Nathan and Shelby with Ava

Nathan and Shelby Fererro hold a photo of their daughter Ava LeighAnn, who died last year. Submitted photo

Goal is to help other parents afford baby sock monitor 

BOWLING GREEN—Just a little more than a year ago, Shelby and Nathan Fererro lost their 3-month-old girl, Ava LeighAnn, when she died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome while being cared for by a babysitter.

The couple was devastated by the loss. One never truly gets over the death of child, so Shelby was determined to do something to help other parents, so that they would not have to face a similar loss.

“It’s so people would not have to go through what we’re going through,” Shelby said.

She held a few fundraisers and wanted to donate the money to SIDS research, she said. “But a friend of mine actually found what is called the Knox Blocks in Iowa.”

They learned that it was a foundation that offered baby monitors that are worn by infants, and they track a child’s heart rate and oxygen level. Shelby learned that the couple in Iowa had gone through what she and Nathan had just experienced about a year before. Their little boy, Knox, also died of SIDS. That couple started a foundation in their son’s name—Knox Blocks Foundation.

“They started raising money to buy Owlets,” she said. They donated the monitors and then set their website to allow people to go through them to buy the Owlets. The socks are worn by babies up to 18 months old to track their heart rates and oxygen levels.

Shelby was thinking about working with that foundation to get more of the special monitors to the parents that could not afford them. The Owlet Smart Sock costs about $300 for one. Shelby’s father, Tony Windmiller, suggested she start her own foundation in Ava’s name, so that she could help the parents here in Missouri.

Shelby started looking into creating a non-profit, so that she could purchase the monitors and donate them to the families that need them here.

They gleaned information about setting up their own non-profit foundation.

With her shirt fundraiser, Shelby said, she went through the Owlet company’s site to buy some of the monitors. At that time, they were having a special—buy one get three free.

She has already purchased and distributed about four monitors, but has hit a small snag in creating the non-profit. She is planning a few fundraisers when the weather gets a little nicer to get the money to get registered as a non-profit organization.

“People get hesitant about donating to something that’s not registered as a non-profit,” she said. Which is something she totally understands. “I would be hesitant, too,” she added. She had spoken with an attorney, but the cost for his help was $4,000.

“There is so much paperwork that needs to be filed,” she said, “and if you get anything wrong, you have to resubmit and pay again.” That’s why she is looking for an attorney that won’t cost too much, so they can afford more Owlet socks.

Shelby is sure that with a monitor like the Owlet Smart Sock, she would have been notified that there was something wrong with Ava.

“I was at work and she was at daycare,” she said. “I feel like if she had that on, I would have been alerted that something was wrong, as opposed to the daycare just leaving her alone for a long period of time and then going in to check on her. Whose to say it could have help or not, but I believe it would have helped. And then we could have at least tried to save her,” she explained.

She is being helped in her efforts by her Dad, Tony, and her Mom, Terrie Genovese, as well as her husband.

In addition to the monitors she has already donated Shelby will also be donating some of the ones she has on hand to the job she’s starting at the Head Start program at the Douglas Community Center in Hannibal, Mo., where she’ll be will be working with babies

In addition to the T-shirt sales, they also sold rubber bracelets and sky lanterns. Oct. 15 was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Right now most of the schools, as well as the scout organizations are doing their own fundraisers. That’s why Shelby wants to wait for spring before launching another one.

But come this spring, some Bowling Green residents might find a toilet in their front yards.

“It’s called ‘You’ve Been Plunged,’” Shelby said. “We’re going to decorate a toilet and put it in people’s yards. And they have the option to pay to have it removed, or have it removed and moved to someone else’s yard, or pay to have it removed and pay to make sure it does not come back to their yard.

“We wanted to do something a little different than other fundraisers,” she added. Beware—she already has the toilet.

The Owlet Smart Sock website has a disclaimer that notes their monitors are not as stringent as a medical monitor, and should be substituted for one. It also says the monitor is not a replacement for good parenting, and people should always check on their babies.

Shelby has already heard back from the first couple she donated a smart sock monitor to.

“I’ve known the family for years, though I have not really been close to them,” she said. “When their baby was born, it was diagnosed with some form of heart disease, where the baby’s heart beats faster that it should. The very first night I donated that Owlet, that night the monitor alerted them that the baby’s heart rate was too fast. And they were able to contact the hospital and do what they needed to do to get that heart rate down before they headed to the hospital.”

She was glad to be able to turn her tragedy into someone else’s triumph.

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