'Evening of Hope' planned in Wheaton to honor abandoned baby
Baby Hope will be remembered during an "Evening of Hope" observance Thursday in Wheaton where participants also will pay respects to anyone who has lost a child.
"It is meant to be a time to remember and grieve Baby Hope, but also for anybody who's ever lost a child -- whether it was a month ago or 40 years ago, whether it was an infant or infertility issues or a failed adoption or even a childhood loss," said Susan Walker, founder of Rest in His Arms, the nonprofit sponsoring the event.
Baby Hope was the newborn girl found dead last month along a private drive near Wheaton. Investigators are still searching for her mother.
The observance will begin 7 p.m. with a nondenominational prayer service at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., preceded by a "Holy Hour" at 6 p.m. Several area religious leaders are scheduled to speak, and people will have a chance to light a candle for a lost loved one.
"It's an opportunity for some Scripture and to pray together, to hear some words of consolation and hope from some of the different pastors ... and afterward to receive a final blessing and have fellowship," Walker said.
When the service concludes, the religious leaders and some bereavement ministers from area churches will be available to talk one-on-one with those who want to share their experiences. It's a chance for participants to connect with others who are mourning the loss of Baby Hope or another child.
Walker said she hopes the event will bring comfort to those who feel anger and frustration over what happened to Baby Hope, including anyone struggling with infertility issues who would have loved to adopt the child.
"I think because the investigation is still ongoing, it's bothering people," she said. "They want to be able to do something. This is the something. We can come together as a community and mourn her loss and prevent this from ever happening again."
The DuPage County sheriff's office is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who provides information that helps identify or locate the mother of Baby Hope. Anyone with information should contact the sheriff's office at (630) 407-2400 or text anonymously at 274637 with the word SHERIFF and a message.
Representatives from the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation will be on hand Thursday to educate participants about Safe Haven laws in Illinois.
Attendees also are welcome to bring old wedding gowns, communion dresses and pastel bridesmaid dresses they're willing to donate to be made into burial gowns for infants who don't make it home from the hospital. Dresses should be placed in a plastic bag or box and include the name of the donor.