Peacock Strides for Babies – Learning to Live without Emily
By Matthew and Jodi Ware
On a crisp March morning in 2010, we watched as runners, walkers, and entire families gathered for the First Annual Peacock Strides for Babies. The 1-mile fun run and 5k race raised money for SIDS research in memory of our daughter, Emily. We never imagined we would be here – the organizers of a fundraising race in memory of our own daughter.
In December 2008, we welcomed our second child and daughter, Emily, to our family. With a head full of red hair and an infectious smile, Emily instantly stole everyone’s hearts.
As Emily grew, our oldest, Natalie, showed her everything. She especially loved it when Emily learned to roll toward her, and the girls made it a game. Emily’s bright red hair was always sticking up, earning her the nickname “Emily Peacock.”
On June 20, 2009, this was all shattered. A week shy of turning six months old, we put Emily down for her afternoon nap, and she never woke up. Matthew went to check on her 45 minutes into her nap and noticed she wasn’t breathing. We started CPR, called 911, and she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. A short time later, we received the news that broke our hearts: our sweet Emily was dead. We buried Emily on June 24, 2009 in the cemetery at the church she had been christened in only a month before.
After an investigation, a complete autopsy, extensive pathology, and eight long weeks later, we learned what we already knew in our hearts: Emily was perfectly healthy when she died. They could find nothing wrong. She was one of the nearly 3,000 babies that die every year in the U.S. alone from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Frustrating for us, Emily’s only risk factor was that she was old enough to roll herself over on her stomach. Her sleep environment was perfectly safe. She had a fan in her room, took a pacifier, and was not overheated; yet, she was still gone.
There are no words that can describe the pain of losing a child, or of having to tell your three year old that her sister is never coming home. There are no words for the emptiness and loss of innocence that you feel when you realize you will not watch your child grow up. There will always be unanswered questions -What would she look like today? Would her laugh still sound the same? Who would she be?
As we learned more about SIDS, we realized we had to do something to help find the reason behind this mysterious killer. In an effort to help, we teamed with CJ First Candle and the city of Mauldin, SC to host Peacock Strides for Babies, in memory of Emily and to raise money for SIDS research.
The first race had over 500 people in attendance and raised over $45,000. The 8th annual Peacock Strides was held this past March. In total, the event has raised over $275,000 in eight years. The overwhelming response and support from our friends and community reminds us that people care, even though we are often too busy to show it. We will never be able to adequately express our gratitude to everyone.
Putting together the race helps us feel like we were still doing something for Emily. We could no longer change her diaper or feed her, but we were still working hard to make sure that other babies didn’t die from this mysterious killer.
We offer a special thank you to the Ware Family for sharing their story. To learn more about CJ First Candle’s Legacy Program, click here.