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A Kansas mom who is aware of the wrenching heartache of dropping a child has turned her grief right into a mission to assist others. She makes memento units to honor brief however valuable lives.

When Amanda Smith went into labor in a hospital in Wichita, along with her son Robby in February 2012, she was simply over 22 weeks pregnant. 

When Robby was born three days later, on Feb. 24, 2012, he was thought-about to be beneath the purpose of viability — and lived for simply two hours, she informed Fox Information Digital.

“Robby was born at 1 pound 4.4 ounces and 12 inches lengthy. He was early and tiny, however he was excellent,” Smith additionally mentioned.

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As she and her husband Tanner had anticipated to have a number of extra weeks of preparation earlier than their kid’s arrival, they weren’t ready within the slightest. 

“We did not have a digital camera and we did not have a particular hat or blanket for him,” she mentioned. “Our variety nurse searched excessive and low for a hat on the hospital that may be sufficiently small to suit his tiny head.”

Though there weren’t any sufficiently small to suit the pinnacle of a child simply over a pound and 1 / 4, a nurse got here with a “very valuable small blue hat with a pom-pom on the prime,” Smith mentioned.

Dad and mom Tanner and Amanda Smith, together with their child, Robby, shortly after their son was born prematurely in 2012.  (Challenge Robby)

And whereas the hat was “completely too massive,” it grew to become extremely particular to Smith within the wake of her infant’s passing. 

“Even after I now not had Robby to carry onto, I had his hat,” she mentioned. “That little blue hat introduced me consolation on numerous events once I wanted to really feel near him.”

“It isn’t only a hat. It represents Robby’s life. It was a brief life, however he mattered; he was beloved, and he was right here.”

“I slept with it, I carried it round in my hoodie pocket once I was at house, and once I left I put it into my purse and took it alongside,” she continued. 

“I didn’t have my child, however I had that small piece of him.” 

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As Smith progressed in her grief, she mentioned she “stopped counting on the consolation of that hat.”

She continued, “It isn’t only a hat. It represents Robby’s life. It was a brief life, however he mattered; he was beloved, and he was right here. That hat is a bodily reminder of his existence.”

About two-and-a-half years after her son died, Smith was moved by the latest demise of her grandfather — whom Robby was named after — to channel her grief into one thing extra concrete to honor her son.

“I spotted that the best way to honor his life can be to gather tiny hats and blankets for the hospital … the place he was born.”

“I simply didn’t know what or how,” she mentioned.

“On a day that I used to be having a very troublesome grief day, as I used to be holding Robby’s hat, I spotted that the best way to honor his life can be to gather tiny hats and blankets for the hospital in Wichita, Kansas, the place he was born,” she mentioned. 

“I began by contacting the hospital the place he was born to ask in the event that they wanted this sort of donation, and so they very excitedly mentioned ‘sure,’ as they didn’t obtain donations like that.”

Smith and her mom enlisted the assistance of household and buddies to assist make the blankets and hats — on the time, neither of them knew find out how to crochet. 

workshop shelves crochet blankets

Challenge Robby’s Kansas headquarters is proven right here; it incorporates handmade crocheted objects organized by measurement and ready to be despatched to grieving households. (Challenge Robby)

She additionally turned to her weblog, which she had began to doc her being pregnant with Robby. Following his demise, she wrote about how she was dealing with the grief. 

“I made a decision to jot down out our story and speak about his hat, how vital it was (and nonetheless is) to me, and why I needed to have the ability to donate tiny hats for infants born prematurely who sadly don’t survive,” she mentioned. 

“I used to be so frightened that we wouldn’t attain our objective.”

Her preliminary objective was to donate 50 hats and 50 blankets, with a stretch objective of 100 hats and 100 blankets.

“I used to be so frightened that we wouldn’t attain our objective,” she mentioned. 

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Because it turned out, she didn’t have a lot to fret about. 

The weblog publish was shared all over the world, and from August 2014 till February 2015, buddies, households and full strangers donated sufficient hats and blankets to fill 13 Rubbermaid containers, mentioned Smith.

“I truthfully thought after we delivered our donation to [the hospital] that we’d be executed and our ‘undertaking’ can be accomplished,” she continued.

“I consider our hearts actually lead us.”

This was removed from the case: What would develop into “Challenge Robby” was simply starting. 

Different hospitals from throughout the U.S. heard about Smith’s donation of tiny hats and blankets. They started reaching out, seeing in the event that they, too, might obtain blankets and hats for his or her smallest sufferers. 

baby boy hat blue

Child Robby Smith solely lived for 2 hours when he was born at 23 weeks’ gestation on Feb. 24, 2012, in Wichita, Kansas.  (Challenge Robby)

“That is after we began working towards turning into a nonprofit group, so we might proceed our mission of serving to households with angel infants,” mentioned Smith. 

Smith named the nonprofit Challenge Robby after her son. Smith and her mom run the 100% volunteer group out of their headquarters in Kansas. 

“After our preliminary donation,” mentioned Smith, “we continued to obtain many various objects from wonderful girls all around the world.”

“Being pregnant and Toddler loss may be an uncomfortable matter for our society, however it is a vital matter.”

