The Baby Steps Memorial Run.
Published: August 30, 2017
By: Paige Townley
The loss of a child is the hardest experience a parent ever faces in life. For Cary and Abby Nicholas, it’s an experience known all too well. In 2008, they lost their twins, Braden and Brody. “It happened during my pregnancy,” says Abby. “I went into preterm labor at 22 weeks, and they were stillborn.”
Needing some emotional support during the grieving process, Abby came across The Amelia Center, a department of Children’s of Alabama that provides free professional counseling for children, parents and families after the loss of a loved one. “They were great for me during the healing process,” she says. “They offer all kinds of services and cater to so many people through incredibly difficult times. It’s an incredible place.”
Hoping to give back to The Amelia Center and to honor the babies they lost, Abby and Cary partnered with friends Justin and Loni Hodges, who lost their baby girl Maddox Elise, to host the Baby Steps Memorial Run. The first run was held in 2009, and it was a huge success, raising $20,000 for The Amelia Center. “That first year we really didn’t know what we were doing, but it was amazing how well it was received,” says Abby. “We had almost 400 people attend that very first run in 2009. I think that’s because the run is unique in that it’s a place families can go to remember someone they lost.”
With such incredible turnout, they decided to make it an annual event. The Annual Baby Steps Memorial Run is now in its ninth year and draws a crowd of around 500 on average. It’s held at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park and includes a 5K and one mile run, along with family-friendly activities for the kids such as face painting and bounce houses.
To honor lost loved ones, all registrants are given the opportunity to submit the name of someone they lost upon registration and those names are printed on the race shirt design, as well as “We Remember Them” signs placed around the event. The end of the run also features a balloon release in memory of everyone lost. “Some may think this is a sad event, but it’s really not,” Abby stresses. “Our goal is to have families and friends come out and celebrate the ones they lost and have a happy and enjoyable day doing that. And of course they are in an environment where they can talk to others who understand their loss.”
For Abby and Cary, the run every year is a positive way they can talk about the loss of their twins with their other children, five-year-old Bryant and two-month-old Barrett. “They were obviously born after their brothers so they never knew them,” Abby says, “but this run is a way that we can talk with them about it and keep the twins’ memory alive.”
In years past the run has been held during summer, but this year it has been moved to September 30. Race organizers are hoping to once again raise $20,000 – the amount they’ve raised each year for the past nine years – to donate directly to The Amelia Center, as well as once again provide a comfortable and loving atmosphere for friends and family to come together to honor ones they’ve lost.
“The Baby Steps Memorial Run allows us the opportunity to bring many families together and set aside a day to remember and honor our loved ones,” says Abby. “Although our children are no longer with us, the impact of their short lives has been exhibited throughout the race. We have built new relationships with many grieving families and are there to support each other when we need it the most.”
To register or for more information, go to www.babystepsal.org.