In just two years, Elizabeth Pullia of Streamwood lost three babies. Her friend, Elizabeth Martinez of Chicago, has gone through the loss of a child twice.
To find comfort, the women decided last October to form Chicago Angel Moms & Dads, a group that offers support to local parents suffering from the loss of a pregnancy or an infant death.
Families will have a chance to meet in person from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, at a free event called Whispers From Heaven in Grove 25 of Busse Woods, on the south side of Higgins Road, just east of Route 53 in Schaumburg.
There will be a ceremony to honor the "angel" babies, along with a balloon release, kids activities, and speakers from Miscarriage Matters, SIDS of Illinois and other organizations that offer support after a child dies.
Martinez and Pullia said they are expecting more than 100 people at the event.
"The response has been crazy," Martinez said. "I guess you don't realize how many people go through the same thing you're going through."
Both women noted there aren't many other options in the Chicago area for families who want to gather to memorialize their children.
"People need a place to go to grieve," said Pullia, adding that there are other support groups for parents who have lost a child, but they often meet at a medical facility. "The problem is a lot of people don't want to walk back into a hospital."
Until now, Chicago Angel Moms & Dads has only been offering support through its website and a Facebook page that grew from about a dozen "likes" last October to nearly 300 this year. The page is full of memories and encouragement from parents in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin who have faced the loss of a child. Pullia said she has also hosted raffles and posted other uplifting notes on the page since it was launched.
"You can sit at home and reach out to another mom," she said.
Pullia said she hopes if Whispers From Heaven is successful, the group will host it again every year around Oct. 15, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
"Unfortunately, a lot of doctors and hospitals don't know October is this awareness month," Pullia said, adding that she has been visiting doctors offices around the area to hang up fliers to promote the event.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 6.6 million pregnancies occurred in the United States 2008. Of those, about 1.1 million were fetal losses. In addition, about 25,000 infants -- age one and younger -- die each year in the United States.
Whispers From Heaven is a free event, but registration is required. To register, or for information about Chicago Angel Moms & Dads, visit facebook.com/ChicagoAngelMoms.Dads.