Hockey game to raise awareness, funds to help families through loss of babies

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 14, 2017

 Runners finish the inaugural Miles for Mila 5K race in Clarkston to raise money for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit organization that provides remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. The St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints hockey team will host a benefit game for Miles for Mila Feb. 25 at Civic Arena.

Runners finish the inaugural Miles for Mila 5K race in Clarkston to raise money for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit organization that provides remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. The St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints hockey team will host a benefit game for Miles for Mila Feb. 25 at Civic Arena.

Photo provided by Gregg Kirk

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints will be fighting for the families of infants who are born angels when they take the ice this month.

The city’s professional hockey team will hold a charity game at 8 p.m. Feb. 25 to benefit Miles for Mila, a foundation established by Gregg Kirk and his wife, Sarah, after their daughter, Mila, was stillborn June 19, 2015.

When Mila was born, he said, his wife’s doctor encouraged them to make use of the services of a non-profit organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which provides remembrance photography for parents grieving the loss of a baby.

“After that, my wife and I decided that we wanted to keep her memory alive, so we started Miles for Mila,” said Kirk, who lives in Lake Orion but grew up in St. Clair Shores.

On what would have been Mila’s first birthday, the Kirks held a 5K walk/run, Miles for Mila, at Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston.

The 2016 race raised more than $7,500 for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. While they will have a race again in 2017, the Kirks are looking to another avenue to help parents through the same experience.

This year, the money raised will go to purchase “cuddle cots” for local hospitals. Kirk explained that when a baby is stillborn, the infant is taken away to another place in the hospital. Cuddle cots are a cooling system that preserves a baby’s body while the family grieves so they can have time to say goodbye.

But the cots cost about $3,000 each. Kirk said they are hoping to be able to donate a few cuddle cots to local hospitals, beginning with Crittenton, where Mila and her brother, 4-year-old Henry, were born.

“We also want to raise awareness, because it’s such a taboo subject,” Kirk said. “The more we talked about it with other people, the better we felt. To know that, hey, this happens ... you’re not the only couple this happens to.”

The Kirk family have long been friends with the family of St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints center Jonathan Juliano, who participated in the inaugural Miles for Mila race. After the race, he wanted to do more.

“They’ve been close friends of ours a long time and, also, one of my best friends I grew up with, he also lost his baby around the same time,” said Juliano, of Clinton Township. “I was talking to our (general manager), and we both kind of feel the same. We want to make some money for the community.”

So the Fighting Saints will donate all proceeds from the night’s ticket sales, raffles and jersey auction to Miles for Mila in the hope that it will help other families in the same circumstances. 

Tickets to the game cost $5 at the door, although additional donations are welcome, and the Fighting Saints will play the Watertown Wolves from New York. Puck drop is at 8 p.m.

“We’re just flabbergasted that the Fighting Saints and Jonathan Juliano would do this for us,” said Bo Kirk, of St. Clair Shores, Gregg Kirk’s father. 

He said events like this and the Miles for Mila race help the family move forward.

“We know the whole family, and out of the clear blue sky he contacted us, and he said he wanted to go ahead and do this,” Bo Kirk said. “It was such a wonderful feeling that they would step up and do that.”

For more information, look for the Miles for Mila Benefit Hockey Game event on Facebook.

“It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s great to have people in your life like that,” Gregg Kirk said.

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