If you are participating in A Walk to Remember, infant loss awareness will definitely be on your mind. This "celebration of life" walkathon is held in honor of families who lost a child during pregnancy or soon thereafter.
What is A Walk to Remember?
Every year, usually during October, families who lost babies come together for A Walk to Remember as a way of remembering their loved ones. Many choose this month because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time of national observance proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The proclamation states: "National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems."
A Walk to Remember was first held in September 1986 in Chicago, Illinois, at the Fifth National Perinatal Bereavement Conference. The walk joins bereaved parents, families, health professionals and friends across the country to raise awareness of perinatal grief and to ensure proper and sensitive care is given to parents following the death of a baby. Nationwide, tens of thousands participate in the walk, which is held various weekends throughout September and October.
Participating Walk to Remember Infant Loss Support Groups
Even if it's too late to participate in a walk this year, there's always time to plan for next year. The following infant loss support groups have ongoing information regarding A Walk to Remember:
- SHARE - Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.: The group's annual walk is held at the Muny in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. Each year, SHARE sponsors a one-mile run and a three-mile walk/run. A family picnic will follow. Before the walk, a memorial service and balloon release is held.
- The Compassionate Friends: This support group holds its walk not in October, but in May around Memorial Day. Its annual walk is held during the final day of the Compassionate Friends National Conference. Contact the group about plans for the next walk.
- MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death): This Texas-based bereavement group holds its annual walk every October. The group also sponsors a balloon release during the event.
Organize Your Own Walk
If there is no organized walk planned for your community, then take the reigns and plan one yourself. If you are a bereaved parents and belong to a local support group, encourage members to help. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when planning A Walk to Remember:
- Decide on a date and course, and measure the distance; be sure not to interfere with local traffic
- Create fliers and posters about the walk
- Through local newspapers, bereavement groups, hospitals, etc., notify them of the walk. Be sure to leave a contact name, phone number and e-mail address
- Work with a local shirt screening shop to draw up a walk logo and t-shirts to be worn
- Contact local media -- newspapers and television stations -- about three to four weeks in advance requesting coverage for the walk; be persistent
- Contact community bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants for food and water donations for the walkers
- Create a Web site with all of the walk information; be sure to include the site on your fliers and posters
- Come up with ideas for memorials to be held before, during and after the walk including:
- Balloon release
- Butterfly release
- Reading of poems
- Singing of songs
- Holding a memorial service
- Tree planting
A Final ThoughtEven if you've never heard of or don't take part in A Walk to Remember, infant loss is still very real. In 2004, almost 28,000 babies died either during pregnancy or within the first 11 months of life. These numbers, albeit staggering, are slowly decreasing over the years because of the awareness made about infant and perinatal deaths.