'It’s a very unique and often isolating experience': Sunday walk to commemorate families grieving baby loss
Bill Roberts (left) and Cheryl Salter-Roberts (right) in front of the chalk-written name of their son Bretton that was stillborn. (photo provided by Cheryl Salter-Roberts)
Published Saturday, September 21, 2019 3:29PM MDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 22, 2019 8:36AM MDT
A walk bringing together people who have experienced the loss of an infant is taking place Sunday afternoon.
The seventh annual 2019 Baby Steps Walk to Remember will start on Sept. 22 at the Alberta Legislature grounds.
Cheryl Salter-Roberts is one of the founders of the walk, which started in 2013 as a part of H.E.A.R.T.S. Baby Loss Support program.
The event began as a way to honour the stillbirths of two babies, Bretton and Ciara, as well as six miscarriages Salter-Roberts and her husband experienced after having four healthy children.
She says the walk is a way to gather together people in the community who have either experienced or been touched by the death of a baby during pregnancy or any time after birth.
“It’s also an opportunity to create an awareness about what baby loss is like in our community. It’s a very unique and often isolating experience,” said Salter-Roberts.
The group is collecting teddy bears for families that have experienced such loss.
“Empty arms is a big thing that parents talk about, feeling that they have nothing to hold onto.”
Salter-Roberts says that it’s often the families that have received a bear in the past that donate teddy bears for other families.
“They’re sort of passing along their support in a really sweet way.”
This year, Salter-Roberts is expecting 300 people to join the walk, but said it’s still intimate enough that they can talk to all the families and make connections.
“Within that number we’re going to be remembering close to 200 babies.”
She says the path of the walk will be lined with plates that have the names of the babies that have passed away, and the names will also be written on the sidewalk in chalk.
“The beautiful part of that is that they can take their name plate home but the chalk remains,” she explained. “People out for a jog or out for a run to that park, will see all the names along the path.”
The event will also feature a performance by harpist Terry McDade and stories from several speakers.
After the walk, families will return to the park and speakers will read the names of each baby. Their families will blow bubbles in their memory, and a bell will be rung as each name is read.
The walk doesn’t cost anything to attend, but Salter-Roberts says donations are accepted because the run is funded by donation.
Registration for the walk will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday with the formal program starting soon after.
Their next event is on Oct. 15, when the High Level Bridge is lit up for International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.