Luke Nelson

Luke Nelson, son of Jill Nelson, program coordinator of Delivering Change, passed away three days short of three months old in 2006. Twice a year, a community baby shower is held in his honor in Junction City.

Submitted Photo

Twelve years ago, Jill Nelson lost her almost 3-month-old son, Luke.

“It was ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, he passed away while at day care,” she said. 

About six years after his death, Delivering Change began in Geary County and Nelson was one of the volunteers who led the organization. Now, she is the program coordinator.

“That time between his death and that six years was a good time to process,” she said. “I was ready to do something with my grief at that time.”

The Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network out of Wichita reached out to her family after Luke’s death and one of the models of the KIDS Network is a community baby shower.

“We knew we wanted to target safe sleep and community baby showers are a great way of doing that,” she said.

The first Luke’s Community Baby Shower was held in June 2015. Nelson said the goal for attendance was 50 mothers the first time, and about 100 showed up. Since then, the event has grown because mothers usually bring support people with them thus increasing the number of people Delivering Change is educating about safe sleep practices.

“The backbone of the community baby showers is safe sleep,” she said.

This Saturday, expecting and new mothers in Geary County will have the opportunity to participate in Luke’s Community Baby Shower. The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at JC Naz. 

To promote safe sleep, all mothers who attend the two-hour long event will receive a pack-n-play, sleep sack and pacifier. 

“Not only are we educating them about safe sleep, but we are giving them tools to go home and have a safe sleep environment,” she said.

A variety of community resources are also present at the baby shower to show expecting and new mothers that they have support in Geary County. Those in attendance can learn about the importance of breastfeeding, prenatal care and much more.

“You need to have a healthy mom so you have a healthy baby,” she said. 

Delivering Change began to lower the infant mortality rate in Geary County after studies showed it was one of the highest in the state. Nelson said the success that has happened in Geary County is a result of the community agencies working together to provide clear and consistent messaging for new parents.

“Nothing is more confusing to new parents than to have different experts giving you different advice,” she said. 

One year after Luke’s death, Nelson gave birth to her second child. She has two other children and one stepdaughter.

“I feel like it’s a tragic situation, but such good things have come from it that,” she said. “The community baby shower keeps his memory alive.

“I had a baby in my arms on that first anniversary,” Nelson said. “I expected to be more anxious the second time around, but it was the opposite. I knew that all the worrying and being anxious about it the first time didn’t change what happened. I was less anxious about it the second time around because worrying doesn’t change things.”

Nelson said without the experience of Luke’s death, she wouldn’t be in the position she in now helping educate parents in the community.

“I would’ve never seen myself in this position, but I feel adamant that I want parents in our community to be as healthy as possible and how to reduce the risk of anything adverse happening to their child. The community baby shower is very personal because it carries my son’s name, but also because it epitomizes what this community it about,” she said.

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