As people, we are often driven and inspired by the events and incidents that happen to us. A fire is ignited, and we are pushed to share our experiences and help others who may be experiencing the same thing. This was precisely the case for Megan Knebel of Highland and her husband.
“On July 20, 2010, my husband Chad and I experienced a life-changing event when we had a stillbirth with our daughter, Justice Rose,” said Knebel. “We lost her at 32 weeks, and while the hospital in Georgia was amazing, the topic of stillbirth or early infant death was very taboo.”
It was because of her own experiences that Knebel made it her mission to help families that experience such loss through her non-profit organization, Justice’s Rose, which is a chapter of Project Sweet Pea. Through Justice’s Rose, families receive memory boxes to help them cope during a very hard time.
Through their grief, the Knebels began to search for information to help them cope with their loss. They eventually came upon the website, facesofloss.com, where women could share their stories without feeling alone. They also found various companies that provided memory items.
This was when her mission began.
“My husband and I felt very drawn to provide assistance to other families who were experiencing a similar loss,” said Knebel. “At first, I became a leader of a friendship group through the facesofloss.com website, where I spoke with women who wanted to know that they were not alone in their emotions and the trauma they were experiencing. While this was a start, I certainly wanted to provide more.”
It was then that the Knebels stumbled upon Project Sweet Peas, a non-profit organization powered by volunteers, many of whom have experienced infant loss. The volunteers provide support to families of premature or sick infants and to those who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss. There are chapters of Project Sweet Peas all over the United States. The organization had been accepting applications for new chapters, and when Knebel discovered this, she stepped up to the plate.
“Wanting to do more, and dreaming of being a part of a non-profit organization of this nature, I immediately applied and was approved,” Knebel said. “This is when Justice’s Rose-Project Sweat Pea became a reality.”
“Precious and worth remembering”
Currently, Justice’s Rose services two hospitals, the Houston Clinic in Warner Robins, Ga., and Anderson Hospital in Maryville, with plans to partner with two more local hospitals in the near future. They deliver memory boxes to all families who experience the tragedy of infant loss or stillbirth.
“It’s something for them to take home after the loss of their child and is filled with information, resources, and memorial items to help them remember their precious angel and help them learn to cope with this difficult loss,” Knebel explained.
The boxes typically include books, memory journals, angel charms, pregnancy and infant loss awareness jewelry, an ornament, and candles to light on Oct. 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Justice’s Rose also includes envelopes to save a wisp of hair, footprint molds, poems, and other resources that might help the families cope.
Knebel states that she often sees hope in the families that receive one of the Justice’s Rose memory boxes.
“These boxes let them know that they are not alone and that the little time they had with their child is precious and worth remembering,” Knebel said. “If these boxes even provide an ounce of comfort in these families’ time of loss, we have made a positive impact.”
Expanding their reach
The Knebels have received a great deal of support from the community.
“I would say that the support we have received thus far, when individuals and families learn about us, has been amazing,” Knebel said. “As a military family, we have only been in Illinois for a short time. However, I feel as though we have been able to touch so many families, since we do currently service two states.”
The Knebels are hopeful about the future of their chapter of Project Sweet Peas.
“We will continue to try to reach out and touch as many lives as we can. Our goal is to be able to add two more hospitals by the end of the year, and with continued support and donations, we will be able to reach that goal,” Megan Knebel said.
More information on Project Sweet Peas and Justice’s Rose, can be found at projectweetpeas.com and on their Facebook page at facebook.com/justicesrose.