Franciscan St. Francis Health media relations manager
More than 1,000 adults and children, many holding balloons, gathered in Sarah T. Bolton Park in Beech Grove on Oct. 11 for the annual Walk to Remember to recall those lost to stillbirth, miscarriage and newborn death.
For 29 years the Walk to Remember has been a part of many central Indiana families’ way of honoring these special sons and daughters during Infant Loss Awareness Month. Between songs and prayers, the names of the lost infants were read.
Balloons – many of them carrying the babies’ names and personal messages – have been a symbol of loss and hope as families release them into the air at the end of the ceremony.
With numerous others on that chilly morning, LaDonna Stofer released a balloon with the name of Trinity, a granddaughter who died five years ago, written in black marker. The pink balloon rose above the trees and disappeared from sight.
The next day Rob and Patti Oldford found a pink balloon among the rocks and tall grass in front of their house. The balloon had the walk’s logo and Trinity’s name on it. Touched and curious about the story behind the balloon, the Oldfords went online and found information about the walk that took place 2,000 miles away from their island home in Bonavista Bay off the eastern Newfoundland coast.
Not only did the balloon travel the distance in about 24 hours, it landed about 30 miles from another bay with an unlikely name: Trinity.
The couple sent photos of their home and the balloon to Franciscan St. Francis Health and posted them on Facebook.
“We are intrigued by your story and what you do for all the families that have shared this type of loss,” Mrs. Oldford wrote in an email to the hospital. “I would like to release a balloon in honor of your organization, every year on the date of your walk, just to recognize these families.”
When Heather Stofer, Trinity’s mother, heard that their family’s balloon had been found, her emotions ranged from disbelief to awe. “I just got chills,” she said. “Usually, we tie all of our balloons together, but for some reason this year my mom released hers separately.”
This was the fifth year that she and her family, including Trinity’s great-grandparents and surviving twin sister, attended the walk. “It’s a time for us to honor her and remember her so that she’s ‘not out of sight, out of mind,’ ” Stofer said.
“This is just an incredible thing,” said Joni Cutshaw,” St. Francis bereavement coordinator. “We’ve heard of other balloons being found, but not one from this distance! We’re so touched by the Oldfords’ heart and desire for the launching family to know where their message landed.”