ST. GEORGE — A local organization launched by a couple following the loss of their stillborn baby has helped more than 170 families that have lost a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth.

Stock image | Photo by Sannie32/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Handcrafted kits are created for these families to capture and preserve the precious memories through keepsakes that can last a lifetime.

The death of a baby can propel a family into a state of crisis and is often accompanied by a crippling shock for many parents who are unprepared for the nightmare they have found themselves in. 

Such was the case for Bryce and Nicole Jones, who told St. George News they lost their baby, Lexi Scarlett Jones, who died at 26 weeks gestation and was stillborn in February of last year. The couple entered the hospital pregnant and instead of leaving  “with our precious baby,” they left with a box, Nicole Jones said. 

Extreme grief and loss fuel a foundation 

Following such a loss, the couple realized that while the hospital did “an excellent” job of consoling parents and helping however they could, they knew that more could be done to help these parents cope with the shattering reality associated with losing a baby — either through a miscarriage, a stillbirth or other type of infant death — by providing material items that would help to preserve the connection with their baby. 

“What we wanted most during that time,” Bryce Jones said, “was to preserve as many keepsakes and memories of her as possible during the very brief time we had together.”

To that end, the couple created the Carry You Foundation that was launched in February, one year after their daughter was stillborn, as a way to fulfill Lexi’s legacy.  The organization provides care kits to St. George Regional Hospital that include items specifically designed and created to preserve the priceless moments with tangible objects for the bereaved parents that would speak to their baby’s life while validating their grief and sense of loss.

Jones said that oftentimes, these situations are unexpected, so the parents are in a moment of extreme crisis, so they are not even thinking about gathering any mementos to commemorate their baby at that point. It is only after the crisis is over that they start to realize that they missed the opportunity when in reality they were under so much distress at that point that they were incapable of doing so. 

To address the issue, the foundation was created to provide the materials and guidance needed to enable parents to preserve crucial, material connections with their child within the constraints of a very small window of time — items that are curated in kits that are all prepared in advance so they are available at a moment’s notice.  

“And these items represent physical keepsakes they can have to honor their baby — which for many families can serve as a light in a room of darkness,” he added. 

Handcrafted kits preserve a connection

The organization has created several kit types, the first of which is the Infant Keepsake Kit that includes hand and footprint kits, a plush blanket, infinity bracelets that can be personally engraved with the baby’s name, and also includes a bracelet for each of the family members that can be worn in memory of the baby. The kit also includes a Little Locks jar to preserve locks of the infant’s hair.

Clothing kits are created for infants lost through stillbirth or miscarriage and are provided by the Carry You Foundation to help bereaved families in St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Carry You Foundation, St. George News

Additionally, since many parents arrived at the hospital in an urgent situation, and most were not expecting to deliver or need any infant clothing, the kits also include infant clothing that is specifically designed and sized for very premature babies.

The infant clothing kit comes with cradles, waddles, tunics and wrap sets, each with two hats and two diapers — one that can stay with the baby, and a second set for the parents to save as a keepsake. 

The sibling kits are designed for the younger family members and include a plush stuffed animal, books to understand grief and death, as well as infinity bracelets and other age-appropriate items.

Each kit is packed in a handcrafted keepsake box engraved with the baby’s name.

St. George News reached out to Cathy Collins, who works as the bereavement coordinator at St. George Regional Hospital, who said she has worked with many parents and families in crisis after the loss of a baby, either from a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Collins said that while the hospital provides handprints and footprints that are framed for the parents, as well as stone molds, stuffed animals, books for the siblings and other items, it was the call from Bryce and Nicole Jones asking what they could do to help that changed everything.

A special delivery arrives at St. George Regional Hospital 

Following the loss of their baby, Collins said, the couple saw a need born of their own experience and formed the nonprofit foundation to help other families.

And then they got to work, she said.

Then, in February, Bryce and Nicole Jones arrived at the hospital, with their children in tow, and delivered boxes full of kits to help these families create long-lasting memories during a time of such extreme grief, she said.

The boxes not only contained items for the parents, they also created sibling kits to help the children in their grief. Additionally, each kit is donated in the memory of another “angel baby” which is not lost on the families that receive the kits.

A very special box 

For the parents, Collins said there is one particular item that appears to bring the most comfort, which is the keepsake box engraved with their baby’s name that makes the biggest impact.

The keepsake box that is engraved with the baby’s name and holds keepsake items, all of which are provided by the Carry You Foundation to help bereaved families that have lost a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Carry You Foundation, St. George News

“Seeing their baby’s name makes the baby’s life real, even though they are no longer here,” she said.

The foundation’s co-founder Bryce Jones owns an engraving business locally, which he said has helped tremendously since he does all of the engraving on the keepsake boxes, as well as the infinity bracelets, and so on. He also said that seeing the name in print not only commemorates that baby’s life, but it also helps the parents to know that what they are experiencing is real.

Each of the keepsake boxes includes items that are handsewn, engraved and handcrafted with the utmost care using quality materials, which comes at a cost. Jones said he has been able to keep those costs down by procuring many of the items through his business contacts, and by doing all of the engraving at his shop.

“That is how we have been able to deliver so many kits to the hospital to have them available for these grieving parents,” he added.

From one delivery to many  

Jones said that since that first delivery in February, they have made several more delivers to make sure the hospital was well stocked with an inventory of kits on hand — since it takes time to get everything together, which doesn’t bode well in situations where time is in such short supply.

In many cases, the need is immediate, he said. “These families get one shot to capture these memories.” 

These items are all prepared in advance so they are available at a moment’s notice, either from the hospital or directly from the organization. 

The need for the kits continues to grow. In fact, Jones said that they thought the initial delivery of 70 kits would keep the hospital stocked for several months at least, maybe even for the year.

“But that wasn’t the case at all.”

To date, the organization has provided 173 kits to the hospital through a series of deliveries, the most recent took place this week.

File photo of St. George Regional Hospital, St. George, Utah, March 1, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Collins said that even with the higher number of miscarriages and stillbirths this year, which has been ” a tremendous amount of loss,” she said, that thanks to the foundation’s efforts, each family has been provided a keepsake kit from Carry You, regardless of whether the foundation had the funds to cover the costs since the Jones’s “keep using their own money to make sure these families have a kit,” she added.

While the grassroots effort has been able to provide as many kits as needed thus far, thanks to the generosity of the community, sponsors, family members and so on, additional funding is essential for the nonprofit to reach more families and improve the overall impact of the program.

The nonprofit organization is run entirely by volunteers, which eliminates any labor or administration costs and is dependent upon donations provided by caring individuals and organizations — funding that is vital to keep the program going. All of the money raised goes directly into providing support and comfort to the parents and families during a time of grief and loss.

For more information on the program, or for anyone interested in donating, click here.

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