March of Dimes: Project Alex highlights infant loss
March of Dimes has helped almost 3,000 Oklahoma families in the past three years through a bereavement gift called Alex Boxes for families experiencing infant loss.
Laurie Applekamp, associate director, said, “We fight for the health of all moms and babies, particularly preterm babies that are being born too soon…We might do some of those extra things to make the families feel more special and cared for and not forgotten.”
Alex Boxes started in October 2018 with co-founders and former employees Ashlie Wilhelm and Jennifer Lacy.
“My family and I hold a special place in our hearts for the March of Dimes organization,” wrote Wilhelm in a letter included in Alex Boxes. “Our twins, Alex and John, were born at just 22 and 23 weeks in 2011. Even after the loss of our daughter, Alex, our son, John spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City. This experience allowed for us to learn how the March of Dimes provides to families during their time of need, as well as the hospitals that save so many…I needed a special place to hold the memories of baby Alex.
“She couldn’t be home with us, but we now have a beautiful box to open again and again, looking at reminders of her and touching gifts made for her by others,” she wrote. “Project Alex has become a way to help families like yours to have a keepsake you can add to; a special space in your home for your child who has angel wings instead of feet on the ground. We hope it remains a wonderful gift for your family.”
Along with the letter from Wilhelm, the boxes include items such as a small stuffed angel bear, a hand knit hat and blanket, a poem, an ornament, and a seed packet for a “memory garden.”
“There is nothing worse than leaving the hospital without your baby,” Lacy said. Being sent home with nothing but paperwork and a death certificate is not OK. Project Alex boxes gives families a chance to leave with something more tangible. Our hope is that these boxes will provide comfort to families dealing with the unimaginable.”
The boxes are available in 50-55 hospitals in Oklahoma that have level three NICU’s except for OU Children’s Hospital, but Applekamp is hopeful that they will partner in 2022. “My goal would be that we can go take Alex Boxes to any hospital,” said Applekamp.
MOD also provides parent care kits, sibling bags, and antenatal bags, which are for families expecting a baby.
UCO students in the child development classes are required to do an internship with a nonprofit organization and March of Dimes is an option. Miriam Olson and Hannah Fiewig are current interns from UCO who have helped by assembling boxes and hanging up flyers around campus.
According to Applekamp, interns also are involved with fundraising events such as walks in Oklahoma including, “Heroes in Action” where nurses are recognized statewide for their expertise in their field. However, this year’s walk is canceled due to the pandemic.The organization is in need of volunteers to fill boxes and deliver them to hospitals. To sign up or find out more, visit, https://www.marchofdimes.org/ or visit their Facebook page.