Emma’s Footprints was founded in 2015 by Joe and Amelia Kowalisyn in honor of their twin daughter, Emma Rose, who passed away at 23 days old as result of a severe stroke in utero. Until 2018, the organization existed with the support of local community organizations in Northwest Indiana. During this time, Emma’s Footprints provided care packages to families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which included snacks and activities for parents, as well as care packages for bereaved parents who had experienced infant loss, which included comfort shawls, books regarding grief, and a keepsake piece of jewelry. In addition, Emma’s Footprints has hosted the Wave of Light event each October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, for families to honor their babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. With grant money awarded through an application process, Emma’s Footprints also provided Cuddle Cots®, which allow families to spend additional time with their deceased children, to every hospital in the area. In May 2018, the organization hosted a free Mother’s Day event for over 100 ladies who had experienced miscarriage, NICU stays, and/or infant loss. Mothers were provided hors d'oeuvres, lunch, and dessert. They also had the opportunity to get massages, hair and make-up services, listen to inspirational speakers, and connect with mothers with similar experiences.
Under the new organization, Emma’s Footprints will continue to provide care packages to NICU and bereaved parents, and are adding a care package for rainbow babies (a baby born after experiencing a loss), as well. The Wave of Light and Mother’s Day events, both at no cost to participants, will continue annually.
Emotional support and Education are also a focus of Emma’s Footprints. An Intake Care Coordinator, NICU Care Team Leader, Bereavement Care Team Leader, and Healthcare Liaison are in place to streamline the processes and assure quality, thorough, and consistent information is provided. Each leader has significant experience in her position. Through a cooperative effort with local hospitals, the organization is starting monthly peer led support groups for families with children in the NICU. The organization has established a phone number for NICU and bereaved families to call for peer support and to gain access to and knowledge of resources. Emma’s footprints is creating a database of resources available to families at each hospital, as well as in the community, and the president, Amelia Kowalisyn has authored a document walking parents through the steps of the aftermath of infant loss, which will be provided at no cost. Furthermore, these leaders are designing programs to educate healthcare workers not only on the physical resources available to NICU and bereaved but how to be sensitive to their needs. In 2019, Emma’s footprints will hold a seminar for healthcare workers in Ob-Gyn offices, emergency rooms and labor and delivery units on topics pertaining to the emotional needs of NICU and bereaved parents, as well as seminars for the families on topics pertinent to their experiences. Emma’s Footprints also plans to maintain a professional office space where care package items can be delivered and stored before distribution to hospitals, where literature and resources can be available, and where the organization and its supported families can meet.