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.”