PSA: Spend the Money. Buy the Owlet.

2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Over the past week, I have been asked multiple times about the Owlet Baby Monitors.

  • Are they worth it?
  • Should I spend the money?
  • I’m on the fence about this monitor, but…

What is unspoken is the BUT in each of these instances.

  • But, I don’t want to have to worry about my infant while they are sleeping.
  • But, I don’t want to have to continually check if they are breathing.
  • But, I don’t want to have additional anxiety overnight times or naps.
  • But, I don’t want to be you.

I don’t take offense to that last statement.

Believe me. I don’t want to be me either. Every morning I wake up and look at Toby’s face on my nightstand, instead of going in and getting him out of his bed. Every day I put shoes on one child, instead of two. Every day I drop one little boy off at daycare, instead of both of my boys. Every night we pick one set of books to read before bed, instead of having to compromise on two books for two little boys favorites. And, every night we say prayers and we have to tell Toby we love him without seeing him and “We hope you had a good day in Heaven.

No one wants to be this mom. This family. No one wants this life. No one.

Yes, the Owlet is expensive. But it could alert you and tell you if there’s something wrong with your infant.

Yes, $300 is a lot of money. Owlet offers payment plans if you cannot purchase in full. They have also worked to accept FSA’s through some provider’s health plans across the US. If you don’t know if yours will cover it – contact Owlet and ask. 1-844-334-5330.

From a family who has done the whole shower/registry list – if you are contemplating placing one of these monitors on your list of needed items – do it. Skip the swing or the bouncer. Family and friends are more likely to purchase one of the more expensive items because these are normally must-have items for a baby. The Owlet Smart Sock is a must-have.

The Owlet is able to tell you heart rate and oxygen levels; sleep trends; red notification reports to view and talk with your doctor about what led to the red notification, and all of this data can be instantly shared with your family or doctors. Every single day.

Yes, they say that the first three months of an infant’s life are the most vulnerable. The Owlet can be used up to 1 year old – imagine not having that anxiety for 12 months.

 

We have spent the last month talking to a number of daycares in the Pittsburgh area who have never used a device like the Owlet, but are open to the conversation and once they have learned what it can offer their families and staff that care for infants each day, they are receptive to having these in their programs. This is another step in offering families “peace of mind” when they have to leave their little ones each day and go to work.

The Little Fox – Toby’s Foundation will continue to push this conversation and the importance of using this monitor with your infant, starting right here in the Pittsburgh area. That is part of our mission – to promote Safe Sleep and to educate others about safe sleep practices and the tools available to families to try and prevent a SIDS death.

This is our mission because this is our life. Toby may have only been here 12 weeks and 5 days, but his life and his memory will make a difference to the lives of others. I know our son’s impact is far from over and as grieving parents, it is our job to keep his memory alive and help prevent our grieving parents’ circle from getting bigger.

If you have questions about the Owlet or any of the organizations across the US that are partnering with Owlet, like The Little Fox – Toby’s Foundation, please contact us. We would be happy to talk with you about the device and any open application calls that we know of to possibly receive an Owlet for your family for free.

thelittlefoxfoundation@gmail.com

 

If you need confirmation from someone else on the importance of this device, check out Jessica Alba’s interview with InStyle Magazine on Parenting Tips – skip to 1:36.

https://www.instyle.com/videos/jessica-alba-parenting-tips-breast-pumping

21 months & Lots of Prayers

2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Guys! It’s official – The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is incorporated & approved! 🦊

In just two weeks time all of our paperwork was reviewed and approved. We were told to not expect anything for 6-8 weeks. As soon as I started to read the letter last night I thought “This is all Toby’s doing. He’s opening doors again!”

He knows his momma and she can’t wait for anything, especially when there’s work to be done, families to help, and lives to save.

I laid down with Luke at bedtime last night and as we said prayers, thanking God for another step in this journey, and saying goodnight to Toby, this came through my thoughts…

“Get some rest momma. We have lots of work to do.”

By God’s hand and Toby’s guidance, we’re going to make a difference with The Little Fox. There are many hopes & dreams for this nonprofit and our plan is to take it one day at a time. There will be opportunities that are a perfect fit and others that will not work for us. We will do our best to make the right decisions and help as many families and children as possible.

