Families and friends will carry love in their hearts for babies gone too soon at "Lydie's Loop: Steps Against Stillbirth."
The second 5K run and one-mile walk will take place Oct. 7 at Gahanna's Woodside Green Park, 213 Camrose Court. It also will feature a Kids' Dash. Registration will begin at 8:45 a.m.
Westerville residents Heather Johnston Welliver and Justin Welliver founded the event last year in honor of their daughter, Lydia Joanne, who was stillborn.
The event is located in a neighborhood where the Wellivers lived before moving to Westerville last year.
In January of this year, the couple founded the Ohio Chapter of Star Legacy Foundation.
The Star Legacy Foundation, a national not-for-profit, was founded on the belief that many stillbirths are preventable.
The focus is to raise funding and awareness so better technology, education and research are available to families and health-care providers.
"We were thrilled with the success of last year's Lydie's Loop, and it made us realize the community that is desperately needed in Ohio," Johnston Welliver said. "We wanted the Star Legacy Foundation to have a local presence and network of support for grieving families.
"We also wanted to bring more awareness and prevention efforts to Ohio."
She said the focus is to prevent stillbirths and ensure optimal care for families when prevention is not possible.
"As a chapter, in May, we presented the Perinatal Bereavement Retreat to about 75 health-care professionals, including labor and delivery nurses from three hospital systems, doulas, chaplains and social workers," Johnston Welliver said. "With the funds raised at Lydie's Loop last year, we were able to present this conference at no charge to health-care professionals."
Topics included emerging research in perinatal loss, culturally competent care, resources for families, bereavement photography and a parent panel.
"Feedback was that professionals feel much more prepared to give families compassionate care when facing a perinatal loss," Johnston Welliver said. "We have other projects that involve providing support to bereaved families, spreading awareness and more education for health-care professionals planned for the future."
Johnston Welliver said on the morning of Nov. 5, 2014, she and her husband were preparing for the arrival of their second child and first daughter.
"After dropping off my son, Benjamin, at daycare, I realized I didn't remember the last time I felt the baby move, and it scared me," she said. "She was always so active, to the extent that I had told my obstetrician, 'She moves around a lot'," to which she responded, "An active baby is a healthy baby!"
At her 34-week appointment, her doctor put the Doppler on Johnston Welliver's abdomen and she was met with silence, confirming the baby's heart had stopped beating.
"I called my husband and managed to choke out, 'There's no heartbeat,' " she said. "We went home, staring dumbly at the baby swing set up, and waited while our family rushed to be with us."
Johnston Welliver was induced, and after hours of labor, her daughter was born at 12:14 p.m. on Nov. 6, 2014.
"She was perfect, but her umbilical cord was not," she said. "It had a small narrowing that lacked Wharton's Jelly, which keeps the cord from becoming entangled.
"In my womb, Lydie moved in a way that constricted her umbilical cord completely, like a garden hose.
"That narrowing that cost my daughter her life was never detected by any monitoring."
Johnston Welliver said Lydie was 18 inches, 3 pounds and 10 ounces.
"A full head of dark hair, like her dad," she said. "Big flipper feet that would have made her a great swimmer. I held her hand all day, examining her tiny fingernails and her long fingers. I would have done anything for her to squeeze back."
Johnston Welliver and she and her husband spent six hours with their baby.
"We planned to spend a lifetime with her, but we only got six hours," she said. "We read to her the book 'Wherever You Go, My Love Will Find You' with the line, 'We wanted you more than you'll ever know, so we send love to follow wherever you go.' "
Johnston Welliver said she was shocked to learn that in the United States alone, 26,000 babies a year -- 71 per day -- are stillborn.
"This is 10 times more than the number of infant deaths contributed to (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)," she said. "One in 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth."
Johnston Welliver said her child could have been saved if there was any indication her umbilical cord was compromised.
"Although it is possible to see the umbilical cord on an ultrasound, it is not routinely studied in a low-risk pregnancy such as mine," she said. "Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness about or funding dedicated to stillbirth research. More research is desperately needed to develop prevention strategies."
Johnston Welliver said she has become an active griever, honoring her daughter by working to prevent other tragedies.
Efforts of Star Legacy
Lindsey Wimmer, executive director of the Star Legacy Foundation in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, said Lydie's Loop is an event that celebrates the life of babies gone too soon.
She said it gives families a safe place to remember their babies, and supports efforts to reduce the incidence of stillbirth and poor pregnancy outcomes in the future.
"These events are very important to our organization, because they give us the opportunity to connect with families in a local community," Wimmer said. "This year, because the Welliver family helped establish the Ohio Chapter of Star Legacy Foundation, it is also an opportunity for interested individuals to learn more about the chapter's plans for the future and how to be involved."
Wimmer said money raised through the event will help support the foundation's initiatives in Ohio, including education for health professionals, family-support activities and awareness.
"It also supports the research studies supported by Star Legacy Foundation," she said. "Lydie's Loop in 2016 was extremely successful and helped us offer a full-day educational seminar for nearly 100 health professionals in the Columbus area this spring."
The Star Legacy Foundation has nine chapters across the United States, including the New York Metro, San Diego, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Alabama, western Michigan and Minnesota.
Lydie's Loop marks the start of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, a national month of remembrance begun in 1988 by former president Ronald Reagan.
At the inaugural event last year, 280 people participated and the Wellivers raised more than $20,000 for Star Legacy.
In addition to this year's dash, 5K run and walk, the event will feature children's entertainment by Erica Carlson, a silent auction featuring prizes such as Cleveland Browns tickets, Cleveland Indians tickets and a family membership to the YMCA, and a raffle featuring almost 25 prizes, such as an American Girl doll, Columbus Blue Jackets tickets, Columbus Crew tickets, artwork and gift baskets.
To register, visit www.lydiesloop.org.