Shippensburg area walk to benefit families of youngest victims
By AMBER SOUTH
SHIPPENSBURG — A Shippensburg mother has turned the death of her newborn son into an opportunity to provide solace to families who have suffered the same loss.
Adele Kirby and her husband, Terry, found out 2 1/2 months before their son Connor’s birth that he would likely die soon after. He suffered from post urethral valve syndrome, a condition causing his urine to back up in his body and damage his kidneys and bladder, Kirby said. A lack of amniotic fluid around him also prevented his lungs from developing.
Choosing lifesaving measures would have meant Connor would need a kidney transplant and forever depend on dialysis and a heart and lung machine.
“We thought that would not be a quality of life for him,” Kirby said.
Ninety minutes after giving birth by Caesarian section May 26, 2003, Kirby held Connor in her arms as he passed away.
Because the Kirbys knew the outcome in advance, they were able to line up money for the funeral, burial and other costs. But some families do not have that ability, which Kirby discovered several months later while visiting Connor’s grave.
She visited the cemetery’s baby section — Connor is buried elsewhere — only to find temporary grave markers, some of which dated back to the 1970s.
“The last thing I could do for (Connor) was make sure that permanent grave marker was there. How sad that these families don’t have that; it’s the one thing you can do and it’s unfinished,” Kirby said.
Kirby soon started a program to help parents whose infant children passed away to pay for end-of-life expenses. Since January 2004, the Connor Kirby Infant Memorial Foundation has provided about $57,000 to 134 families.
According to Kirby, families can receive $300 for a funeral or cremation, $100 toward opening and closing of a grave, $350 toward a grave marker, and $800 toward therapy sessions.
All funds come from donations, whether by free will or through fundraisers.
Kirby will host her next fundraiser, Memorial Walk, at 2 p.m. Sunday at Southampton Township Park, Airport and Hershey roads, near Shippensburg. In addition to raising money for the program, the purpose is to remember the lives of infants lost, Kirby said.
“As mothers and parents we think of that child every day, but it may not occur to other people. It’s a way to publicly acknowledge our children,” she said.
Attendees will walk the park’s paths, passing by pink, blue and white balloons inscribed with the name of a child who died in infancy. Balloons will be available upon arrival.
“I think by having children’s names on balloons, as everyone walks by you can see each child that existed for a short time,” Kirby said.
All the balloons will then be released.
About 50 to 60 people, mostly parents and their friends and family, are expected to attend, Kirby said.
Attendees are encouraged get sponsors or donations prior to Sunday’s event.
“Any amount (of money) would do. The money will go directly to help more families,” Kirby said.
Sponsorship sheets, sign-up sheets and other information are available at http://www.connorkirbymemorial.org; click on Memorial Walk.
At the Memorial Walk, there will also be a bake sale, drinks and other snacks, a silent auction and door prizes of memorial keepsake items.
Nine years after the loss of Connor, Kirby feels as though she has a happy ending with 3-year-old daughter Aubrey, who joined now 12-year-old Tucker.
Between raising her two children and striving to keep Connor and other children like him remembered, Kirby feels a sense of peace.
“It makes me feel good and I’d like to think that my little angel, it makes him proud. I’ve turned energy over his loss to help others. It brings peace and makes me feel good,” she said.
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.