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'Walk to Remember' a tribute to infants

October 15, 2000

'Walk to Remember' a tribute to infants



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A stream of pink, blue and white balloons floated skyward Sunday afternoon as parents paid tribute to their children who died before birth or shortly after being born.

Kelly and Patrick Heckman clutched pink balloons to honor their daughter, Emma Nicole, at the fifth annual Walk to Remember, hosted by the Resolve Through Sharing Parents' Support Group.

"People don't want to talk about the death of a baby. Coming here helps," said Kelly Heckman, of Shippensburg, Pa., whose daughter died during delivery in April 1998, after the umbilical cord became wrapped around her neck.

Heckman said her family, including Emma's twin, Tyler, and Joshua, 9 months, will return to the walk every year.

"Time has kind of healed the pain, but we will release balloons on her birthday and here so that Tyler will remember his sister, too," she said.

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About 80 people attended Sunday's walk at Chambersburg Memorial Park, which included the reading of the names of the babies who died from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and newborn deaths. Poems and readings from families followed, and the event finished with a walk and the releasing of the balloons.

Pink balloons like Heckman's remembered baby girls. The blue ones were for boys and the white symbolized the babies whose sex was unknown. Some balloons carried messages like "Daddy loves you." Others simply said "baby" or a birthdate.

Few could keep a dry eye, including Leslie Wagner, who became a prenatal bereavement counselor after her own miscarriages. A social worker at Chambersburg Hospital, Wagner helped organize the support group.

Events like Sunday's are important to the grieving process, she said.

"It just gives you a chance to grieve and to remember and realize you are not alone," said Wagner, of Fayetteville, Pa.

Natalie Coleman, a retired prenatal nurse and counselor who worked at Chambersburg Hospital, helped form the support group.

The group organized five years ago and held its first walk that October, which is national Prenatal Bereavement Month.

"Our goal is that parents have a counselor with them through labor and delivery and the postpartum period," Coleman said. "These are basically young, healthy people not anticipating something going wrong with their pregnancy. When it does, it is most devastating."

Coleman said the group has provided several scholarships to allow nurses to go through prenatal bereavement counselor training over the last few years.

"Our goal is for every prenatal nurse to be a counselor," she said. "Death is a part of life. We need to compassionately care for people."

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