Caring Cradle Gives Precious Time to Bereaved Parents

It has been said that the most valuable commodity in life is time itself. That theory has never been truer than when parents are faced with a stillbirth or sudden death of an infant. When the unthinkable happens, mental health studies have shown that it becomes imperative for parents to try and capture as much time with a child as possible. To preserve and help keep a child in its most natural state, there is a device called a caring cradle that is introduced. It is a bassinet which cools and lowers the body’s temperature. The cradle will help retain the baby’s appearance, color, condition, and dignity, thus giving parents and family members the necessary time to begin to process the loss. It allows grieving parents to have more time which gives them a chance to create memories and form a personal relationship with their child. Mankato nonprofit One Bright Star (OBS) has partnered with Mayo Clinic Health System (MCHS) by donating a mini caring cradle to its newly constructed labor and delivery floor at the Mankato hospital This smaller cradle will be in addition to a larger one already in place. OBS board members Dena Iverson and Nicole Van Sickle each suffered a stillbirth of their child, Cassie, and Max, five years ago. A caring cradle was not available for them in 2019 but considering their loss the two young families, in their child’s memory, each contributed to the purchase and donation of the first caring cradle for the hospital. Iverson described the new mini caring cradle as best suited for babies up to four pounds. “It’s small and doesn’t over-power the baby like the larger one would, it’s not scary looking which is especially important during such a traumatic time.” Iverson also explained that the cradle is not complicated to use which makes it easy for the nursing staff to set up and it requires no monitoring. “As the grieving process starts, we wanted to provide families with the opportunity to spend as much time with their child as possible,” executive director of OBS Erica Fischer said. “The caring cradle offers a unique way for parents to connect to and form a bond with their child on a timeline that’s of their own choosing and it will give them more of an opportunity to say hello to their baby before they have to say goodbye.” One Bright Star presented the caring cradle to Mayo Clinic Health System on May 20, 2024. Pictured (l-r): Dena Iverson, Becca Roberson, Erica Fischer, Rachel Wubben MCHS nurse manager, Amanda Bassett-Swanson MCHS social worker and Alicia More.

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Bereavement Bags and Cassie’s Cuddles: A labor of love

When Dena and Travis Iverson’s daughter, Cassie Jean, was stillborn on April 19, 2019, it sent the young couple into what Dena describes as an out-of-body experience. “Stillbirth is a strange journey because there are no memories with them here in our arms. It’s all dates and times leading up to the hello and goodbye,” Dena said. “I think that’s why I (we) hang onto the days leading up to…[the stillbirth] because it’s the only tangible moments we had.” The Iverson’s now have three children but Dena’s thoughts are never too far from the missing piece in their family and her ongoing journey of how to share Cassie’s loss with their children. “As your earthly children grow up, they’re going to know about their other sibling, and so it’s important to lay that foundation early on of how to deal with grief, because we all experience it.” In 2021 Dena joined the board of directors of One Bright Star, a Mankato nonprofit. Its mission is to be a resource to families that have lost a child to death. She not only wanted to share her and Cassie’s story but to also help other families on their grief journey after suffering child loss. She presented the OBS board with the idea of having bereavement bags at the hospital to give to families when the unimaginable happens. In 2023 that idea became a reality. The main focus of the bereavement bags is to not let anyone go home from the hospital empty-handed. “It is a very lonely and overwhelming feeling to leave the hospital without your child,” executive director of One Bright Star, Erica Fischer said. “We wanted to help parents and siblings create whatever memories they could while in the hospital and the bereavement bags help to begin and facilitate that grief journey.” The bags contain items such as a blanket, books, a lantern, candle, essential oils, and a stone to be used as a “pocket hug.” Things that will help to remember and honor a lost child and to help comfort the family in their time of profound loss both at the hospital and once they return home. Because the Iverson’s also have other children, it was important for Dena to include any siblings that may be in a family that suffers the death of a child. That’s why she came up with the idea of, “Cassie’s Cuddles.” These are stuffed animals that parents or siblings can take home from the hospital so they have something to hold onto and hug and to be included in the memory of their sibling who won’t be coming home. The Bereavement Bags were presented to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato in October of 2023. Accepting the bags were Amanda Bassett-Swanson, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker at the hospital. Photo #1: BEREAVEMENT BAGS were delivered to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Mankato in the fall of 2023. Presenting the bags were board members of One Bright Star (l-r), Alicia More, Dena Iverson and Erica Fischer. Accepting on behalf of MCHS was Amanda Bassett-Swanson, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Photo #2: CASSIE’S CUDDLES were part of the bereavement bag donations made to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Mankato. In memory of Dena and Travis Iverson’s daughter, Cassie, these stuffed animals are sent home to children to hold onto and hug after a family has suffered the death of a child. Pictured are Dena Iverson, left, and Amanda Bassett-Swanson, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker at MCHS.

