25th anniversary event in Middletown to help families coping with infant death

It’s a heart void never filled but joining with other families — and their supporters — who lost babies to early deaths helps lift spirits and raise money for a Middletown medical center program helping current and future parents cope with such profound loss.

On Saturday the Atrium Medical Center will host its 25th anniversary version of the HEAL (Help Endure A Loss) event and fund-raising walk designed to publicly bolster the family assistance program first created at the former Middletown Regional Hospital a quarter of a century ago.

Atrium Nurse and HEAL Founder Sheree Young said the walk and event raises funds and awareness of the heart-shattering reality for some families whose still-born, newly born and young infants die prematurely.

“It’s a scenario we all hope we never have to face — saying goodbye to our children, but our HEAL coordinators know that it is a situation faced by so many, often in silence,” said Young.

“Some families need help understanding the choices of burials and cremations. Others need help processing the intense grief that comes when one day a family is excitedly awaiting a little one and next they find themselves holding a still infant in their arms.”

“In 2022, HEAL coordinators served over 80 families with each one receiving free counseling from the time they are introduced to our nurses,” said Young.

Atrium officials said since 1998, conversations around safe sleep, pre-natal care, and mental health have become more mainstream, but in Ohio, there is still have much work to do.

“Ohio is ranked 10th in the country for having the highest infant mortality rate. This fact becomes even more concerning when we realize that the infant mortality rate for white infants is 5.1%, and the mortality rate for Black infants is 13.6%,” said officials.

“While we continue to invest in preventative measures, our HEAL coordinators are here when the unthinkable happens.”

The Atrium campus includes a HEAL Memorial Garden and the annual “Walk to Remember and Benefit” will honor the lives of children who have gone too soon.

Registration for the half-mile walk begins at 9 a.m. at the Atrium Family YMCA, 5750 Innovation Drive, Middletown, and ends at the nearby HEAL Memory Garden at Atrium Medical Center.

It’s a free event and not just for families directly impacted by such tragedies.

There will be carnival games for children, free snacks and drinks and a family activity at the HEAL Memory Garden to honor children.

Young said annual event is to “celebrate and acknowledge the lives of our children who had died. We gather to pay tribute and to honor our children, to speak their names and to tell their life stories to others because they were and will always be a part of us.”

To register early online, and to participate in a silent auction fundraiser by HEAL, go to the group’s website at https://e.givesmart.com/events/vmw.

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