When Through the Heart was formed two and a half years ago, our vision was to provide both education and support for pregnancy loss, but admittedly, I was more interested in the educational aspect. I had suffered my first loss just months before and was still hurting from the things people said and the way they reacted. I wanted to create societal change.
It quickly became evident, though, that TTH was a source of support more than anything and, like it or not, I needed to shift my focus at least for a little while. So in November 2013, we launched our Comfort Kit program. The idea behind the program was to provide something tangible to grieving parents to provide a distraction and let them know they are not alone. Each kit comes with items to pamper oneself such as fuzzy socks and lotion, sweet and salty snacks, a Redbox movie code, information from our organization, and a handwritten note. Kits were provided free of charge and included USPS Priority Mail shipping to anywhere in the United States.
By the end of 2013 we had mailed 8 kits. I kept materials on hand and each time a request was submitted, I would assemble the kit, write the note, and mail it out usually within a day or two. We kept this pace throughout most of 2014, averaging 5-6 requests per month. However, when a tv news segment aired in May, we were inundated with requests. A plea to our fan base led to an influx of donations that allowed us to handle these requests. I frantically ran to the stores (multiple times) to buy supplies and my husband Sean & I assembled the kits as quickly as possible. We turned out approximately 40 kits in 48 hours! By the end of the year we had sent 106 kits, surpassing our goal of 100. It was obvious that the Comfort Kit program was a much-needed, important part of our programming.
2015 started off on the same pace as we sent 10 kits in the first two months. Then, thanks to a partnership with Google AdWords, we began to see an increase in traffic to our site and a large surge in Comfort Kit requests. In March, we mailed 63 kits! For the first time, we found ourselves in a situation where we were unable to accommodate all of the requests. I remember being upset that I had 7 kits I could not fulfill, and I turned once again to friends and donors to ask for help. They did.
What has transpired in the months since then is nothing short of a boom. By the end of June we had already surpassed our goal of 200 kits sent for all of 2015! In July we mailed a record-setting 95 kits. We no longer assemble kits as the requests come in – instead, we make as many as 30 or 40 at a time. Sean & I often spend Sunday afternoons preparing kits (we have the process down pretty well at this point!) for the upcoming week.
The requests are coming in so fast and furiously that we cannot keep up – we just do our best to get the kits out as quickly as we can. We currently have more than 200 outstanding requests waiting to be filled and for some people, the wait is as long as 3 months! The interest in the program always brings mixed emotions – I am so glad people are finding TTH and see value in the Comfort Kits, but I am also sad that so many people find themselves needing one. It is a true testament though to the lack of resources available for those experiencing a pregnancy loss.
In order to help alleviate some of the backlog, we recently made a change to the program. While the kit itself is still provided free of charge, there is now a $5 shipping fee. This allows us to offset part of the cost and get it to people faster and when they need it most – right now. We are thrilled that this change has not deterred people – the requests are coming in as regularly as ever. We continue to rely on the generosity of donors to fund the kits and we hope to be able to make a serious dent in the requests by the end of the year.
While we still work on our education efforts, there is no denying that the Comfort Kit program has become our superstar and I could not be more proud of our community for coming together and making it possible. Just this week we passed the milestone of our 500th kit sent! I have no doubt that it will only be a matter of time before we hit 1,000.
Karen Kelly is the co-founder and President & CEO of Through the Heart, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Visit www.throughtheheart.org for more information.