Losing a baby is one of the hardest things a couple can go through. For Chris and Lacey Apple of Oakland, they experienced this loss April 18, 2007 when they lost their daughter, Ava Grace, just 25 hours after being born.

Ava was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH), a birth defect of the diaphragm. It allows the abdominal organs to push into the chest cavity, hindering proper lung formation. Her mom, Lacey, explained, “Against all odds, Ava came into this world crying and fighting. She continued her fight for 25½ hours until her little body just couldn't fight anymore,” she shared. “All we wanted as a family, as new parents, was more time with our baby, but sadly that was denied to us.”

In March 2021, the Apple family learned about the CuddleCot™ system and knew instantly it was something they wanted to donate in Ava’s memory to give the gift of "time" to other grieving families. The CuddleCot system has a cooling pad that is placed in the bassinet, which slows the infant’s physical changes, allowing the family to have more time with the baby upon his or her passing.

Lacey said, “As we started looking for ways to purchase a cot, which cost $3,000, we were very blessed to come across Madison's Miracles, a nonprofit organization based in Florida, that helps families run fundraising campaigns as well as helping to find placements for the Cots.” The organization provides support and resources to grieving parents who have experienced stillbirth or infant loss. Madison’s Miracles was founded by Chris and Christina Stamper, who named the organization after their deceased daughter, Madison Elizabeth Stamper. They lost Madison to stillbirth in 2007. The Stamper’s did not have access to a CuddleCot at the time of Madison’s passing, so they had limited time to say their goodbyes to their daughter. Through their organization, they help other families by placing CuddleCots in as many hospitals as possible to give families more precious time for memories, bonding and promoting healthy closure.

The Apple’s fundraising campaign was very successful, as Lacey shared, “Within the first five hours of launching the fundraising campaign, the campaign was at 62% of the fund goal, thanks to the support of our family and friends.” The Apple’s 10-year-son Clayton, Ava’s younger brother, wanted to do his part. “Clayton decided to host a lemonade stand in our small farming community of Oakland. Rain or shine he was determined to sell as many cups as possible of regular and pink lemonade – he specifically wanted pink lemonade, since he thought that maybe it would have been Ava’s favorite,” she said with a smile. 

On April 3, 2021 at 11 a.m. Ava's Lemonade Stand opened for business, serving an estimated 130 customers in two hours and selling out, bringing in $3,623, enough for Clayton to purchase his very own CuddleCot. 

Since their fundraising efforts were so successful, the Apple family is donating CuddleCots to two HSHS hospitals in the region, HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham and HSHS St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield.

On May 7, the Apple family presented HSHS St. Anthony’s with a CuddleCot in memory of Ava Grace Apple. Hospital leadership and Women and Infant Center colleagues were present for this special presentation.

St. Anthony’s Women and Infant Center Manager Ashley Harmon expressed the hospital’s appreciation to the Apple family for their donation to the Women and Infants Center. “We are so grateful that the Apples have chosen to offer comfort to others facing the same tragic loss through this CuddleCot donation. Adding a second CuddleCot to our center will allow us to give parents and families the time they need to be able to say goodbye to their precious one,” she said. “We can’t thank Chris, Lacey and Clayton enough for the consolation that this will bring other families in the future.”

For more information on the CuddleCot and Madison’s Miracles, please visit madisonsmiracles.org.


Photo Caption: Chris and Lacey Apple, along with their son Clayton, are honoring the memory of their daughter Ava Grace with a donation of a CuddleCot to HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital’s Women and Infants Center. Through their fundraising efforts and the support of their family and friends, the Apples are donating CuddleCots to two HSHS hospitals in the region.

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Scott Fisher

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HSHS Illinois
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