Jackie Kauffman remembers waking about 3 that morning.

As she passed her baby daughter's bassinet, Kauffman stopped to check on 7-week-old Ava Elizabeth.

Kauffman discovered Ava wasn't breathing.

That night, in her sleep, Ava died of sudden infant death syndrome, a leading cause of death for babies younger than 1 year old.

On Nov. 14, it will be two years since Ava's death.

Kauffman will be the guest speaker at the local Footprints on My Heart's 14th Day of Remembrance ceremony, an event that honors children lost during pregnancy and infancy.

She will share her personal journey of loss and recovery.

"Grief is so personal," Kauffman said. "And people are so different."

In Ava's honor, Kauffman attended Footprints on My Heart last year for the first time.

During the ceremony, each baby's name is read aloud and a bell chimes.

"There is something so meaningful and important about hearing your child's name spoken," Kauffman said.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October would be National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. At 2 p.m. Sunday at the Owensboro Memorial Gardens chapel, 5050 Kentucky 144, the public is invited to this year's Footprints on My Heart ceremony.

Anyone who would like a child's name to be read at the local event, which is sponsored by Glenn Family Services, may call Laura Casey at 270-903-3080. Those who call before 5 p.m. Friday will ensure their baby's name will appear in the program guide.

Parents who can't make that deadline can give their child's name to Casey until the Sunday event starts, and the name will be read. The memorial event includes poetry, songs, Kauffman's presentation and more.

As of Monday morning, more than 300 babies names had been received, Casey said.

After the ceremony — if weather permits — those in attendance can join a walk past gravesites where babies are buried and the Christmas Box Angel of Hope statue, which was placed at the cemetery in November 2018 to recognize those who have lost an infant.

Casey lost two children during pregnancy. She later founded Owensboro's Footprints on My Heart, a support group for people who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

"Having the support of a community of people who have gone through something similar really helps," Casey said. "... When I went through it, I felt so alone. I wasn't alone, but I felt alone."

It is estimated as many as one in four women will experience a miscarriage during their lives, and one in 100 pregnancies end with a stillbirth.

"So many people go through this, and they think they are alone," Casey said. "They are not alone."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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