1. Briefly tell your story.
Juniper was our first child. My husband Courtney and I had no indication that our baby was sick, besides my own nagging sense that something wasn’t quite right, and we were terrified when I went into labor six weeks early. We got transferred to a hospital with a better NICU facility and it was there, the night before she was born, that we first heard of ARPKD. Her kidneys were full of cysts, she had no fluid, very little lung development and heart defects. They told us that her chance of making it was zero. When she was born on December 10, 2008 we were able to hold her and love her as she passed away; she lived for 20 minutes.
2. What things do you and your family do to honor Juniper?
We love to get out and do acts of kindness together. When we go out to dinner we like to pick up someone else’s check and the kids—Mackenzi, 11 and Magnus, 4-- have fun choosing which table. We make it a point to do them all year, not just for Sweet Juniper Day. It’s sweet when we all are able to pause and remember her while we are going about our day. It’s helpful for us as we teach our other children about Juniper and how she’s still a big part of our family. That’s especially important for our son because he came along after Juniper. We want him to feel like he knows his big sister too, even though he never met her.
3. Why did you choose acts of kindness to honor Juniper? How many people participate in Sweet Juniper day?
Juniper herself was small, sweet and beautiful. Random acts of kindness are the same, often just small and sweet but they leave a huge impression. That seemed to fit so well. Kindness is really powerful and it can absolutely change the world for the better.
Last year, when her 5th birthday was coming up I felt like I was in a place where I could really celebrate her and Sweet Juniper evolved from that. Grief is so private, it was years before I could even speak her name aloud without crying and it felt great to talk about her so much and share her spirit. We decided to hold Sweet Juniper Day on her birthday, December 10. Initially I had just envisioned some of my Facebook friends helping me out and doing a few acts of kindness but what actually took place was so much more. Thousands of people participated and the first Sweet Juniper Day event was a huge success.
4. Who has benefited from acts of kindness inspired by Juniper? What has been your most favorite act of kindness?
SO many people have benefitted from acts of kindness in honor of Juniper! I can’t even put a number on it and that makes me giddy with joy! Countless coffees and lunches bought for the next customer, groceries and Christmas gifts purchased for those less fortunate and sweet little gestures of love given just because. I wish I could personally hear about every single act done in her name.
My favorite act of kindness happened last year. I had decided to adopt a cat from the local animal shelter for Juniper’s birthday. It seemed perfect because what five-year-old-girl wouldn’t love a kitten for her birthday? When I went to pick up our newest addition, a little white thing with blue eyes, I was informed that someone had paid for all of his adoption and vet fees, as an act of kindness inspired by Juniper! His name is Phillip and, even though he is pretty naughty, I still smile when I think about how he came into my life.
5. Do you raise money or accept donations in honor of Juniper? If so how much have you raised and whom do the donations go to.
Last year at our Sweet Juniper Day event we sold cookies with the proceeds benefitting the Perinatal Bereavement Program at the hospital where Juniper had been born. We had about 200 cookies to sell and raised $1,200! Everyone was so generous! For 2014, we decided to take a different direction and we raised coats and toys for local people who needed them at our event. Our boxes were overflowing! The generosity of people always astounds me and I am so proud to live in a community so willing to help.
6. Why is it important that people know about Juniper's life? How has Juniper's life affected your life?
The thing that I’ve learned from starting Sweet Juniper and talking to so many people about my daughter is that Juniper mattered. Her life and death weren’t just an unfortunate fluke. She was important to the world at large. There is a quote from the movie Steel Magnolias that resonates with me and I think it explains why I want people to know about Juniper’s life. “I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that beautiful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.” I realize as a woman how lucky I am, to have been entrusted with something so beautiful. How can I not share her with everyone?
All I want (and I think it’s safe to say that every parent would agree with me here) is for each of my children to make their own positive impact on the world. It breaks my heart that Juniper isn’t here to do that herself but it’s become my mission to do it for her. Her life, even though it was so brief, has painted every possible space of my own existence with her lovely little spirit. I love to soak that up…and seeing it reflected back at me in others makes me prouder than I’ve ever been!
You can help spread the love by spreading kindness! Visit facebook.com/sweetjuniper08 and send Mandy a message to request some Sweet Juniper cards of your own! See how her acts of kindness affected her community click here. Kindness is contagious pass it on!
I am so inspired by Mandy's story how she is not going to let PKD win but uses acts of kindness to share the love they have in their hearts for Juniper with others. I love how Mandy says it is an honor to be Juniper's mother. Juniper's legacy is living on in a big way. Thank you Mandy for sharing your story and Juniper's life with us! #endPKD