Heartbroken mom and dad Theresa and Mathew Morrison couldn't help thinking about what might have been while holding their stillborn daughter Bridget for a short amount of time before saying goodbye.
They were still at the hospital figuring out why Bridget’s induced labour couldn’t be postponed when the flame of philanthropy sparked.
“We told the hospital’s manager that we wanted to fund-raise for pregnancy and infant loss in some capacity, but didn’t know where to begin,” Mathew tells BarrieToday.
In the early days after losing Bridget, family and friends supplied the couple with items that they thought would be useful to navigate their grief. At that point, Theresa and Mathew felt like they had to share some of the most useful items with those going through the same experience.
But the funding part was still missing.
With the help of Theresa’s friends, they bought the first batch of kits and that was the beginning of Bridget’s Bunnies, which is an organization that provides comfort kits to families experiencing pregnancy or infant loss.
“We reached out to the manager of the hospital’s birthing unit again and she was very excited about the prospect of accepting the first three kits," Mathew says.
The initiative proved to be a success and more kits were requested, which led Theresa and Mathew to organize the first Bridget’s Run to ramp up the production of the comfort kits.
Mathew acknowledges they can’t change the reality of a family loss, but they can try to help those families in that early days with things that once worked for them.
“Knowing that we provide others with some gentle guidance and support is the ultimate gratification for us," he says.
From his own experience, coping with milestones and special occasions is the most difficult. These include learning to sit, the first teeth, the first steps, the first day of school, the first bike ride and everything else that is still to come.
“It always brings the thought of would Bridget have done that, or what would Bridget do in this scenario," he adds.
Mathew is intrigued by people who don’t understand why they are not in the mood or are upset at gatherings.
“It’s almost as if they forgot that Bridget existed or want us to go on as if nothing is wrong," he says.
One of the biggest moments in Theresa and Mathew’s journey as helpers was the first Bridget’s Run. With only two months of planning, the campaign had more than 300 participants and raised approximately $25,000, which was split between the Bridget’s Bunnies and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).
Mathew says he never had so many people cheering for him as when Bridget’s Bunnies was announced at its inaugural run at Centennial Park in 2018.
Another memorable experience for the local couple was presenting to Gals That Give and winning their donation while up against two other deserving charities.
“It’s these moments when community members give you the feedback that you are providing a service that was in desperate need for so long," he says.
As the co-founder and chair of Bridget’s Bunnies, Mathew routinely spread the word about Bridget and the work provided by the organization. Every year, from May to October, his main focus is on getting ready for Bridget’s Run, which is the largest fundraiser for Bridget’s Bunnies.
Theresa and Mathew sit on multiple health-care steering committees and working groups in Simcoe-Muskoka, with the goal of standardizing care throughout the region. They are also patient family advisory committee members at RVH for the maternal newborn program, and work with various community partners, such as Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin and Hospice Simcoe.
“Our goal is always to spread awareness of pregnancy and infant loss, as well as ensuring we stay true to our vision of ensuring no one endures the loss of a pregnancy or infant alone," Mathew says.
Bridget’s Bunnies has evolved since those first three kits were given to RVH to become a regular comfort kit supplier throughout the year. While continuing to supply RVH, the organization now provides kits in Barrie, Alliston, Midland, Parry Sound, Huntsville, and other locations in Ontario.