JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Walking into Michelle and Kyle Moskiewicz’s home in Newport paints a picture of two very loving parents.
In the living room, a trophy case proudly displays all of their son Chance’s trophies, crowns and sashes from the pageants he won before he passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on August 7.
Michelle and Kyle said they made a lot of memories with their son.
Michelle competed in pageants with Chance, including the Southern Elegance Charm pageant three days before his death.
“In two and a half months I think he won more awards than I did ever,” she said, smiling at the memory and the trophy case. Alongside it are pictures of him and a plaque with the word “Love” using his footprints to form the letter V.
Chance was born on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013, and he was less than three months old when he died of SIDS.
Now, impacted by their experience, Michelle and Kyle have started a foundation called Hope For Chance, a moniker with a double meaning: to honor its namesake and to give people courage.
“We thought we didn’t want anyone else to go through what we went through,” Michelle said.
Approximately three weeks after Chance’s death, Michelle and Kyle started working on ideas for the foundation. In September, they put up the website with goals for the organization: to bring awareness to SIDS; to raise money for SIDS research and a research team at the Children’s Hospital Boston; and to help other families who may not be prepared for a sudden death.
When Chance died, Michelle and Kyle, who are both sergeants in the Marine Corps, said they had resources to help them, something called the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, or SGLI, from the Marine Corps to help cover the costs associated with his death.
But it took time for that resource to kick in.
“When everything happened, that money had to come from somewhere,” Kyle said. “We realized if that happens to the next person … maybe this organization can at least donate … and help them out and get through the payments and … the expenses of the funeral.”
The couple said found local support groups through Facebook with families who had gone through similar situations and received support from the Marine Corps and Cherry Point where they are stationed, but no one quite knew how to help them.
“We found there’s really nobody out there to do that,” Kyle said. “We kind of had to figure it out ourselves.”
Hope For Chance will reach out to families to help meet needs and figure out how to help.
According to the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, Hope For Chance Inc. was incorporated in the state of North Carolina in December 2013, and Michelle said all they are waiting on is the IRS to approve their application for 501c3 status. Until then, the approximately $2,200 they have raised will stay in the GoFundMe account they have online at gofundme.com/hopeforchance.
Michelle said they have plans to host a 5K in the spring to benefit the Children’s Hospital Boston where Dr. Hannah Kinney, a neuropathologist, is actively researching SIDS and its possible causes. They also want to hold a motorcycle run with a local bike club.
Michelle said they also plan to send Chance’s medical records to Kinney to use in her research.
“To this day they (the doctors) tell us he was a perfectly healthy baby,” Michelle said.
That’s one reason they want to increase awareness about SIDS.
“The first symptom of SIDS is death,” Michelle continued, adding that they don’t want to scare parents, but since Chance’s death they have learned that SIDS is an unexpected and unexplainable death.
She added that she truly believes the more aware people are, the better the fight against SIDS will become.
Michelle said the night Chance died he showed no signs of ill health.
“That night he was perfectly fine, he was laughing,” she recalled.
If they could do one thing with the foundation Michelle said she would like to “just be able to give support to other families and keep trying to assist in finding out why it’s happening.”
Kyle agreed, adding that SIDS is one of those things parents see videos about in the hospital but “never really think about.
“And then when we started getting into the numbers and how often this occurs to how many people, it’s pretty crazy,” Kyle said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SIDS is the leading cause of infant death from one to 12 months old.
Michelle said parents are told if they do a certain number of things — place their baby on his or her back and keep blankets and toys out of reach — everything will be fine.
“That’s not true,” Michelle said. “It can happen at any time.”
After Chance’s death, Michelle and Kyle adopted a “pass it forward” mentality.
“One of the reasons we did start this is, me and my husband we both believe really heavily in passing it forward,” Michelle said. “Just after leaving the hospital, we got a call from the North Carolina Eye Bank, saying Chance was the perfect candidate to donate his heart.”
Michelle said they decided to donate, and now Hope For Chance is a continuation of the tradition.
Kyle said his best memories with Chance include falling asleep with him on the couch and watching him play on a mat on the floor which had piano keys on it.
“He would just go to town on that, and there was just tons of stuff for him to hit and kick and make music, but he’d eventually scooch himself back just enough where his toes couldn’t hit the thing anymore so he would just lose it,” he laughed.
Kyle said they always had to change Chance’s outfits throughout the day.
“He always managed to pee through his diaper,” Michelle laughed.
If the Moskiewiczs could tell parents of young children anything, Michelle said she would tell them to cherish every moment.
“Don’t take any day for granted, ever,” she said.
Kyle agreed, but he also said it’s OK for parents to feel vigilant.
“You can never be too overcautious,” he said.