Tiny Savannah Rae Dussman only lived four days, but her parents have a lifetime of memories.
"She was beautiful," Courtney Dussman said of the daughter who died of a rare chromosomal disorder in March 2012. As they coped with their anguish, the couple found relief talking to other families who'd experienced similar losses though Edward Hospital's SHARE Program and its annual A Walk to Remember event.
"No one we knew had gone through this before," Courtney Dussman said. "It showed us we weren't alone ... we were sitting down with people who understood."
More than 400 people gathered at Naperville's Riverwalk Grand Pavilion Saturday for A Walk to Remember 2013 in honor of babies who died through miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
As volunteers read the names of children, family members accepted white roses in their memory.
Nicole Trevino of Medinah took two roses -- one for daughter Aubree, who was stillborn at 36 weeks in 2008, and the other for her son, Gavin, who was seven weeks old when he succumbed to SIDS in 2009.
Surrounded by relatives and the family dog all wearing T-shirts to commemorate Gavin and Aubree, Trevino took stock.
"I was here in tears a few years ago and now ... it's a celebration," Trevino said. "I was in a bad depression for a long time. Now I have my Charlotte," she added, pointing to her exuberant 20-month-old daughter.
"I got an hour of sleep every night until she was six months old because I had to watch her breathe," Trevino recounted. "Now she's healthy, and we're happy."
Each year in the United States, one in every four pregnancies results in miscarriage, according to Edward Hospital's SHARE website, and about 19,000 children die before they're even month old.
Despite the prevalence of such tragedies, there's still a lot of misunderstanding, said Nina Bennett. The author and educator gave the keynote address, recalling well-meaning friends wondering when she would "move on" after the death of her stillborn granddaughter, Madeline.
"To move on is to deny her existence," Bennett said. "Instead, I carry her in my heart."
Before heading out on the walk, participants also thanked Edward delivery room nurse and outgoing SHARE coordinator Brenda Looney. The nationwide SHARE program helps families who've lost an infant through counseling, education and group meetings.
Looney said she'd watched parents go on a "journey," at SHARE sessions. "They know they're not alone," she said. "There is a place for them to keep their babies alive."
Naperville resident and American Idol finalist Gina Glocksen sang during the memorial service. Her connection to the event was old high school friend Scott Dussman.
The Dussmans, who helped organize the 2013 walk, are now anticipating the birth of a son in December.
"It's Baby No. 2," Courtney Dussman said. "It's been nerve-wracking, but we know Savannah Rae's watching over her little brother."