A wooden bench sits just off the trail in Lake Rogers Park.
It’s no ordinary bench, it is Everly’s bench.
It’s dedicated to Everly Hopkins, who died just weeks shy of her first birthday from a chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18.
Although short, Everly lived a full life with her family, checking more than 100 items off a bucket list.
“We lived a lifetime of memories in 11 months and six days,” Crystal Hopkins, Everly’s mother, said.
After Everly died, Hopkins said she found herself trying to find meaning in her loss. That’s when she decided to start Everly’s Angels, a nonprofit that provides support to families dealing with child loss.
"You are numb and you’re shocked and you can try and prepare for it, but there is no preparation for the actual finality of losing your child,” Hopkins said.
Besides providing families with resources, Everly’s Angels distributes special memory-making boxes called Everly After to local hospitals and hospices. Things like molds to make handprints and footprints, a journal, handkerchief, bracelet and other resources are inside the box.
Saturday, the nonprofit held its first Volksmarch, a hike through Lake Rogers Park, to raise money for the boxes and to buy CuddleCots. A CuddleCot is a device that cools an infant’s body.
“So that parents can spend more time with their babies before the natural changes of death take over,” said Lori Esteve with the U.S. CuddleCot Campaign Initiative. The Initiative’s goal is to get a CuddleCot in every hospital in the country.
Currently, there are 200 CuddleCots in the nation, but there aren't any in Florida Hospitals, except LifePath Hospice.
“In the past, women have been told they are going to take the babies to the morgue and that’s just a very upsetting image for parents so it’s nice to have this nice basket, nice presentation for parents that stays right beside the mom the whole time they are in the hospital,” Esteve said.
Everly’s Angels hopes to raise $10,000 for its Everly After boxes and to provide Cuddlehots for as many hospitals in Florida as they can.
"In the hospital, that is the only time they have with their child and this machine can let families spend up to five days spending time, making memories, bonding, having extended family members come and visit and get to know them,” Hopkins said.