benefiting The Amelia Center at Children's of Alabama
(L to R): Abby and Cary Nicholas, Loni and Justin Hodge
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain..." Revelations 21:4
Justin and Loni Hodge were married in 2007 and began to start a family just a year later. We were thrilled when we found out we were expecting our first child who was due on May 6, 2009. However, the pregnancy didn't go as planned, at 20 weeks we were told that our daughter, Maddox Elise, had a fatal syndrome called Triploidy. Maddie wasn't expected to make it to term due to the rarity of her diagnosis. I (Loni) was blessed to carry Maddox Elise for 8 more weeks until she was born still on February 19, 2009. A few weeks after Maddox Elise's death Loni was introduced to The Amelia Center and began going there for free grief counseling. With God's grace, love and peace and with the support from our families, friends and The Amelia Center we have been able to turn Maddox Elise's death into an opportunity to help others in similar situations.
God has since blessed us with two wonderful miracles. James Hudson Hodge was born on September 21, 2010 and Colton Davis Hodge was born on June 5, 2014. We don't always understand God's plans for our lives, but His word promises that He will never leave us and He will carry us through the storms of life. Even though we miss Maddie always, it is by God's promises that we live each day knowing that we will be reunited with Maddox Elise, as a family, one glorious day in heaven.
We had big plans for being parents to Braden and Brody, but the end plan was not the one we had dreamed of. God chose a different path for us which I have learned over the years that is the perfect path for our family. God has opened many doors for me to share my story and use it to help others. As a way to honor our boys, I have become involved in many organizations within our community to support child loss and NICU care. The Amelia Center has connected me with many mother's who are new to the grief journey and I have been a mentor to many of them through a time when they feel like there is no hope. By sharing my experience with them it allows them to know and understand the emotions they face day by day and to let them know they are not alone.
The Nicholas' welcomed their third son, Bryant on Mother's Day 2012. They hold Bryant in their arms, and Braden and Brody in their hearts!
We (Cary and Abby) were high school sweethearts who married in 1998. About a year into our marriage we decided we wanted to start a family. Weeks, month and years went by without a pregnancy. After years of trying to get pregnant on our own and with minor assistance from my doctor we decided to seek the help of a fertility specialist. Test after test revealed no answers as to why we were unable to conceive. The only change we had was to proceed with an IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle. After feeling like a human pin cushion, the pain and emotional roller coaster was worth it. We were pregnant!!! Several ultrasounds later revealed that we were having identical twins. We knew that multiples were a possibility but never imagined it would happen to us. We were shocked, ecstatic, scared and extremely thankful to the Lord. We were finally going to be parents and not just the Aunt and Uncle!!! Each visit to the fertility clinic (which were MANY) we gained more hopes and dreams for these precious gifts from God. We were released to my OB and the pregnancy continued to be right on target. Baby A and Baby B were growing perfectly for twins. A few weeks after we found out we were having twins our hopes and dreams were shattered. I went into preterm labor at 22 weeks gestation. Braden Lee and Brody Lee were stillborn on April 12, 2008 weighing just under a pound each. Today, I am thankful to the Lord that our family had the opportunity to hold both of our babies. At the time, it was horrific but I couldn't imagine going back and not holding our doll like babies. From the tips of their nose to their teeny tiny toes they were perfect!
As two grieving families, we were on a mission to find purpose for our children's lives! We received services from The Amelia Center after our loss and saw the importance of the help they provide through many tough days, weeks, months, minutes... We were determined to assist in the healing process for families who have also suffered the loss of a child. We wanted to bring awareness about The Amelia Center to the community and to raise funds to help support this center that plays such a vital role in the lives of many grieving families. All contributions from our event allow The Amelia Center to continue to offer services and support to grieving families throughout the community. 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. This is a day of celebration and a day for families to know they are not alone on their grief journey. Although our children are no longer with us, the impact of their short lives are exhibited throughout the race. We have built new relationships with many grieving families and are there to support each other when we need it most. Together we are taking BABY STEPS to mend broken hearts!
In 2016 we began to form the Baby Steps Memorial Race Committee. As you can imagine, organizing an event this size takes a lot of time and planning. With the growth of the run and our families, we decided it would be beneficial to share the opportunity of healing with other individuals as well as those who wanted to support the center and our families! We are excited to announce we have an outstanding group of individuals planning the 2017 race! We look forward to another great year and hope that the event continues to grow and reach more families who need the support! The 2017/2018 Race Committee includes: Abby and Cary Nicholas (Committee Chairman/Sponsorships), George and Jerrie Elliott (Amelia's parents/Sponsorships), Heather Green (Memorial Pieces), Jamie Parker (Race Registration), Melissa Drake (Refreshments), Merryl Cooper (Volunteers and Entertainment), Niki Muncher (Overall Support), Tracey Heinfeld (Overall Support), Wendy Malone (Registration).