Annual fundraiser walk in Stahlstown offers 'little ray of sunshine'
Taking a personal tragedy and turning it into a way to help other families who suddenly find themselves in an unexpected hospital stay situation, the Kellers of Saltlick Township do what they can to help other families with their efforts through the Emma Marie Keller Memorial foundation.
“It's our way to help other families who are going through what we went through,” father Ryan Keller said. “Many times these families go to the hospital and don't expect to stay, and when they do, they find that they aren't prepared.”
The foundation was established a few years ago in memory of the Kellers' infant daughter, Emma, who died when she was only 5 months old from complications due to preeclampsia, a relatively rare pregnancy complication that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period, affecting both the mother and her unborn child.
The foundation is committed to supporting families of children with any long-term illness.
Through their foundation, the Kellers now put together special bags for families who find themselves in the neonatal intensive care units of hospitals, facing what could result in long-term stays.
“The nurses hand out the bags to families who are there, and we know that they are appreciated,” Keller said, adding that they also supply some families with items such as gift cards for gasoline and food, and other ways to make what can be a very tense time a little less stressful.
The bags contain basic toiletries and other items that a family would need when faced with an unexpected stay.
The Kellers have called the supply bags “Little Rays of Sunshine” and have them at the NICUs at five area hospitals — Mercy, West Penn, Children's Home's of Pittsburgh, Magee Women's and Children's Hospital.
The Kellers also arrange to have special holiday treats for the families who find themselves in NICU units during these times, and they also arrange to have hand- and footprints of the infants made as a keepsake for the parents.
“The parents really appreciate the hand- and footprint cards,” Keller said. “It's something that they can take home and hang on to.”
The biggest funding for the foundation is the annual “Walk for Emma Marie,” which is now in its seventh year and will be held Saturday at the Cook Township Community Center in Stahlstown.
“It's really grown over the years,” Keller said of the 3-mile fun walk that is non-competitive.
Keller said that they have added more activities for the children.
“We wanted to make it more of a total family event,” Keller said. “We want it to be a family event for everyone.”
The walk will also include breakfast and lunch, a Chinese auction, a fire truck on site to explore, games and a balloon release in memory of Emma that will take place around noon.
Keller said that the event averages around 100 people, and he hopes to see even more come out and enjoy the day as they raise money for the foundation.
“We see families who come who have experienced preeclampsia or other long-term illnesses,” Keller said. “It's always good to let them know that they have support and somewhere to come if they have questions.”
The walk is open to everyone and all are welcome to particpate.
“We hope is going to be a nice day,” Keller said. “We are praying for good weather and hoping for a great turnout.”
For details about the walk, visit the event website at emkmemorial.blogspot.com.
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.