More than 20,000 infants die every year in the US, leaving tens of thousands of families in an endless tragedy. To remember those babies gone too soon, honor their families, and spread awareness about infant losses, October is marked as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
“Infant loss should be a topic that we, as a community, can openly talk about so we are there for those that unexpectedly suffer from it,” Flower Mound-based mom Tyler Sullivan says.
“Most people assume it is best not to bring the topic up to a parent, as you don’t want to remind them of their loss, but in reality, the loss is something those families are constantly thinking about. Being able to talk about their loss can be very therapeutic and helpful,” she added.
A mother of four, Tyler, is the founder of the Rhett Sullivan Foundation. It is a nonprofit for families who experience unexpected early child loss with financial assistance, grief support, and resources.
The foundation was established in the memory of Rhett Sullivan, the Sullivan family’s beloved son, who met an untimely death at just 2.5 months of age. Rhett was born on July 3, 2017. On September 20, the baby was found unresponsive and not breathing during his morning nap. Sadly, Rhett took his last supported breath at 8:29 pm on September 22.
Losing a child is an unthinkable experience; the Sullivan couple was unsure of how to navigate the loss of their son Rhett. “We had a hard time finding resources, as child loss isn’t a widely publicized or discussed topic. While we continued to grieve, we knew we had to do something to help other families that experienced this loss or similar,” Tyler recalled. That’s how Rhett Sullivan Foundation came into existence.
“Creating and overseeing the foundation has helped us process our loss while also helping others. We view it as our way to parent Rhett and keep his name and memory alive,” she shared.
The foundation aims to help families financially with any memorial service, such as a funeral, burial, cremation, cemetery, or headstone. Just as important, the foundation offers support and costs associated with mental recovery, since those costs are more often than not covered by health insurance. It also emotionally supports families by providing someone in the same boat who can direct them toward other resources for emotional support, such as books, podcasts, and other foundations that help families of pregnancy and infant loss in different ways.
Initially targeting families in Denton County, the foundation was eventually able to expand its support nationwide.
“We have assisted 120+ families to date across 26 different US states,” Tyler mentioned.
The impact Rhett Sullivan Foundation has created in the community has been warmly accepted and supported. More and more supporters and donors are willing to participate in the charity. The foundation hosts an annual golf tournament and smaller fundraisers throughout the year.
The annual golf tournament is the foundation’s largest yearly fundraiser. This year’s tournament is organized at Brookhaven Country Club on October 17. This year’s event has sold out, with over 50 sponsors and 256 golfers participating.
The organization’s various package programs are popular in the town and its surrounding communities. The ‘Love and Comfort’ package program currently covers five hospitals. These hospitals are provided with packages on hand to give families that experience a loss. Sibling package and parent package programs have also helped families receive comfort at the time of tragedy.
Three board members are in charge of guiding the direction of the foundation. Tyler and her husband, Ryan, look after the foundation’s day-to-day assistance, fundraising planning, and operations. “We would love to see more people share our foundation so those who need us and those looking for a foundation to support can find us,” Tyler stated.
The Sullivan family was able to convert grief into a graceful purpose, and now their works are creating a remarkable impact across the country. “We knew we had to carry on for each as a couple and also our daughters; they still needed a Mom and Dad, and we had to be there for them,” the couple said. “Our faith also helps in giving us hope that one day we will see Rhett again.”
If your family or any family you know needs help from Rhett Sullivan Foundation, visit rhettsullivan.org and proceed with the ‘Assistance Eligibility’ section. Once the form is filled out, the team will reach out to discuss the further process.
“This is incredible. Thank you so, so much. I don’t have words to express how grateful we are. You and the foundation have been a source of comfort through this. What an honor to Rhett’s life and memory,” wrote a family.