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Strides for Babies: SIDS awareness event to be held in Bemidji

The 2011 Strides for Babies organizers were applauded during the Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival Grand Parade Sunday. The Strides for Babies event will be held Saturday, July 9, and raises awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Pioneer Photo/Delaney Daly

Last year on June 26, the Joshua Horn Strides for Babies fundraiser made its first appearance, raising funds and awareness of the effects and prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The event was named in honor of Joshua David Horn, who, at 5 weeks, died of SIDS.

This year, Dana Horn, the mother of Joshua and event coordinator, has teamed up with other families to once again raise awareness of SIDS.

The Strides for Babies benefit will be held Saturday, July 9, at the Hampton Inn in Bemidji, with events beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Activities will include a 5K run/walk race, memorial walk, stones of remembrance ceremony, turtle races, clowns, treasure hunt for kids, live music and a live viewing of animals presented by the Headwater Science Center. The Bemidji Fire Department will have its Safety House available and videos on how to perform infant CPR will also be playing.

Registration is $15 for one adult and two children (under 12 years of age); $10 for individuals over 13 years of age; and $5 for additional children. The 5K run/walk starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Hampton Inn. The event costs $20 and includes a Strides for Babies t-shirt.

Lunch will be provided by the Green Mill restaurant.

After putting on the event last year, Horn learned that reaching out to other people gave her strength.

"It's the only way I can explain how I got this far," she said.

Horn said she wanted this year's fundraising event to be centered on more than her own experience with SIDS, which is why the "Joshua Horn" portion of the "Strides for Babies" name was dropped.

"This is now a part of something bigger than my world," Horn said.

"It is not a somber event," Horn said. "It is family- and children-oriented."

Although focused on SIDS, Strides for Babies will commemorate everyone who has suffered the loss of a child.

"Their life had purpose," Horn said. "We kept going for them."

While there is sure to be pain among the families who have undergone the death of a child, there will also be a sense of pride in the importance of each child's life.

"There is a saying that runs among us," Horn said. "It goes something like, 'When you talk to me about my baby, you are not reminding me that they are dead...I already know that. You are reminding me that they have lived.'"

Family tributes

Multiple families who have been affected by SIDS are helping run the event this year. Each family will be presenting unique themes to remember their child.

Butterfly ornaments will be displayed in honor of Bria Dykema, who was lost to SIDS when she was 5 months old, on June 26, 2009.

"The butterfly is very meaningful to our family," said Lisa Dykema, mother of Bria. Dykema tends a butterfly garden every year.

"I take care of her garden now that I can't take care of her," Dykema said.

Although born two months premature, "Kaitlyn was an amazing fighter," said mother Nikki Breeton. Two months after her birth, Kaitlyn died on December 24, 2006.

"SIDS took the life of our sweet angel," Breeton said, "She made a difference in every life she touched and I hope we can make a difference in her memory."

In memoriam of Kaitlyn, Breeton will be handing out angel pins at the Strides for Babies walk.

On May 31, 2010, Allen Safar and Brianna Anderson lost their daughter, Autumn, to SIDS.

Formerly known to them as their "love bug," Safar and Anderson will be handing out lady bug tattoos at the fundraiser.

"We never thought SIDS would be a part of our life but now that it is, we couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity to tell Autumn's story and to share the love she gave us with this awesome community," Anderson said.

Ray Gregory Labat had just passed the 4-month date when he was considered "safe" from SIDS when his life was taken by it on Jan. 11, 2011.

"SIDS took away the future I was promised with the birth of my son," said Ray's mother Erin Labat.

Because of his attachment to a "silly red blanket," the Labat family has released red balloons on the anniversaries of Ray's birth and death.

"SIDS can also never take away the love and memories I have of Ray," Labat said. "I hold them close. I think of him every day."

Almost 2 months old, Thomas James Johnson was taken by SIDS on June 12, 2003.

"He was very precious to all of us," said mother Kimmy Swenson.

In memory of Thomas, Swenson and her children will be making pinwheels at their booth at Strides for Babies for families to take home.

"My family and I hope that (people) see what a great cause this is and come join us on July 9," Swenson said.