Through its Riding With Angels benefit, Footprints on the Heart looks to strengthen its outreach efforts for those impacted by pregnancy and infant loss.
“Footprints on the Heart was formed in 2011 after the stillborn death of my granddaughter,” Kingston resident Khristie Staines said. “After her death, I was talking with my cousin Lori Dowdy about what I was wanting to do, and she wanted to also be a part. Having suffered a miscarriage herself, she had prayed about allowing God to use her story for his work. It was then that we set about choosing [just the] right name for our organization. As our ministry grew, my college classmate and dear friend Ruthiey Boggs had felt the Lord had laid on her heart to become involved with our ministry as well. Over the course of the past four years, we have been touched by each and every story shared with us regarding the precious footprints that were left on the hearts of family members.
“These stories are sacred, and we are honored that families choose to share their children with us. For loss affects more than just a mom or dad; it affects an entire family, an entire community. We are but a small group of three mothers trying to make a difference in our communities. We are not trying to do anything that is not being done by countless others all across our country. We are just trying to bring it to our local communities. While we wish we could gift every family we meet with so much more, what we can give them is pieces of our hearts, along with a listening ear, when their world is shattered by the devastation of loss. We can offer them hope based on his promises. We can comfort them with the comfort that has been given to us during our seasons of loss. We can offer them what we found lacking — local events for them to honor their precious loved ones.”
On Sept. 19 at 11 a.m., Riding With Angels’ motorcyclists will depart from Car Audio Sensations in Cartersville, with the route concluding at Opi’s Roadhouse in Rome. Entry fees will cost $20 per bike and $5 for passengers.
“I do a lot of work with Compassionate Friends in Rome,” said Misty King, a Footprints on the Heart volunteer, whose 18-year-old son passed away in 2012. “We did a ride for a friend of mine that passed last year, and I was just telling [Khristie] that it would be a great fundraiser for her. It would be a way to spread the word for her organization. So we just got together and brainstormed.
“... Until you have lost a child, it’s really hard to understand what people go through daily. ... I believe in what [Khristie] does. When you are that mother at the hospital whose child has just died, and the world seems like it’s spinning and you’re lost, when that one person shows up who [understands], it seriously makes a difference. ... I really pray that people come out and support her and our ride, because it takes a lot for us to keep these organizations running. It’s a lot of hard work, and it takes a lot of money to get the resources to go and help these families when they really need it the most.”
Along with spreading the word about Footprints on the Heart, Riding With Angels also will help generate needed funding.
“Proceeds from Riding With Angels will be used to continue our mission of raising awareness and education for pregnancy and infant loss,” Staines said. “This includes purchasing additional bereavement resources — books and pamphlets specifically targeted to the immediate decisions needed by families facing loss and information on grief, to purchase needed supplies for repurposing gently used wedding/formalwear gowns into infant burial items and to purchase items to be included in our memory boxes that we present to families. The biggest expense for us is often that of printed materials. Whether it is to hand out at community events or to gift to a family, this cost does add up over the course of a year’s time.
“Another goal for us that we have not yet achieved is to be able to raise enough money for a Cuddle Cot Unit. This cooling unit would give families the gift of time — a few more precious hours to spend with their loved one before the natural effects of death take place. On Father’s Day ... we were able to gift Cartersville Medical Center with a donation of angel gowns, bereavement materials and stuffed animals. As soon as our supply of items is built back up, we will also be making donations to Bartow Family Resources’ Pregnancy Mentoring Center, as well as to local funeral homes. A portion of the proceeds will also be used to complete the required paperwork to become a nonprofit 501c3 ministry. We are working with an adviser now on achieving this milestone.”
As noted by Staines, Footprints on the Heart is in its fourth year of providing projects and outreach efforts to the community.
“Currently, our FOTH mission is simple: to raise awareness and education for pregnancy and infant loss in our community — that includes our local community as well as the bereaved community that finds us through social media,” Staines said. “In 2012 at our inaugural FOTH event, our Candle Lighting and Remembrance event, we honored 40 babies. Attendees included mainly family members and friends. Within just a few short years, we have grown into so much more. Currently, we have honored over 420 precious babies who gained angel wings within the first two years of life, and the number continues to rise almost daily. The sheer increase in families affirms that there is a need locally for pregnancy and infant loss awareness outreach opportunities.
“We — Lori, Ruthiey and I — have spent countless hours over the past four years walking alongside families and learning about their [child or children], their grief and offering just a bit of hope and encouragement for their journey as a loss family. We have offered one-on-one support via phone calls, texts, email, social media, volunteer meetings and at-large support through our various community events. It is not uncommon to receive private messages on Facebook throughout the early morning hours from local parents, as well as those out of state, who need someone to listen, to allow them a safe place to express their grief and to validate their loss, no matter how short-lived their child’s life was. Of course, having grown over the last few years, we do have an increased need for volunteers. At this time, we are seeking volunteers who are willing to lend their time and/or talent to our organization.”