Thank you to every single person that has helped us over the last 21 months. Without the support, comfort and encouragement of our family, friends, neighbors, community, local businesses, other grief families, other memorial foundations, doctors, Owlet, and every anonymous, kind hearted person that has found a way to touch our hearts and to help our family – THANK YOU!! We would not be here, if it weren’t for all of you.

Stayed tuned to see what we’ll be working on next. We’re currently matching donations for the Owlet Smart Socks in the Pittsburgh area to be donated over the next few weeks. Then, our focus will turn to August. With our Foundation Board established, we’ll be working together on an event for August where we hope to see many of you. We will also be doing our “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign, which will kick off August 1. We hope to see as many participants as last year and see the ways that Toby’s joy can travel around the world.

Please keep our family in your prayers as we approach Toby’s 2nd Birthday on May 27. This does not get any easier as the months go by. Our hearts remain broken, missing Toby beyond belief. We know the best way to honor our son is to help others and share the joy that he gave our family with those children and families. That is what we are doing and will continue to do.

God Bless,

The Sterns ❤️

#thelittlefox #joyfortobystern #SIDS #journeythroughgrief #august24 #ourangeltoby

2017 Stuff-a-Truck – Success!

2017, Creating Change, faith, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

It has taken us a few days to come down from the incredible high that we were on from each and every person that helped make our 2017 Stuff-a-Truck event a HUGH success!

The temperatures weren’t exactly on our side when we woke up on Sunday, but we piled on the layers and when Dave & Rachel pulled up in front of our house the adrenaline kicked in and that was all we needed. I remember walking around the side of the garage and seeing the truck – I got a lump in my throat and as I walked up the driveway I had tears in my eyes. There was a gigantic truck sitting there and the reality of what we were about to do was sinking in. This is BIG.

We started loading up everything that was in our garage – donations from our professional connections, North American Martyrs/St. Michael’s Parish, neighbors and friends. Standing there watching boxes and items go into the truck, my mom stood beside me. We looked at each other and she said “You may need another truck.” Again, another overwhelming moment and feeling of determination. You may have heard it in my voice in the video below – we were going to fill that truck. I had no doubt in my mind.

Truck

Don Farr Moving Truck Arrival

Volunteers arrived at Dad’s Pub & Grub at 11 and we got everything set up. We had nearly a dozen people that stayed the entire time to help. There were 8-10 people volunteering each hour and you’d never even know there was a “changing of the guard” because these amazing people had things moving like a well oiled machine.

Donation drop-off started at noon and by 12:40 – the truck looked like this:

1230

By 1 o’clock there was a line of cars out on Northern Pike waiting to pull in to donate. It was amazing to see!

traffic line

Around 2PM two things happened that brought the tears – (#1) Channel 11 showed up to video what was happening. They asked us about Toby’s story and Play it Forward and where all these donations were going. Talk about a proud parent moment. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and a van had pulled up and they were opening the back doors. (This is thing #2) Triangle Bar & Grill from Swissvale was delivering 10 (TEN) NEW BIKES! Volunteers helped them upload each bike and set them up to the side of the truck. I stood there looking at them – with no words. This was incredible and gracious.

triangle bar

Channel 11

Not only were there lines of people outside – Dad’s was packed inside, too with families that came to drop off and then when in for lunch. And everyone rocked their Steelers gear for the game that evening!

Our event was scheduled to run until 3PM and by 2:45 – our 26ft truck – was STUFFED!

It was incredible. By the time the volunteers place all the big items – train tables; large doll houses; picnic and water tables; a few pieces of furniture; and then put in all the bikes that were dropped off – there was just enough room to close the door.

Can you believe that? I stood there looking at the back of that truck as they were finishing and heard this little voice “We did it, Mommy. Just enough.”

How did that happen? It happened through the hope of a grieving family. It happened because Toby’s JOY is meant to be a part of many lives.

Full Truck

We even got to have a little bit of fun during the day and enjoy our time with everyone that came out. Although, Luke was a little chilly.

