For Duluth woman, SIDS fundraiser is personalWhen Dana and Cory Zakowitz of Duluth lost their nearly-5-month-old daughter, Lila, to sudden infant death syndrome in February 2011, the couple attempted to find a support group to connect with other parents in the same situation.
When Dana and Cory Zakowitz of Duluth lost their nearly-5-month-old daughter, Lila, to sudden infant death syndrome in February 2011, the couple attempted to find a support group to connect with other parents in the same situation.
Unable to locate any such group in the Twin Ports, Dana established the Northland SIDS Foundation and almost immediately started planning events to raise awareness and funds for research.
“We found that other couples had gone through the same thing, but there was no support group,” she said. “There were support groups out there for people who had lost children, but nothing specifically for SIDS or babies.”
Zakowitz, with the help of family and friends, soon began organizing the first annual Walk to End SIDS event in Duluth. The fundraiser was held just two months after her daughter’s death.
Zakowitz is now preparing for the third year of the event and said she hopes it will be the biggest yet. The walk is scheduled to be held Saturday, April 27, at the Mariner Mall in Superior. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk is from 10 a.m. to noon.
The walk has raised about $4,000 during the first two years and the goal is to raise around $2,000 again this year, Zakowitz said. Proceeds go to the Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading SIDS research organization.
But the event is about more than just the money, she said. Another top priority is to raise awareness of SIDS, which researchers are still struggling to understand.
“When we first lost our daughter, it surprised us. A lot of people knew about SIDS, but didn’t really know what it was, which makes it really hard to talk about,” Zakowitz said. “A lot of people think it’s due to bad parenting, or this or that. But no, that’s not what it is. People want to associate it with something or blame someone.”
Zakowitz said the Northland SIDS Foundation has helped her and her husband connect with other parents who lost children to SIDS and allows them to support one another.
“We’ve touched base with a lot of families,” she said. ”And it’s not just parents who recently lost children, but also a lot of parents, too, who lost a child 10 or 15 years ago and they’re still dealing with it.”
SIDS can have a lasting effect on parents, according to Gina Dixon, program manager for grief services at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s.
“Parents, as well as siblings and other family members, are significantly affected by the death of a child due to SIDS,” she said. “The sudden, traumatic death of a child is perhaps the most stressful life event possible.”
Parents sometimes struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and can have flashbacks to the tragedy, she said, making support crucial for those affected.
“Families need to know that support is available and they don’t need to face their grief journey alone,” Dixon said.
The cause of SIDS, commonly known as crib death, is not clear, although researchers have identified some risk factors associated with the syndrome. Doctors have long advised parents to place infants on their backs to sleep and to avoid overheating the child with blankets as a preventive measure.
More recently, researchers have identified serotonin deficiency as a possible cause of SIDS. Serotonin, a hormone found primarily in the brain and the digestive tract, helps regulate breathing, heart rate and sleep.
SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants under the age of 1, with most occurring by the age of 6 months, according to the Center for Disease Control. Although SIDS deaths have decreased about 50 percent over the past two decades, studies show that about 2,000 to 3,000 infants still die from the syndrome every year.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Third annual Walk to End SIDS
WHEN: Saturday, April 27. Registration begins at 9 a.m., walk begins at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Mariner Mall, Superior
WHY: To raise awareness and funds for sudden infant death syndrome research
HOW: Pre-register at www.thenorthlandsidsfoundation.com or on-site prior to the walk
COST: Suggested donation of $5 or more