Kamie Moore and her daughter, Cassidy, 9, scribbled messages on a pink helium balloon Saturday at The Zoe Foundation’s Shana Rae Project’s first Walk to Remember at the LSU Rural Life Museum.
“Happy Birthday Madelyn,” Kamie Moore, Madelyn’s mother, wrote.
“I love you,” added Cassidy, Madelyn’s sister.
The mother and daughter pair, other members of their immediate family, and about 50 others gathered in a semicircle following a reading of baby names, and released balloons into the air in memory of the babies who had died.
In recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, The Zoe Foundation’s Shana Rae Project hosted the group’s inaugural walk in Baton Rouge.
“The purpose of the event is to provide emotional support for Louisiana families who have experienced the loss of a baby,” said Kayla Johnson, the founder and director of The Zoe Foundation.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” Johnson added. “We save the lives of grieving parents.
“We just want to take away the financial burden so they can just grieve, and hook them up with other people so they don’t feel alone,” Johnson said.
The Zoe Foundation, which is headquartered in Savannah, Ga., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial support by assisting with infant burial or cremation expenses, and provides emotional support through local groups and peer connections.
Johnson, who grew up in Baton Rouge, said she hoped the walk would bring awareness to the Shana Rae Project, or the Louisiana Chapter of the Zoe Foundation, which was formed following a high volume of requests for assistance from Louisiana families.
Erin Bourgeois agreed to be the Louisiana coordinator, and the Shana Rae Project was formed in March. Since then, Shana Rae Project has reached out to many families and continues to offer financial and emotional support for Louisiana families experiencing the loss of a baby.
Bourgeois said she was surprised when she was looking for something or someone to help her following her daughter’s death, but found “there was nothing.”
Not only was there no one to help financially, but, Bourgeois said, there was no one available, for instance, to offer ideas on how to plan an infant’s funeral service.
Ashley DeVall, whose daughter, Audrie Claire, was stillborn, agrees.
To help families losing a child become better prepared to deal with the process, DeVall said, she is hoping to partner with Woman’s Hospital to provide parents who lose a child with a memory box. One of the items inside of the box would be a list of psalms to include at the funeral service, and ideas on how to plan a baby’s funeral.
“It never dawned on me that I’d have to plan an infant funeral,” DeVall said.
“I was in so much shock, I didn’t know what I was going to do for the funeral,” DeVall recalled.
DeVall said she felt alone following her daughter’s death, but reached out to family members for help. She said she first learned of the Shana Rae Project about four or five months ago through Facebook. She gathered relatives and friends together who donned buttons with Audrie’s photo, and attended Saturday’s gathering.
“I try to do everything I can to honor my daughter and her memory,” DeVall said, adding that she gets to help other families grieving the death of an infant.
“Even though she’s not here, I feel like that was her reason, her purpose,” DeVall said.
The event also featured special music, and a leisurely walk through the LSU Rural Life Museum trails in remembrance of lost little ones.
Debbie Fowler, a childbirth and parental loss educator, said she came to the event to walk “in memory of all of the babies I’ve taken care of.
“I think it’s important to remember,” Fowler said. “We always take pictures of the first day of school and stuff but these people don’t have anything like that.”
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