Something good can come out of tragedy.
Rather than letting a devastating loss cripple their family, Corrie and Ryan Ford are creating something positive in the wake of losing their infant son Zdeno.
On July 12, Zdeno was born 24 weeks premature weighing one pound 12 ounces. Delivered by caesarian section in Brandon, Zdeno was immediately transferred by air ambulance to St. Boniface's NICU.
Due to her own medical condition, Corrie spent the next two days in Brandon before being moved to Winnipeg alongside Zdeno. Ryan was able to be with Zdeno in the meantime.
Too add to the problems, a shortage of isolets at St. Boniface Hospital meant Zdeno wasn't able to make his way into a proper bed for two weeks.
About a week after being transferred to the bed, Zdeno – who is named after Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara – passed away Aug. 2 at 22 days old.
"It was a difficult thing for Corrie and Ryan, and for the whole family," Corrie's mother, Kim Forsman explains.
But rather than let the incident cripple their family, the couple opted to create the Stella Finds a Bed for Zdeno fund to help other families who end up in a similar situation.
The initiative, which the couple began less than two weeks after Zdeno's passing, aims to raise the $30,000 needed to purchase a new Giraffe isolet for St. Boniface Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
"The isolet Zdeno had gotten into had a plaque on it from 20 years ago in memory of another baby who had died the exact same way," Corrie said. "So, after Zdeno passed away, we called and asked about that and we decided that was something we wanted to do as well for the next family; just like that family did for us."
And ever since it's something the couple, aided by close family and friends, has forged ahead with.
Since creating Stella Finds a Bed for Zedo Aug. 15, the couple has been able to raise almost $13,000 through fundraisers, donations and participation in special events.
The single-most successful event for the Fords has been their participation in CJOB's 2011 Radiothon of Hope and Healing Nov. 7 where the couple was able to raise $7,000 for the initiative in part by sharing their story over the airwaves.
For the Fords, the experience wasn't just about the success of their own cause either, they just as excitedly explain they were able to be part of the event which raised more than $100,000 for several different funds.
Stella Finds a Bed for Zedo organizers have been busy outside of the radiothon as well.
One of their most active campaigns has been the selling of books, pens, hats, baby burp cloths and chef hats, all created by family and friends with one overarching theme to them; the inclusion of what has become a symbolic memory of Zdeno, a frog.
The connection between Zdeno and the frog began before birth, Corrie explains, when Zdeno's heart beat was recorded during an ultrasound and his older sister Stella chose to have it placed in a stuffed animal frog.
Zdeno's headstone also had an image of a frog on it and there was a frog which kept vigil by the gravestone during his burial and for the next 30 hours.
"I think sometimes things happen for a reason," Corrie comments of the occurrences.
Over the past few months, the Fords, family and friends have also participated in a barbecue and craft sale, while getting their merchandise placed in some stores around Westman, setting up donation boxes in local businesses and creating partnerships with businesses – such as an offering from Brandon-based First Look 3D-4D Ultrasound to donate $1 from ultrasounds it performs to the fund - to help their cause.
Donations have come in from across Canada and, in some cases, the United States as the Fords' story continues to circulate.
The family is also planning a Christmas party fundraiser in the coming weeks and the Fords may find themselves on SHAW TV in the new year on a television show hosted by Greg Mackling.
"We've been overwhelmed by the reaction everyone has given," Corrie explains. "We had thought when we started this that by Christmas we'd have $2,000 raised at most. Now it's before Christmas and we've already almost reached $13,000.
"In a small community, I didn't think that could happen."
And while the support has been unarguably amazing, Kim points out the success of the fund has a lot to do with the effort family and friends have contributed, and even more so to do with the dedication and resolve shown by Ryan and Corrie.
The couple have spent countless hours ensuring the fund continues to grow and new fundraising ideas are created, Kim says.
"I'm really proud of what they are doing at such a young age. (Zdeno's passing) is the type of thing that could really have a negative effect on a young couple," Kim explains. "It places a strain on the family, your marriage, your relationship. It's tough to get through
"This (initiative) has definitely been a help to the grieving process. It makes you feel good when you can make something good out of something bad."
The Fords would also like to welcome any families or businesses looking to give donations during the holiday season to support the Stella Finds a Bed for Zedo fund.
Donations can be made directly at the Beautiful Plains Credit Union, online by following the 'DONATE' link on stellafindsabedforzedo.ca or by calling the Fords at 476-5319.
All donations to the Stella Finds a Bed for Zedo fund are now being collected through the St. Boniface Foundation as well, so donors can receive tax receipts for contributions.
St. Boniface's NICU can currently care for up to 30 premature or sick newborns at one time and takes in babies from across Canada. The Giraffe isolet is temperature-regulated and helps protect newborns from germs.