Lucas

 

A few shout-outs to some key players that helped us bring this event together –

  1. Dad’s Pub & Grub – Northern Pike in Monroeville. If you haven’t been there, get in to see Dan and his team over the holidays. The food is amazing and they have great beer, too. We couldn’t have done this without the prime location and there amazing support and encouragement from the very beginning.
  2. Don Farr Moving – Dan, Rachel, Frank and the rest of the team from Don Farr that provided the truck; the packing supplies; and the labor to fill the truck to the brim. Then, on Monday, they delivered the truckload of donations to the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh to kick-off Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Toy Donations.
  3. Simmons Farm – a part of our extended family, Simmons Farm served as a “pop-up” location for donations the week leading up to our Stuff-a-Truck event. Their efforts from donors in the South Hills area loaded another truck to deliver to Play it Forward.
  4. Every Volunteer – there are WAY too many to name, but please know we are thankful for every minute and every way you were able to support us during the past month. We could not have done this without your support.
  5. Grandma, Pup, Nana & PapPap – First, thank you for watching Luke so he didn’t have to brave the cold temperature. Second, thank you, and our immediate family members, for continually supporting whatever crazy idea we dream up, especially the ones that support keeping Toby’s memory alive and helping our dream of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation come to reality.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, Play it Forward Pittsburgh – Heather & Amy – Thank you for allowing our family to contribute to this beautiful and amazing cause that you have created here in Pittsburgh.  It has been an honor to support Play it Forward, in memory of Toby, and see the amount of people who want to get behind it in the future. You both have created something amazing – we are glad to be able to be a part of it.

Dan & I were able to volunteer on Play it Foward’s Shop Day – Saturday, December 16 at the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh. Leading up to that day, Shady Side Academy’s 3rd Grade class took a field trip and helped sort toys. Then, the following day, my company, A. Martini & Co., volunteered in the afternoon. We are lucky to have the support of our colleagues on this journey.

third grade

AMC Volunteering

Here are some photos of the set-up on Friday, prior to the doors opening on Saturday morning. There were people lined up outside on Friday night at 8PM to shop Saturday morning – it was incredible.

PIF Convention Center 2PIF Convention CenterPIF Volunteersshop day

Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day started at 8AM and by 3PM the tables were completely empty. (See below)

before after 2017

Also, Play it Forward was able to offer some statistics on the 2017 drive – please take a look, these are incredible:

infographic_2017 PIF

 

Thank you – Thank you – Thank you! To every single person that contributed to this cause. Whether it was through our Stuff-a-Truck event or another donation location. Your time & toys helped give toys to 4,500 children! What an incredible way to GIVE this Christmas.

We are grateful for the opportunities that have come our way in 2017 that have allowed us to continue telling Toby’s story and spreading his JOY, not just across Pittsburgh, but across the nation. They have given us strength to continue. We truly believe that his story is far from over. It is up to us, as his parents, to carry his legacy.

We stand at the door of another year – without Toby in our arms. But their are pieces of my son everywhere I look. I hear them; I see them; I feel them. Thank you for helping us make it through 2017 with joy in our hearts.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and JOY for 2018!

Love,

Dan, Katie, Lucas & Toby

toby 2

Simmons Farm Hosts Toy Donation Pop-Up Locations

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

To our South Hills Family & Friends:

Simmons Farm will be hosting a “pop up” donation drop to benefit Play it Forwards 2017 Toy Drive at both their Market & Rt. 19 locations.

Toy donations will be accepted December 4-10, from 9am-5pm.

See the full post below and a huge “Thank You” to our Simmons Farm Family for helping to support Play it Forward Pittsburgh, in Toby’s memory. ❤️

 

 

Simmons Farm Toy Drop Location

In Memory of our nephew Toby Stern, who passed away last August at 12 weeks old:

Are you looking to donate your gently used toys that your children may have outgrown or are looking to purge before Santa arrives in a few weeks? From Monday, December 4-Sunday, December 10 Simmons Farm will be a “pop-up” location to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh. Our Rt. 19 and Farm locations will take donations from 9-5pm.

For more information on items that can be donated or materials requested to help with Play it Forward’s Toy Drive, visit: http://www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com/donate–help.html

Our collection will support the efforts of The Little Fox|Toby’s Foundation, who is spear-heading a ‘Stuff-a-Truck’ event in Monroeville on December 10, in memory of Toby.

We are happy to offer a South Hills drop location to families who can’t travel to Monroeville for the donation event, but would like to support local Pittsburgh children in need this holiday season.

Stuff-a-Truck for Play it Forward Pittsburgh

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Our partnerships with the Monroeville Community continue to grow and we couldn’t be more proud of this next opportunity – and it’s a big one!