Amongst this stuff had been hats, blankets, booties, cradles, cocoons and most notably, angel wings. 

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“After we began to obtain angel wings within the mail from completely different crocheters, we determined that we’d add the angel wings to every Challenge Robby Bereavement Set, and after we began the Memento Set program, we determined so as to add the angel wings to these as nicely,” Smith mentioned. 

blanket angel wings hats twins

Two Challenge Robby Memento Units are proven right here. Amanda Smith and her mom assemble all of the units by hand; they depend on intuition when choosing out objects. (Challenge Robby)

The Memento Set program started in 2017, when Smith realized that some ladies who misplaced their infants early in being pregnant had nothing bodily to symbolize their youngsters.

Or, maybe they weren’t far sufficient alongside of their being pregnant to be in labor or to be cared for in a hospital’s supply unit.

“Once I say that we care about their grief and their child, I imply it with my entire coronary heart.”

A Challenge Robby Memento Set incorporates a size-appropriate hat, blanket and angel wings for people who’ve misplaced youngsters from 4 to 36 weeks gestation. 

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Bereavement units, sized for youngsters from 18 to 40 weeks gestation, are supplied to each hospitals and bereavement photographers for youngsters who’re born too early and won’t survive. 

keepsake set hat blanket

Those that request Challenge Robby Memento Units are capable of request a particular colour. Many mother and father who lose youngsters very early on have no idea if their little one was a boy or a lady — and request one thing gender-neutral to honor their little one. (Challenge Robby)

“For thus many households, particularly those that expertise losses at earlier gestations, [the Project Robby Keepsake Set] is their solely bodily reminder of their child,” mentioned Smith. 

“I hear from a variety of households that receiving a Challenge Robby Memento Set helped them to know that another person on the market was remembering their child with them,” she added.

She mentioned it is usually considered as “validation that their grief issues and their child issues.”

“Once I say that we care about their grief and their child, I imply it with my entire coronary heart. An vital a part of the grief journey is to have your grief validated, and that’s what we do at Challenge Robby.” 

“Our infants — it doesn’t matter what gestation they had been misplaced — matter.”

For Smith and her mom, choosing out the objects within the Challenge Robby Memento Units is a fragile course of, she famous. 

Households who request Memento Units are capable of present details about the gender (if identified), title (if given) and every other details about their child. 

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“More often than not, when choosing out units for households, I’ve had conversations with them both by their notes on their request kind, emails or feedback on our completely different social media pages,” Smith famous.

“I consider our hearts actually lead us,” mentioned Smith. 

Whereas Smith believes what she does with Challenge Robby is worth it and vital work, some days are simpler than others. 

blankets hats angel wings

Three Challenge Robby Memento Units, that includes hats for very small infants. (Challenge Robby)

“Loss is heavy,” she defined. “Every day I obtain emails and messages from ladies and men who need to have the ability to share their tales with somebody, and I don’t take that flippantly.”

Smith reads every story that’s despatched to her, she mentioned.

 Many ladies request a set “for losses 30, 40 and even 50-plus years” in the past. 

“Some individuals are sharing their tales for the primary time [with] somebody aside from household,” she mentioned.

“Being pregnant and Toddler loss may be an uncomfortable matter for our society, however it is a vital matter.”

Smith additionally mentioned, “Our infants — it doesn’t matter what gestation they had been misplaced — matter.”

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On notably onerous days, Smith mentioned she reads by emails from individuals who have gotten their Memento Units. 

Photo of Robby with his Mom and Dad on the left, and a properly sized hat and blanket for children born early on the right.

Robby was born on Feb. 24, 2012, at simply over a pound. He grew to become the inspiration for creating equipment appropriately sized for untimely infants.  (Challenge Robby)

Many ladies have expressed gratitude for having one thing that would have belonged to their “angel little one” — particularly those that miscarried earlier than they’d an ultrasound or earlier than they’d a child bathe.

On the twenty fourth of every month at 9 a.m. Central time, Smith opens a kind on the Challenge Robby web site the place mother and father can request Memento Units in honor of their angel infants. 

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There isn’t any time restrict for when an individual can request a Memento Set, mentioned Smith. She mentioned that “many ladies request a set for losses [from] 30, 40 and even 50-plus years” in the past. 

Units are supplied freed from cost, however the variety of functions is restricted because of the measurement of the group. 

Family portrait daughters

A photograph of Amanda Smith’s two daughters, Delphine and Alice Ruth, with a top level view representing her late son Robby. (Challenge Robby)

“We’re an all-volunteer run group,” mentioned Smith. “We are saying we settle for 50 request kinds every month, however we nearly all the time settle for anyplace from 75-100, if no more.” 

Smith is now a mom of two women, Delphine and Alice Ruth, ages 10 and 6. She can be an authorized grief coach with a grasp’s diploma in nonprofit management. 

Challenge Robby accepts each financial donations to cowl the price of delivery and donations of crocheted objects for future kits. 

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“What we do at Challenge Robby is gloomy, and may be emotionally heavy, however on the finish of the day I do know that what we do is vital,” mentioned Smith. 

Further data may be discovered on ProjectRobby.com.

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