It was about one year ago, when my friend Nora told me about an idea she had. She wanted to plan a trivia night to raise money for the program at our hospital that gives support to families who have experienced the loss of a baby. The program is called Mercy HeartPrints. I, of course, said “sure I’d love to help!” Anything to give back, spread love, and honor my daughter. Plus, who doesn’t love trivia nights?!
On a chilly Wednesday evening in January, as we walked to our cars after our monthly support group meeting, we decided it was going to happen. And I was all in. The following day I made some emails and texts, and by Monday morning we had the hospital’s conference room reserved for Saturday, September 10, 2016. It seemed so far away at the time.
A few weeks later, Carter’s daycare had their annual trivia night in the same space. We scoped out the venue. We took notes. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us.
One Sunday morning we had our first “meeting” at Bread Co (aka Panera). Six of us gathered around a table with one laptop, a few pens, scraps of paper, and lots of ideas. In all reality, we had no freakin clue as to what we were doing.
We drafted a donation letter and form and made a list of businesses to solicit donations from. We lined up an emcee. We hired a guy to write the questions. We got a PO box. We ordered pink and blue tablecloths. Jordyn’s mom, Kelly, made an awesome logo out of our babies’ footprints. Hearts for HeartPrints is what we decided to call our little adventure.
Hundreds of emails, snail mail, and phone calls later, things were coming along. I’m pretty sure there were over a thousand messages sent in the group text between us organizers over the last 8 months. Lily’s room, still put together with a crib, changing table, rocker, and a dresser full of frilly shoes and hair bows, acted as a housing area for donations.
I learned several new things while planning this trivia night. I can now say I know more about audiovisual stuff than I ever dreamed I would. I learned how to cut MP3s and add them into a PowerPoint. I learned Google Slides does not support audio. I learned how to work Google Docs and Sheets. I learned about 501(c)(3) non-profits. I learned a new confidence in speaking about my daughter that I didn’t know existed. I learned that some friendships made at 35 years old will last a lifetime. I learned that it felt so good to be Lily’s mom and have people acknowledge her.
We were so excited to get our first donation, texting one another “I got one!” One turned into two. Two turned into twenty. Twenty turned into two hundred. We were amazed by the generosity we received from businesses and individuals. We learned people just wanted to help. I had so many people tell me when they donated that they themselves had a loss, or a family member had a loss, or they work in labor and delivery and know all too well the debilitating grief that comes with baby loss.
Donations ranged from small toys and trinkets, to $600 Cardinals and Disney World tickets. Autographed baseballs and caps. Autographed books. Baby and children’s items. Tickets for local entertainment. A Branson vacation. Beauty supplies. Restaurant giftcards. Handmade quilts and blankets and onesies. Personalized gifts. Handcrafted artwork. Thirty-five cases of beer. Monetary donations from individuals and businesses. At one point I couldn’t even walk in Lily’s room.
The day before trivia, we dropped off 19 cases of beer and a dozen cases of water at the conference center. We learned how to operate the popcorn machine and got keys for the fridge. That night we had one last pow wow at my house. Finalizing baskets and raffle items, reading through the PowerPoint, placing baby’s stories into frames, and drinking wine. (Somehow, we always managed to have wine at our “meetings”.) And Jane, who had been getting donations from the PO Box this whole time, brought one last donation that she received just that day. And it was perhaps my favorite one of all…
It was from Michelle Duggar (from TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting). Back in the spring, I emailed or snail mailed many celebrities, asking for donations. I targeted those who had had a loss. The Duggars were the only ones to respond. Michelle sent 3 signed books. And…wait for it…she wrote my name!! Okay, okay, it was definitely way cooler after a couple glasses of wine that night. But still. It was very sweet of them to take the time to mail us these things. Too bad I didn’t win them! 😉
September 10th we arrived to Mercy Hospital a little after 11:00am. I sighed in relief when I walked in and the tables were all in place. I freaked out a bit when the kitchen was still closed off. I called housekeeping and before I knew it my friend Jane had convinced the housekeeping guy to not only open up the kitchen, but move all the tables and chairs that were being store in there out to the hallway.
We worked like mad from that point on and by 5:00 we were ready to roll. Pink and blue tablecloths and balloons covered the tables. Twenty-five silent auction baskets lined one wall. Sixty raffle items and baskets lined the other wall. The beer was cold and the popcorn smelled great. And I had only lost the keys a few times! I could hardly contain my excitement.
We did a short (it was supposed to be short at least) intro at the beginning, introducing ourselves and explaining a little about HeartPrints. I don’t know how Nora made it through the speech. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. We didn’t intend to make it sad, but we also wanted people to understand the grief and pain that HeartPrints families go through. And the things their money would go towards. Things like Cuddle Cots, a cooling system which allows your baby to be with you longer. Grief books and materials, to give you direction and not make you feel so alone. Baby blankets and clothes, because sometimes parents (like me) don’t think to bring clothes to dress your dead baby into once they are born. Financial support, because when your baby dies, you still have to pay hospital bills. And precious mementos, because that’s all that you’re left with when you leave the hospital with empty arms.
We also introduced our fearless leader, Maggie, who runs the HeartPrints program. If it were not for Maggie there would be no HeartPrints. Maggie was overwhelmed and amazing by the support we had received and was ever so humbled. Her voice cracked as she spoke and thanked us. There was no need to thank us though. We know she is thankful for all we did. If anything, we should be the ones thanking her for doing what she does day in and day out. She is a blessing to so many families in the darkest of tragedies and Mercy Hospital should be thankful to have her.
The night went so quickly. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. It couldn’t have gone more smoothly. We got so many compliments on how well organized it was. And it was SO MUCH FUN. I don’t even know what else to say.
It was simply amazing…
At the end of the night, we had a total….
Over TWELVE THOUSAND dollars we raised for families were will walk through the unimaginable this coming year.
I’m still in shock…
I want to thank everyone who helped us make this event possible…
The hundreds of business and individuals that donated items, money, or time.
The 280 people that sat at a trivia tables and participated that night.
Our awesome volunteers who made the event run so smoothly.
Our families and friends who helped setup, cleanup, transport, and do anything else we asked for.
Our amazing emcee, Tim Thompson.
Mercy Hospital for allowing us to use their space.
Maggie Loyet, our fearless leader, a blessing to families like ours, and the heart behind HeartPrints.
Our parents for helping with Carter extra these past several weeks.
Dan and Carter for letting me take over the house with baskets, donations and paperwork, and letting me be absent at times while I focused on doing this for our daughter.
And lastly, our sweet babies. None of this would have been possible without Lily, Josie, Kate, Adam, William, Logan, Jordyn, Matthew, Greta, and all the others who we have come to know and love. We love you and we hope we made you proud.