When Madeline died, people from all over the world sent us their thoughts and prayers. I’ve said hundreds of times that I don’t know what we would have done without them. The support and love held us up when we could hardly breathe. It meant (and still means) so much to us.

But our family, friends, and stranger-friends did something else for us, something that showed us that their thoughts and prayers were more than just words: they took action.

Many, many people donated money to the March of Dimes in Maddie’s name.

Many, many people donated money to help us pay funeral expenses, and we used the surplus to start Friends of Maddie.

Other people participated in their local March for Babies walks.

Over 1,000 people sent us cards, letters, gifts, and pictures drawn by their kids.

And, countless people helped us raise awareness by sharing Maddie’s story with their friends, coworkers, prayer circles, Twitter followers, fellow parishioners, blog readers, the list goes on and on. By spreading Maddie’s story, you helped me create a platform that has allowed me to fundraise for March of Dimes in ways I could never have imagined.

Many causes of prematurity are preventable. I’ve received over a dozen messages from moms who had positive pregnancy outcomes because they read Maddie’s story and learned how to be better advocates for themselves and their babies. To hear that even one baby was saved because of Maddie is incredible, let alone 14.

It doesn’t give me my Maddie back, but knowing there are children out there who are alive because her story was spread far and wide…it helps me get through some of my darkest moments.

When there is a tragedy, thoughts and prayers are meaningful and always appreciated. They are powerful and uplifting, but they are at their most impactful when they’re combined with action. The thoughts, prayers, AND action that came in the wake of Maddie’s death made such a difference for us, and in turn, made a difference for others all around the world.

Because of how wonderfully we were supported after Maddie’s death, I strive to return the favor when other tragedies occur. I try to be like the compassionate, giving humans who surrounded us when our daughter died, so that my children will also grow up to be compassionate, giving humans. Thoughts and prayers should be a beginning, not an end.