The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is happy to announce that on Sunday, December 10 we are partnering with Dad’s Pub and Grub in Monroeville to host a Stuff-a-Truck event to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh!

Stuff A Truck_Event Flyer_social media

It is our way of spreading Toby’s Joy again this holiday season as we join forces with Play it Forward Pittsburgh and the Monroeville Community, for the second year in a row.

We are looking to collect your gently used toys that your family is looking to re-home prior to Santa arriving or family gift exchanges through the holiday season. If you are looking to purge some toys and children’s items, please collect them and help us Stuff-a-Truck for children in the Pittsburgh community. Donate your toys to be given to a family in need this holiday season!

Play it Forward will accept items for children, ages 0-16. Items requested include:

toys – books – games

electronics – sporting equipment – bikes – movies (dvd only)

Also needed: gallon ziploc bags – white kitchen size garbage bags – packing tape – boxes

Please remember to organize and bag your toys together so they are ready to go and the pieces don’t get separated. Please do not wrap toys.

 

Below is an event flyer, which you can download for inviting others to join in the collection.

Stuff A Truck_Event Flyer

Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day is Saturday, December 16 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 8am – 3pm. Families are welcome to choose 3 toys and 3 books, per child, for free.

Currently there are no drop off/collection locations for the 2017 event to the West of Pittsburgh. This is another reason we are holding this event. We are hoping to gather all the toys in one collection day from the Monroeville/Murrysville area, but we need your help!

Please share our posts and flyer with as many as possible. Church groups, daycare facilities, Mom/Dad groups, Pediatrician offices, local businesses and community groups are all excellent places to share this event to get the word out to our community.

For more information on Play it Forward Pittsburgh, visit: www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com

Any questions regarding this event, please contact The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation via email: thelittlefoxfoundation@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday, December 10 at Dad’s Pub & Grub in Monroeville.

 

Stern Family’s Donation Fills Children’s Section Book ‘Wish List’ at Monroeville Library in Memory of Infant Son Toby

2017, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

On Saturday, Nov. 4th we visited the Monroeville Library and met with Nicole Henline, Director. Following our book drive in August during Toby’s Random Act of Kindness Campaign, 24 children’s books were purchased, by friends and family, to be donated to our local library.

It was a bittersweet moment to make this delivery. We were able to meet with Adrienne & Hope, who oversee the Children’s Section and Programming. They were excited to see all the titles and new books that we were helping them put into circulation.

Each of the 24 titles will have a name plate inside the front cover that will have a dedication message for Toby.

DSCN5222

Currently the new titles are being processed and the name plates being placed onto each book. Once those items are complete, the books will then be in circulation and be considered “new books.” This should be around the beginning of December.

Hope offered to display all of these in the Children’s Center for the month of December, along with a flyer with Toby’s story and the making of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation.

This was above and beyond what we had imagined happening with these, but we were grateful for the opportunity and thankful for the Monroeville Library’s generosity in offering a platform for the community, especially families within the area, to see Toby and know where these beautiful books have come from.

From the beginning, our goal with this large children’s book donation was to give back to the community and give joy to the children and families that read them, for years to come. We have no doubt, after our visit on Saturday, that these 24 titles will do just that.

Nicole also offered that Luke could come to the library when they got their next shipment of picture books in and select one book that would be donated in Toby’s name from him. This was a wonderful way to include Luke and to let him have a special contribution to this donation. We look forward to that over the next few months.

Book Donation in Toby's Memory

Thank you to Nicole, Adrienne and Hope and the rest of the staff at the Monroeville Library for agreeing to help our family make another connection and partnership within the Monroeville Community. We know that Toby would have enjoyed the library, picking out books, and all the fun things you have to offer to children, just like Luke does. Even more, we now know that pieces of our son’s memory will find their way into the fun times of children, families, play groups, and classrooms across the community. We couldn’t ask for more as a piece of Toby’s legacy. We are forever thankful.

To our friends and family that so graciously helped us fill the Children’s Section “Wish List” – thank you! In less than 48 hours each book from the library’s list was purchased and when they arrived we were touched by the messages for Toby and the love that was sent with each one. We hope that you will get a chance to visit the library, even during the month of December when these particular books will be on display, to see Toby’s books and see the joy that is within the Children’s area.

book donation

 

Dr. Seuss Book Quote