To comfort those who have experienced this type of grief, Bartow Family Resources is cultivating a memorial garden behind its office at 20 Douglas St., Cartersville.
“We’ve been wanting to do a memorial garden for those who at one point chose abortion and then they feel grief for their loss but also for those who have miscarried a child and also for those that have had an adoption plan for their child as far as birth parents,” said Cindy Smith, director of Bartow Family Resources’ Relationship Center. “They’re very grateful for the adoptive family and the family that will be parenting their child but still that’s a loss.
“So we wanted a very serene, beautiful little place that we could offer our community to come and know that that garden is in memory of their child. ... It’s basically for our community to know that there is a peaceful place to reflect and to meditate and to know that we haven’t forgotten them,” she said, adding the garden, which was designed by Master Gardener Kay Smith, is supported by donations.
A nonprofit since 2007, the Cartersville organization assists more than 2,500 people each year through its offerings, some of which include parenting classes, pregnancy education, pre- and post-abortion education, maternity and infant needs, support groups, Adoption Discovery classes and free pregnancy testing.
Like Bartow Family Resources, Footprints on the Heart also is providing comfort as well as raising awareness about pregnancy and infant loss. Formed in early 2012, the organization is led by Khristie Massey Staines, Lori Cantrell Dowdy and Ruthiey Bohannon Boggs.
“Lori, Ruthiey, and I have each been affected in some way by pregnancy and infant loss,” said Staines, a resident of Kingston. “The stillborn delivery of my granddaughter, Natalie Staines Macfalda, in February 2011 was an event that changed my life forever. This loss, as well as the pregnancy and infant loss that other friends and relatives had experienced, led me and my cousin, Lori Cantrell Dowdy, on the journey of creating Footprints on the Heart.
“I am dedicated to raising awareness and education for pregnancy and infant loss in my community and beyond,” she said, adding Dowdy suffered a miscarriage in August 2006. “ ... Footprints on the Heart was chosen as our name because when precious babies are born they forever leave ‘footprints on the heart.’ For me, the breath of life is precious, no matter how short lived. At this time, it is our mission to raise awareness and education for pregnancy and infant loss within the first year of life. We look forward to participating in as many community events as possible in an effort to educate others about the resources that are available in the baby loss community. After we secure our nonprofit organization status, we hope to provide additional services to our community. Right now we are spending time with those affected by loss and asking them what services they would like to see locally. These might be efforts to raise awareness; education and prevention information; financial assistance to those who are faced with the expenses of burying an infant; memory box programs, etc.”
To raise awareness and funds to support its mission, Footprints on the Heart is organizing its first 5K Run/Walk event at Frankie Harris Park in Euharlee June 1. After a memorial balloon release at 9:30 a.m., race participants will depart at 10 a.m. To enter, participants need to pay a $30 fee on race day during registration from 8 to 9:15 a.m.
“We are so thankful for all of the wonderful support and donations by local businesses, individuals and especially those who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss that have enabled us to plan a successful event,” Staines said, referring to the upcoming 5K offering. “... We wanted to have a way to raise funds but most importantly to help honor and remember these precious angels who were too beautiful for earth.
“To date we will be honoring over 84 babies at this event. We are encouraging those who have lost a child due to abortion or adoption to share in this balloon release as well. We are not here to judge any of the circumstances of past decisions in life. What we are doing is allowing them a place to honor and remember their child publicly, perhaps for the first time. The most important thing that we can do for all of these precious angels is to say their name aloud and tell their stories.”
Along with assisting Footprints on the Heart, Staines also recently was selected by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to serve as a Safe to Sleep Champion.
“This campaign is a revised version of the previous Back to Sleep campaign that was launched in 1994 in an effort to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death,” Staines said. “As a Safe to Sleep Champion, I have agreed to do a minimum of two community outreach efforts. While I have met these requirements, we will be sharing this message at each of our upcoming community events. I have shared the Safe to Sleep message during our recent presentation at the Southern Organizations for Human Services Annual Conference, on our Facebook page and with others on an individual basis. ... We [also] are so thankful to be a part of some really awesome things that are taking place in the baby loss community across the United States.
“I am a local leader for the ‘Return to Zero’ film that will be released in the next year. I am also a committee member on the Q.U.I.L.T. (Quietly United In Loss Together) Awareness Campaign that will include a march taking place from the White House to the National Mall where quilts from each state will be placed in a show of support for those who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss. ... We are highlighting many organizations at our upcoming events, including Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, First Candle, Star Legacy Foundation, Grieving Dads, White Signs of Grief, and The [R] Project, Safe to Sleep and many others.”
For more information about Footprints on the Heart and its upcoming events, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/footprintsontheheart.ga or website, www.footprintsontheheart.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More details about Bartow Family Resources can be obtained by visiting www.bartowfamilies.com or calling 770-382-7224.