By CAROLINE MURRAY
After losing her newborn baby boy, Brenna Uline felt discouraged about the lack of local support groups provided to women suffering from a child's untimely death.
That was until she came across the Tears Foundation -- a national non-profit organization that provides emotional and financial support to families burdened by the unthinkable.
She found the help she needed.
Overwhelmed by the organization's available programs and generosity, Uline decided to open up a New York state chapter in 2011 for women enduring similar tragedies.
At last Thursday's Amsterdam Mohawks baseball game, Uline could be found at a booth raising awareness about the organization as New York's chapter leader.
"When you donate to certain organizations they are usually trying to cure something or prevent a death or a loss. We are coming in after a loss has already happened," Uline said.
She said the foundation provides financial assistance to parents for burials and cremations and bereavement support for families that have lost a baby between 20 weeks gestation period and one year of life.
Her chapter is based in Albany, but it covers the entire state. Other state chapters can be found in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Mich-igan, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Washington.
The foundation relies on donations and the chapters hold events to raise money for programming.
She said her chapter has provided financial aid to more than 20 families since starting in 2011, but she would like to help more.
"When there is a loss, it is a devastation. There [are] a lot of little local organizations, but I think it is hard for people to get out there and talk about something that is so sad."
Uline recognizes the subject of premature deaths is taboo in the United States.
While promoting her chapter at the baseball game Thursday, she noticed a similar pattern among the women who stopped by.
"A lot of people will take pamphlets and say 'It is nice what you are doing,'" Uline said. "I usually hear from them over e-mail later on because it is not something they want to talk about over time."
Uline said she especially notices this behavior in older women who may have lost a child 20 to 30 years ago, but have never opened up about it.
In this situation, Uline said the Tears Foundation offers "peer companions" for them to talk to. The companions are parents or family members who have lost a baby and have been through two years of the grief process.
Recently, Uline said the foundation partnered with the Cribs for Kids organization, which provides safe sleep products to parents of newborn children.
"It costs us a little bit of money, but it makes a big impact," she said.
Cribs for Kids covers the cost of providing Graco Pack 'n' Play cribs for families that cannot afford one, and Uline delivers the cribs to their houses.
She said the cribs are simple and portable.
The foundation is trying to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by offering safer sleeping arrangements to families in need.
Uline said she recently delivered a crib to a family in the city of Amsterdam, which was issued housing by the Schenectady County Department of Social Services Child Protective Services unit.
"The family could not move into the house until they had the Pack 'n' Play, that was required for them to get the housing," she said.
She hopes more families in Montgomery and Fulton counties utilize the chapter's services.
Uline said she started the chapter three years ago as a way to both honor and grieve over the loss of her baby boy.
She is grateful to have family and friends who she can lean on as well, but not all women have a support system.
That is where the Tears Foundation comes into play. She hopes more families turn to the organization for help and to take advantage of the free Pack 'n' Play cribs, which could potentially save a child's life.
"I love to get the program out there for people who really need it," she said. "Especially cribs for kids. I love that we can help with the funeral and cremation expenses, but I'd rather give out a crib to prevent the unnecessary loss."