Choosing Hope is a walk of honour and remembrance in support of families who have experienced infant loss. Now in its eighth year, the walk is happening in Long Jetty on Sunday 15th October – the international day of pregnancy and infant loss remembrance.
Trish Thomas is the founder and volunteer event coordinator of the Central Coast’s Choosing Hope walk. Playing in Puddles’ editor Katie Stokes spoke with Trish about this heartfelt event, how it came about and where bereaved families can get help.
PIP: How did this special event start?
Trish Thomas: “I personally created this event eight years ago after the loss of my infant son at John Hunter after he died from injuries after a car accident I was in. I was heartbroken and sad, but even though I felt alone and unable to relate to others, I was also deeply moved to know I was by no means a minority. One in 4 pregnant women will have a miscarriage and 8 babies are stillborn each day in Australia. These statistics show that infant loss is a very widely felt and known experience, but continues to remain not so talked about. And this often means that the bereaved may not be very supported.
I wanted to create a space where we could come together with other bereaved families and feel seen, our experience acknowledged and the loss of our baby honoured…. Choosing Hope is a space to support these bereaved families and to honour the lives of the children they never got to know. [Being a walk], taking the steps our baby never got to take may also be a step forward in the healing journey too.”
PIP: Tell us about the event?
Trish Thomas: “Choosing Hope will happen on Sunday 15th October, which is also the international day of pregnancy and infant loss remembrance.
The walk starts at Saltwater Reserve, Long Jetty, and finishes at Picnic Point, The Entrance. This endpoint is where we partake in a service. We read out all of the babies’ names that we’re there in honour of and release flowers into the lake.
I am expecting at least 500 at our Central Coast event, with many, many more to attend nationwide.”
People can purchase and wear a personalised t-shirt on the Choosing Hope walk. The t-shirts include the name of the little person you’re walking in memory of. It’s a really simple and oh-so-special way to honour the little one you’ve lost, and the monies raised from all t-shirt sales go towards the work of Bears of Hope.
PIP: As with your loss, the Choosing Hope walk isn’t only for people who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, but any kind of infant loss. Is that correct?
Trish Thomas: “Absolutely it is for all kinds of loss (and of any term even – no matter when it happened. I have a lady who lost her son 62 years ago and she comes along every year). Infant loss is the loss of an expected life – that comes in many forms and experiences. Anyone who knows the loss of a baby is welcome to come along.”
PIP: And the event now occurs not only on the Central Coast but in 8 locations nationwide?
Trish Thomas: “Yes, beautifully, the event I dreamt of in that hospital room not only became a reality in 2016 but also became so successful and well loved by many in the bereaved community, that my Central Coast walk has continued to flourish and is now replicated nationwide.
This year, Bears of Hope will have eight locations where Choosing Hope will happen. There will also be a walk in Sydney, Tamworth, Canberra, Melbourne, Launceston, Brisbane and Perth.”
PIP: As well as supporting bereaved families, the Choosing Hope walk is also an event that’s held to raise awareness of the valuable work of national non-profit organisation Bears Of Hope (Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support) and to fundraise for its future work. What do Bears of Hope do to help bereaved families?
Trish Thomas: “Bears of Hope want to connect the bereaved however they can.
The group wants to have care packages in every hospital and doctor’s surgery so that when those devastating words come, the doctors have something to give to people when they leave empty. The care packages have details of support systems people can reach out to: groups to attend, phone numbers to call, details of how to plan a funeral, etc, and also a teddy bear. This teddy is one that was fundraised for and donated by another family in honour of their own baby. The teddy has a card with the name on it too: it acts as a reminder that you’re not alone and that others have been here and are here for you.
Bears of Hope also runs support groups (in person and online), provides access to free phone counselling, and hosts Mother’s Day high teas, men’s retreats and other events to join in on, such as the Choosing Hope walk.”
PIP: How has Choosing Hope contributed to Bears of Hope?
Trish Thomas: “Fundraising through Choosing Hope has raised more than $700,000 for the work of Bears of Hope in the past eight years. Money raised will go towards providing much-needed resources, teddy bears, care packages in bags, counselling and support services across the country.”
PIP: Who runs Choosing Hope?
Trish Thomas: “These events are run entirely by volunteers who coordinate the event and run it on the day. They also have the support and help of the bereaved community, who they are there to serve, to help fundraise for the work of Bears of Hope. Bears of Hope supports future families who will experience this heartache. It truly is the bereaved supporting the bereaved in a full circle, just like the teddy bears donated in honour of another angel baby that are received in the care packages.”
PIP: Can people support Bears of Hope by buying merchandise at the event?
Trish Thomas: “Yes. People can purchase Choosing Hope t-shirts and hats, plus Bears of Hope teddy bears and other branded merchandise”.
Where can bereaved local families best access help?
Trish Thomas: “Bears of Hope website is a great place to start. From there, they can access helpful information, go to support groups, or get help over the phone or online.”
Choosing Hope, Central Coast
When: Sunday 15th October 2023.
Where: The walk starts at Long Jetty and ends at The Entrance.
This feature was created by Playing in Puddles in support of this local charity.
Written By: KATIE STOKES
Founder & Editor
After working in print and online media for more than a decade, Katie launched Playing in Puddles in 2017. A mum of two young boys and local of the Central Coast, Katie loves discovering and sharing all that’s happening in our region.