“The onesies are a reminder of a topic that many parents and caregivers are uncomfortable discussing,” said Karen van Caulil, executive director of HCECF. “They are a tangible way to start the conversation about SIDS and safe-sleeping habits for babies. We have seen SIDS deaths occur all too often in our community. It’s our hope to educate and raise awareness of ways we can reduce our risk.”
Added Kyra Oliver, who founded The Hayes Foundation days after her son Hayes died of SIDS at 4½ months: “We are thrilled that the Health Council of East Central Florida is willing to help us spread our message and raise awareness of SIDS. Our vision is to create a world without SIDS, and this partnership will take us one step closer to that goal.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant and his wife Melissa have also joined the effort to spread the This Side Up campaign. The Bryants, known in the Tampa Bay community for their support of children and those in need through the March of Dimes, Special Olympics and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, among others, lost 3-month-old son Matthew Tryson Bryant to SIDS last September.
“SIDS doesn’t discriminate: It can affect any family at any time,” said Matt Bryant, the Bucs’ 2007 nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his playing ability and community service. “We are living proof of that and want to remind every parent not to take anything for granted. We hope we can help spread the This Side Up message here in Central Florida, in Tampa Bay and across Florida.”
About 2,500 families in the United States lose a baby to SIDS each year. That’s about half as many deaths related to SIDS as in 1994 when the national Back to Sleep campaign was introduced.
“Although we have seen a decline of SIDS deaths locally in recent years, the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths in Orange County continues to increase and probably includes babies who were not put to sleep as safely as possible,” Dr. van Caulil said. “We believe this campaign will help educate anyone who looks after a baby of the proper sleeping position and environment.”
The Hayes Foundation introduced the This Side Up campaign in 2006 as an extension of Back to Sleep with the goal of putting a tangible reminder in the hands of those who look after babies. The Hayes Foundation has distributed more than 50,000 onesies in more than 20 hospitals in Virginia and Tennessee and through Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s Smart Beginnings Initiative. In April, it partnered with The Raise Foundation to launch the campaign in Orange County, Calif.
“SIDS continues to puzzle the medical community,” Oliver said. “While it’s not possible to prevent SIDS, research has proven there are factors that can reduce the risk of SIDS. That’s what our campaign is about.”
Oliver’s son Hayes was sleeping on his stomach while at daycare when she got a phone call that he wasn’t breathing. Just as she was getting to know her son, he was gone. In the days following his death, she started The Hayes Foundation in his honor. Since its founding in 2002, the foundation has raised more than $500,000 for SIDS awareness and education.
Organizations interested in learning more about the This Side Up onesies project or who are interested in donating to this important cause can contact the Health Council of East Central Florida at 407.977.1610 for more information.
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