When Fraternity Boys Become Champions of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

alpha-sigs-2016Kelly Gerken | Still Standing Magazine

It’s one of my favorite stories. I tell it each time I speak at an event. And, everyone stops to listen to the tale of how a bunch of fraternity boys stuff Comfort Bears for grieving parents, becoming champions of pregnancy and infant loss awareness. It is a rather unlikely pairing ~ the fraternity brothers of BGSU Alpha Sigma Phi and the ladies of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

If you haven’t heard the story, or even if you have, it’s worth a few moments. Perhaps it will breathe a bit of hope and a sliver of joy into this season of missing. We speak often about the desire to break the silence of pregnancy and infant loss, and many of us work tirelessly to provide support and hope for grieving hearts. We humbly embrace the title of world-changers. That’s what these brave men are doing…changing the world, one heart at a time.

Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women, a non-profit organization established in 2004,  sends Comfort Bears (created by Kathy Bodenbender) and Dreams of You Resources to hundreds of families worldwide each year. For the past four years, the gentlemen of Alpha Sigma Phi – Gamma Zeta Chapter, Bowling Green State University have partnered with Sufficient Grace Ministries to stuff Comfort Bears for parents facing the loss of a baby or young child. They have stuffed hundreds of bears at the annual Alpha Sigma Phi Build-A-Bear for Moms Event and raised over $10,000 to support grieving families through SGM.

Ian Melchor created the event several years ago, after spending time in my kitchen as a friend to my oldest son. He noticed the Comfort Bears and listened for years to my mother-heart as I shared my passion for offering comfort and hope to bereaved families. His efforts leave behind a legacy that his fraternity brothers will surely carry on as he graduates this week. Each year, this event impacts the entire campus of Bowling Green State University and beyond, as the brothers courageously spread awareness about pregnancy and infant loss, a topic many are afraid to discuss, although it affects one in every four pregnancies.

Prior to the event, the men gather at the frat house to make ribbons students can purchase and wear to encourage PAIL awareness. Many shared how they were personally impacted by baby loss in their own families.

making-ribbons1Kelly Gerken | Still Standing Magazine

 

A team of SGM Volunteers sews 100 Comfort Bear shells, which are then stuffed by students who also donate $5 to support Sufficient Grace Ministries. It is so meaningful to watch college men and women stuffing the bears meant to comfort the emptiness of a grieving mother’s aching arms. As a bereaved mother and a perinatal loss support companion, I am grateful for their courage, compassion, and generosity to help break the silence of baby loss.

rileyKelly Gerken | Still Standing Magazine

This is Riley. Riley shared with me that he joined the Alpha Sigma Phi – Gamma Zeta Chapter, Bowling Green State University fraternity because of the Build-a-Bear event. He lost a cousin to SIDS, and his family each year takes part in a Poker Run to raise money for SIDS research. When he heard that the Alpha Sigs hosted a philanthropy event to support pregnancy and infant loss, that was the deciding factor…this was the fraternity for him. We love this young man’s heart for baby loss families. Sending love and prayers to his family as well.

Hearing how the event has impacted these brave young men over the years was so powerful and healing to my mama-heart. The fraternity brothers lead the event each year. They send a spokesman to talk to the students milling around or eating a quick bite in the student union between classes, about the impact of pregnancy and infant loss, asking them to consider stuffing a Comfort Bear or making a donation. Beyond the support, these men have become champions for spreading pregnancy and infant loss awareness on campus.

marcKelly Gerken | Still Standing Magazine

This gorgeous young man, Marc, is as beautiful inside as he is outside! He carried a completed Comfort Bear around to every single table in the student union to share about what SGM is about, how we provide support to families, and the true purpose of the Comfort Bears and the Build-a-Bear event. He is one of our brave heroes. So grateful for his courage to show compassion!

As Ian has so eloquently stated: “I want the grieving parents to know that the students of BGSU stand with them. Their babies matter.” Thank you to everyone who supported this event, to the amazing SGM Comfort Bear team for sewing over 100 bears, to Trey Young for leading the plans for this year’s event, Ian Melchor for starting it all, and to all the brothers who poured their hearts into this outreach. SGM loves Alpha Sigma Phi. 

To help the gentlemen of Alpha Sigma Phi win a contest, which would further benefit Sufficient Grace Ministries, please click here to vote for them in the Super Service Challenge!

To view more photos from the Alpha Sigma Phi Build-a-Bear for Moms event, visit the SGM Facebook page.

For more information about how you can receive Dreams of You items, support, and Comfort Bears, visit: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.

 





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    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.

    December 14, 2016

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