Posted by Tamara O.
I have been lucky in my career to meet some incredible people who allowed me to tell their stories.
I spent the last moments of a brilliant life with a fellow writer, a real curmudgeon of the type you rarely see in newsrooms these days, watching him gasp for breath as he relived his days on the World War II battlefields. I wrote his story on deadline through tears because he was also my friend. I've sat at the kitchen table of a mom whose once beautiful face had became the face of kids' nightmares as she struggled to beat her cancer. Hers was never a story of 'poor me' but one of pride for a life well lived and love for others. Most recently, I've sat in the Chicago home of the Stantons and listened to their heart-breaking story, the death of their little boy, Danny. The family's story /magazines/chicago-parent/2010-april/features/little-boy's-big-smile-lives-on-in-foundation and their strength to go on while helping others avoid such a tragedy isn't one I'll ever forget.
Another Chicago mom and dad, Ted and Annette Stenstrom, know the heart break, too.
I sat with Annette in a park in Chicago's River North neighborhood last summer as she tearfully relived years of infertility treatments, the joy of finally being pregnant with a little girl to be named Moreland Grace, and the grueling days that followed her birth and death. /magazines/chicago-parent/2009-august/a-lifetime-in-16-days
Like the Stantons, the Stenstroms are driven to help other parents. The Stenstroms are focused on funding and providing keepsake memory boxes and resources to other parents who face the death of a child, to help those families get through the most difficult time of their lives. Their organization is called The Peapod Project, www.thepeapodproject.org.
At the same time, they continue their quest for a child. They tried getting pregnant again, they've tried adoption (Annette says she feels agencies won't even look at her because of her age, 51) and now they are considering surrogacy.
"It's not easy, but you have to live and you can't give up hope," Annette told me recently about all the road blocks the couple has encountered in the journey to become parents.
They continue to mourn their baby, nicknamed Gigi, and go on.
Annette is busy getting ready for The Peapod Project's fundraiser, the third annual 5K run/walk at Diversey Harbor Aug. 28. The run kicks off at 4 p.m.
Last year, 225 runners raised $12,000 to fund the memory boxes at Children's Memorial Hospital. This year, Annette is hoping to raise $15,000-$20,000, but the fundraiser is in jeopardy.
Annette reports The Peapod Project is $3,000 short for this year's race expenses since a corporate sponsor pulled out at the last minute. She says she and Ted have already put in $5,000 of their own money - even though they were saving to pay for a surrogate - to keep this effort alive.
Annette hasn't given up hope, hope that the race will go on, hope that she'll have a baby to call her own. I doubt she ever will.