Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Newborns in Need is about helping, giving

Photo by Megan Kolendo, shown with her 2-year-old son, Ben, is president of the Southcentral Alaska Chapter of Newborns In
WASILLA -- Megan Kolendo's first pregnancy ended at five months in a miscarriage. Had she made it full term, the child, Maya, would have turned 3 on Sunday. Kolendo and her husband, Marek, along with their 2 1/2-year-old son, Ben, marked the day as they do every year.

"We just have a little celebration as a family to remember her. ... We have a cupcake and all blow out a candle for her and say a prayer," Kolendo said.

That she'd feel such a bond with a child who never took her first breath was difficult to fathom at first, she said. But some memorial items she received at the time of her miscarriage from a nonprofit group helped validate those feelings, she said.

The nonprofit, Newborns in Need, is a national organization that provides things such as layettes, blankets and keepsakes for miscarried, stillborn and premature babies or babies who are sick or in crisis.

"I think if we didn't receive that stuff I probably would have left for home from the hospital and I would have just tried to force those feeling out of my mind," she said. "That really helped me to say, 'Yeah, it's OK to cry and it's OK to be scared and angry and question all these things.' "

The 30-year-old stay-at-home mom, who now lives in Wasilla, recently formed a local chapter of Newborns in Need.

"I needed to do something to give back," she said.

Q. How did you get involved with Newborns in Need?

A. My husband and I were living in Fairbanks in 2004 when I suffered from a ruptured uterus when I was five months pregnant, and we lost our baby girl, Maya. There was a Newborns in Need group there at the time and they had given me a bunch of items: some blankets, a memory box -- tangible items to help us go through that grieving process so we could have something to remember her by.

The next year, Benjamin, our son, was born and he was six weeks early -- he was in the (neonatal intensive care unit) for three weeks -- and again Newborns in Need gave us all sorts of items: hats, quilts, clothing -- things to help his stay and make it easier for us seeing him in (the incubator).

And one of the biggest miracles for me, I call it my "Aha!" moment, was that one of the blankets they gave me for Ben was made of the same material as one of the memorial quilts they gave me for Maya.It was not something they planned; it was just a coincidence. That's when I realized I have got to do something to help other parents because to me it just connected so much.

Q. So you were in Fairbanks then. How long have you been here and when did you start your local chapter?

A. My husband was stationed at Fort Wainwright and he got out in September 2005. He has two sons in Palmer and so we came down here to be closer to them. We've been a chapter since August '07. The first hurdle was finding people that wanted to be board members. We've had a lot of people that wanted to sew, but the problem was we couldn't find board members.

Q. So you have a lot of other volunteers already?

A. We have a good handful. We don't have to find a bigger place to meet yet. (She laughs) But that's a blessing I guess because if we got too big too fast we wouldn't know how to take care of ourselves.

Q. Who does your organization serve? Do you have a particular focus?

A. Well, when we first started I think our passion as board members and decision makers is stillborns and other infants that have passed away. But what we did see from hospitals and other agencies is that there is a huge need for babies that are born below the poverty level, which is another aspect of Newborns in Need, the keyword being "in need."

And so the beginning focus has been babies in general. They may be healthy, and they may be able to go home and not need an extended stay in the hospital.

But they maybe don't have hats or don't have just some basics -- a nice outfit to go home in or maybe they just don't have the most stable environment to go home to. We try to help them.



• Learn more about Newborns in Need at a volunteer meeting 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the MTA Building, 480 Commercial Dr., Palmer.

• For more information contact Megan Kolendo at 907-982-1558 or visit .

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