Harlynn’s Heart

DMF funds join forces to

help parents through loss

Grief is murky fog of devastation and confusion. For parents who lose a child at birth or have their acutely-ill newborn whisked off to an out-of-town NICU, that murky fog is suddenly so much harder to push through.

With the help of DMF, two families who know the pain of infant loss are together helping other parents. Val and Brent Kleppen’s daughter Harlynn was stillborn in 2013. Sean and Amy Degerstrom lost their 25-day-old son, Benton that same year. Though they didn’t cross paths at the time, each family established a charitable fund at Dakota Medical Foundation. When DMF hosts charitable funds, people can make tax-deductible charitable donations to advance charitable causes.

Benton’s Hope provides care packages for parents facing infant loss or dire medical diagnosis, including a teddy bear, grief resource contacts, a camera memory card and a gas card. They’re working with hospitals to provide iPads for moms to communicate long-distance with their baby and his or her medical team.

Harlynn’s Heart connects parents with bereavement services, help with funeral and burial planning and resources for memorializing babies. They provide follow-up support and connect families with similar journeys.

As DMF’s Donor Impact Director Deb Watne met separately with the Degerstroms and the Kleppens on their projects over time, she noticed the passion each family shared to gently guide families facing fetal loss or newborns in crisis. Both families had given birth at Essentia Health. While these dedicated parents were already transforming a catastrophic experience, Watne knew that her network of contacts at Essentia might open doors to even more transformative changes.

After meeting with the Degerstroms, the Kleppens and DMF, Essentia Health in Fargo heard the voices of hurting parents and created a fetal loss committee to better serve grieving families. A grant from Benton’s Hope will provide bereavement training for staff. Harlynn’s Heart is gifting a CuddleCot, a refrigerated bassinet that allows parents to spend as much time as they need saying goodbye to their baby after his or her death.

Through these loving parents Essentia has been guided to better care for vulnerable families. Independently, Harlynn’s Heart and Benton’s Hope were supporting and comforting families on a case-by-case basis. Together, they’re changing the way the Essentia Health System cares for families who lose a baby.

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