parents and families that have suffered the loss of a child take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone.
“TEARS was there for us and lifted a financial burden when our daughter died,” reads one testimonial on the TEARS website. Just one of many you can find on the TEARS website. “It meant so much.”
Though the Illinois chapter remains relatively young, that hasn’t stopped them from planning ahead. On June 7, 2015, TEARS kicks off its now-annual Illinois Rock & Walk at the St. James Forest Preserve in Warrenville, a chance to raise money and support for grieving families. Registration opens on the TEARS website shortly.
“God bless The TEARS Foundation,” says another testimonial. “They were there for my daughter through all her pain, grief, agony, and financial strain. They helped her in her saddest moment in life.”
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Illinois Chapter of The TEARS Foundation, contact Raquel Gorman or Dianne Umphress at (815) 546-4133 or IllinoisWalk@TheTearsFoundation.org.