Walk to Remember is a "celebration of life" walkathon held in honor of families who lost an infant during pregnancy or soon thereafter. Get tips on where to find participating groups and how to organize one of these walks for your own community.
What Is Walk to Remember?
Every year, usually during October, families who lost babies come together for Walk to Remember as a way of remembering their loved ones. Many choose this month because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time of national observance proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
- The proclamation states: "National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems."
Walk to Remember was first held in September 1986 in Chicago, Illinois, at the Fifth National Perinatal Bereavement Conference. The walk joins bereaved parents, families, health professionals, and friends across the country to raise awareness of perinatal grief and to ensure proper and sensitive care is given to parents following the death of a baby. Nationwide, tens of thousands participate in the walk, which is held on various weekends throughout September and October.
Walk to Remember: Participating Infant Loss Support Groups
Even if it's too late to participate in a walk this year, there's always time to plan for next year. The following infant loss support groups have ongoing information regarding Walk to Remember:
- SHARE - Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.: Each October, SHARE's national organization sponsors a one-mile run/walk event near St. Louis, Missouri. Individual chapters sponsor similar events throughout the United States. Reach out to a chapter near you to find local events.
- The Compassionate Friends: This support group holds its walk not in October, but during the summer. This organization's annual walk is held during the final day of the Compassionate Friends National Conference. Contact a chapter in your area to find out about their plans for the next walk.
- MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death): This Texas-based bereavement group holds its annual walk every October. The group also sponsors a balloon release during the event. When registration opens, details are published on the organization's website and Facebook page.
Organize Your Own Walk
If there is no organized walk planned for your community, then take the reins and plan one yourself. If you are a bereaved parent and belong to a local support group, encourage members to help. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when planning a local Walk to Remember event.
- Recruit volunteers to help plan, promote, and manage the event.
- Decide on a date and course and measure the distance; be sure not to interfere with local traffic.
- Create fliers and posters about the walk and distribute them throughout the community.
- Reach out to local bereavement groups, hospitals, etc., to notify them of the walk. Be sure to leave a contact name, phone number, and email address.
- Work with a local shirt screening shop to draw up a walk logo and t-shirts to be worn during the event.
- Contact local media (newspapers, radio, and television stations) about three to four weeks in advance requesting coverage for the walk; be persistent.
- Contact community bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants to request food and water donations for the walkers.
- Create a website or social media page with all the walk information; be sure to include the site on your fliers and posters.
- Set up social media profiles specific to the event. Post details and share posts. Encourage volunteers and participants to do so as well.
- Come up with ideas for memorials to be held before, during, and after the walk, such as a balloon or butterfly release, poetry readings, singing, or tree planting.
Raise Awareness About an Important Issue
Even if you've never heard of or don't take part in Walk to Remember, infant loss is a very real issue that impacts the lives of many people and society as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 24,000 babies are stillborn each year. Nearly the same number don't survive the first year of life. These numbers are staggering, but all too often, parents who lose an infant feel like they are suffering alone. Bringing attention to this important issue can raise public awareness of this heartbreaking topic and help grieving parents find the support they need to mourn their loss.