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Red bal­loons were released as part of the Walk of Remem­brance. Col­legian | Madeleine Miller

Clear, blue skies and vividly hued leaves served as the backdrop for Hillsdale Hos­pital Birthing Center’s 13th annual Walk of Remem­brance held at Owens Park on Oct. 14.

This year’s lakeside event, put on by vol­un­teers from Hillsdale Hospital’s OB-GYN unit, included a memorial service, rose cer­emony, remem­brance walk, and balloon release.

Des­ig­nated in 1988 by Ronald Reagan as Preg­nancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, October is punc­tuated by events held across the country to honor the memory of children lost due to mis­car­riages and pre- and post­natal com­pli­ca­tions.

Amy Zoll, a cer­tified nurse and midwife who works at Hillsdale Hos­pital, headed up the orga­ni­zation for this year’s event. She recalled that the need to foster com­munity among the many women who lose their children inspired medical per­sonnel to host the first walk in 2005.

“One in four women suffer mis­car­riages,” Zoll said. “Not a lot of people were talking about it, and we realized we needed more support for moms. We started thinking, as a col­lective unit, what can we do?”

Orig­i­nally intended to provide solace spe­cific to those who have suf­fered mis­car­riages, the event is now open to parents who have lost children at any age. The Remem­brance Walk has grown sig­nif­i­cantly since its inception, with atten­dance now reg­u­larly nearing one hundred.

“New faces are coming out, more people are donating,” said Brittany Page, an OB-GYN nurse.

This year’s event com­menced at the gazebo in Owens Park. Lanterns and table­cloths in shades of light pink and baby blue, the colors of preg­nancy and infant loss awareness, softened the stark lines of the outdoor structure, and lent it a wel­coming ambience. Tables offering com­pli­mentary tokens of remem­brance including key­chains, stickers, pens, pins, hats, wrist­bands, and T-shirts greeted attendees.

Hillsdale’s Early Preg­nancy Loss Asso­ci­ation hosted a table at the gazebo for the first time this year. Emily Car­rington, the organization’s pres­ident, said she hoped to make the com­munity aware of the support and resources the EPLA pro­vides.  

“We’re honored to remember little ones lost in mis­car­riages,” she said. “We hope our ser­vices will meet the needs of fam­ilies in the days and weeks after they suffer loss.”

Brian Sinischo delivered a heartfelt, reflective, and encour­aging speech on the power of love to cul­tivate resilience. Speaking from per­sonal expe­rience, he expressed grat­itude for those who helped him endure the darkest stages of his grief. Sinischo urged those in anguish over loss to seek out love and strive for restoration.

“Know that coming together brings healing, even though it seems like all we are left with is broken pieces,” Sinischo said.

Fol­lowing Sinischo’s speech, the names of deceased infants and children were called as their parents and other family members accepted roses in their honor. Many wore shirts bearing their children’s names and sen­ti­ments of their affection for them.

Attendees next par­tic­i­pated in the half-mile remem­brance walk to Sandy Beach. Holding red bal­loons, they shared candid con­ver­sa­tions as they strolled, bonding over common expe­ri­ences. The walk cul­mi­nated with the release of the rosy bal­loons into the cerulean October sky, after which par­tic­i­pants returned to Owens Park for refresh­ments and min­gling.

Kelly Stalhood, who found out about the Remem­brance Walk through the hos­pital when she lost her baby, appre­ciates the effort to acknowledge the plight of mothers who have mis­carried.

“It’s a really good support group for the com­munity that we don’t see a lot of in Hillsdale County,” she said. “It helps us know our babies are remem­bered.”

Zoll believes the best therapy for those who have lost their children either during preg­nancy or after their birth is talking about their ordeal. The Walk of Remem­brance encourages and facil­i­tates con­nec­tions between parents and fam­ilies mourning the losses of infants.

“Our message is simple,” Zoll said. “We do not want moms to think baby loss at any time is not sig­nif­icant.”