Today, on what would have been Madeline’s eighth birthday, we want to announce a new mission for the charity we started in her name, Friends of Maddie.

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Friends of Maddie has been helping families since 2009, when we established the charity with money that was generously donated to us after Madeline died. Over the last six years, Friends of Maddie packed and shipped thousands of Support Packs to dozens of Level III NICUs throughout the nation, and personally delivered them to hospitals in Los Angeles, including UCLA Mattel, where Maddie spent the first sixty-eight days of her life. We also had some amazing corporate partnerships, including one with AT&T where together we provided over $20,000 in technology — including tablets, chargers, speakers, and Bluetooth headsets — to the NICUs we worked with, and the families of babies in their care. We are very proud of everything we accomplished.

But over the last year or so, I have felt a strong pull toward helping families who have lost children. There are many charities out there who give support bags and services to NICU families, but not nearly as many in the bereavement space. I receive countless emails from newly bereaved families asking for advice on how to pay the staggering costs that arise from the unexpected death of a child. Even with health and life insurance payouts, many parents still struggle to pay hospital bills, funeral costs, therapy copays, and living expenses. Too many parents can’t afford to take time off from work to properly process and grieve.

After doing a lot of research, we’ve realized we can fill a much greater need if we shift our focus toward helping newly bereaved families. This feels especially right, since Friends of Maddie was created with money that was donated to our family for this very reason. So, after much discussion and work, we have decided to officially change the mission of Friends of Maddie to helping families cope with the loss of a child by offering monetary grants.

All families who have experienced financial strain due to the loss of a child under the age of eighteen are eligible to apply. We will give preferential consideration to applicants who have lost a child in the NICU or due to prematurity-related complications (as these children are not usually eligible for life insurance), but it is not a requirement.

Most importantly, despite this shift in focus, we aren’t leaving behind our NICU and prematurity families. We will be working more heavily with March of Dimes in 2016 (more on that to come) and we’ll still be able to assist corporations with charitable donations to NICUs.

I feel a renewed passion for Friends of Maddie – it will be an honor to give families support during the worst moments of their lives. It’s my hope that a grant from FoM will help ease a bit of their burden.

Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for us to continue to honor our daughter’s memory. We’re proud that our organization is 100% volunteer based, and our new focus will allow for very little overhead. If you would like to make a tax-free donation to our new mission, you can do so here.

57/365: starry-eyed