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How First Candle is Fighting SIDS

Posted: 10/20/09 07:47 PM ET

As a mother, there is nothing I am more devoted to than the health and well-being of our nation's most precious citizens . . . our children. When we are expecting a baby, we are full of hope -- dreaming of a bright and happy future for our child. For a parent, there is no greater joy in life than the joy a child brings and no greater sorrow than to lose a child.

In 2004 I was pregnant with my first child. As my due date approached I became concerned because I felt the baby moving less and less as the days passed. I was reassured by my obstetricians and by well-meaning friends that babies move around less toward the end of pregnancy. After a couple weeks of this and a strong maternal instinct that something was wrong, I went to my doctor demanding they do something more, but it was too late. My daughter Fiona had died in utero the day before.

After our loss I was shocked to find out that 1 out of every 150 pregnancies end in stillbirth. And, of the 4 million babies delivered this year, more than 26,000 will not reach their first birthday. These statistics shocked me. In this country of so many resources and scientific advancement, why are our babies still dying in such large numbers?

In the midst of my grief I sought answers to these sad facts. That's how I came upon First Candle, formerly the SIDS Alliance. They were committed to finding answers and preventing many of these unnecessary deaths. The organization is a beacon of light that helps guide families through their sadness and grief when their babies die. First Candle's awareness and prevention campaigns are unparalleled. Their support of medical research and educational outreach efforts have helped save more than 35,000 precious lives in the past decade alone. First Candle has been a leader in the National Back to Sleep Campaign, credited with reducing SIDS rates by more than 50 percent. And now, the organization has taken on the fight of impacting our nation's high rates of stillbirth with research, advocacy and its lifesaving Kicks Count! campaign.

Kicks Count! is a simple, free, effective method of monitoring your baby's health in the last trimester of pregnancy. Had this resource been available to me in 2004, my daughter might be with us today.

As the years have passed, the grief that filled my days has subsided. With time I have found hope and healing from helping other families who have experienced a loss, and in building awareness that can save young lives. While we were not able to celebrate Fiona's first birthday in the traditional sense, we celebrate the joy she brought to our lives every day. As I continue along my journey, I have made a commitment to help support families, educate parents and raise money for research for those who will be affected by these tragedies. I have joined First Candle in its mission to ensure that every baby is given the best possible chance to celebrate not only his or her first birthday, but many happy birthdays beyond.

Every year, First Candle celebrates another year of helping babies survive and thrive with a beautiful evening of dinner and dancing under the stars. This year's charity gala (www.firstcandle.org/gala) will be held at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City on October 22. Here we celebrate the generous contributions of individuals and organizations that are committed to ensuring that other families need not experience the devastating loss of a precious child.

As chair of First Candle's Charity Gala 2009 I ask you to consider joining me at this year's event; and if not in person, then in spirit.

It is amazing how far your dollars can go!

$50 can ensure that 10 babies will receive a free Safe Sleep Snap Shirt, complete with information on how they can sleep safely at night
$100 can ensure that 1,000 expectant parents receive lifesaving Kicks Count! information on how to reduce their baby's risk of stillbirth
$500 can ensure that 15 families in-need receive a free crib, HALO SleepSack, Back is Best pacifier and lifesaving safe sleep information
$1,000 will ensure that more than 500 doctors and nurses receive lifesaving Kicks Count! and Safe Sleep Saves Lives! educational materials and training supplies
$5,000 will ensure that 300 bereaved families receive a SIDS and Infant Death Survival Guide
$10,000 will support evening and weekend coverage for First Candle's national 24/7 bilingual crisis line for one full year
$20,000 will support a researcher working to end SIDS and stillbirth for one full year

To learn more about this fabulous event, access ticket and sponsorship information or make a donation, visit firstcandle.org/gala or call toll-free 800.221.7437.