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OBS partners with Faith’s Lodge to offer grants

The death of a child puts parents and families on a lifelong journey of grief and trying to come to terms with the loss. Whether it’s a miscarriage, stillbirth, illness, infant loss or other tragic or sudden death, the path that the bereaved are forced onto can be lonely and overwhelming. Several of One Bright Star’s board members have experienced the death of a child and have found solace, hope and healing at a place called Faith’s Lodge, located in the northwoods of Wisconsin. It’s a place that provides retreats to families which offers hope, connection and support to parents and families coping with the death of a child. It’s an environment that was created to be a safe haven for grieving families to reflect, explore and just be with others who are going through a similar experience. One Bright Star’s board of directors was presented with the idea of offering grants to families to be able to attend the retreats at Faith’s Lodge. It was researched, discussed and subsequently approved, to offer up to $500 in financial grants for couples to attend. This amount covers the cost to attend the four day and three-night stay retreat for one or both parents. Families are responsible for travel expenses to and from the venue located in Danbury, Wisconsin. “Our ongoing mission is to support grieving families and to offer resources to help them heal and cope along their journey,” Executive Director of One Bright Star, Erica Fischer said. “Offering financial grants to retreats at Faith’s Lodge is another extension of who we are and what we do.” Activities at the Faith’s Lodge retreats include: grief group discussions, one-on-one therapy, memorial remembrance activities, therapeutic arts and crafts, yoga, massage and nutrition programming and more. Guests have their own spacious suite with a private bathroom, fireplace, balcony/patio, reading area, desk and small refrigerator. Guests choose to do as much or as little connecting with others as they prefer while there. Meals and activities are included with each stay. To learn more about Faith’s Lodge go To fill out a grant application, please click the button below. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Erica Fischer, Executive Director of One Bright Star via email at: All grant applications are subject to One Bright Star Board of Directors approval. Grant Application

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20th Annual Fall Memorial Service

A Community Comes Together The heavenly tears that were shed in the form of rain the day prior, gave way to a pleasant, partly sunny day for the annual One Bright Star Children’s Memorial Service held on Sunday, September 24 at the OBS memorial site in Mankato. Friends and families gathered, coming together at a place they’d rather not be. A place in which they can walk a shared path with others who are on their own grief journey, mourning the loss of a child. One Bright Star Executive Director, Erica Fischer, welcomed the attendees to the ceremony. “Today is the day to say the names of our children, to honor and remember them, she said. “Today is the day of tradition.” Board President, Alicia More, talked about this being a club or group that no one wants to be a part of. “Yet we come together to support one another and to know that you are not alone, to remember and to share our children, whether we had them for two days, two years or twentytwo years, today we honor their memory.” The invocation prayer was led by Jillene Gallatin, senior pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca. She talked about the “power in community” when people come together to share and hear the stories of the beautiful lives that continue to live on in hearts and memories and stories. “When a person’s name is spoken, it’s like letting out a little love into this world,” she said. “We continue to recognize the importance of sharing stories. and healing in stories, of sharing love as you share your child’s name.” Keynote speaker for the event was Mel Hoffner. Her daughter, Mara, died on May 2, 2021 by suicide. Hoffner spoke about grief and hope. “It is with heavy hearts that we come together to honor the names of the children who left this world far too soon,” she said. “Grief is not a sign of weakness but a testament to the depth of our love, it is a process that unfolds at its own pace.” She spoke about the importance of the community of support that is here and the people who understand the depth of pain that she, and others are going through. Tom Karels, who lost his son, William, read the poem, “As We Remember Them.” The names of lost children were read by Kristine Schimek as Erica Fischer handed roses to the bereaved families. Founding mother of One Bright Star, Linda Janavaras, read the poem, “My Bright Shinning Star” which was written by the four founding mothers of OBS. Music was provided by the group, In a Bind featuring pianist, Becky Borneke and singers Melanie Morrow and Jenna Byron. A bird release into the skies offering the sign of hope and healing concluded the program. The 2024 Fall Children’s Memorial Service is being planned for Sunday, September 22.

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