Campaign raises funds to memorialize children
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
There is a stark contrast between the granite grave marker for two stillborn children and the aged, small metallic sign for another infant a row away.
Arranging for families to memorialize their deceased children has become a crusade for Peggy Herrman. Herrman's granddaughter, Makayla Renee Herrman, died in March after her premature birth.
Although the funeral home in Broken Arrow, Okla., waived the funeral's $7,000 cost, the Herrman family still was confronted with a $1,000 bill for a small bronze grave plaque. The community recognized their plight and raised the funds to install a marker on Makayla's plot.
Families in Hays face the same reality of buying an expensive marker for their stillborn children. There are approximately 20 baby graves in Hays that are not sufficiently marked, according to Ron Keithley, owner of Keithley Funeral Chapel.
Herrman, a sales associate for Keithley Monuments, used her grief to inspire positive change.
"I was praying and talking to the Lord, and I felt all the emotions of seeing my kids go through this," Herrman said.
During her work at Keithley Monuments, Herrman realized other families needed the same help her own family received.
Herrman spoke to her friend, Caroline Von Lintel, owner of Al's Chickenette, about a fundraiser to buy grave markers. Von Lintel immediately volunteered to donate.
"I told her that God gave me the vision, and he gave her the provisions," Herrman said.
The funds allowed Herrman to buy two single markers and one double marker for a pair of siblings. Keithley installed the plaques at no cost because he supports her efforts, Herrman said.
Herrman hopes the new markers, two in St. Joseph Cemetery and one in Great Bend, raise awareness about infants being buried without proper markings. She hopes to grow the cause and establish a foundation to help ease families' burdens when they lose a child. Herrman said she chooses the most affordable markers, and the smallest donation can go a long way to having a big effect.
"It's an investment to give families happiness and let them know there is good going on in the world," Herrman said.
Donations with "Makayla's Fund" in the memo line can be made and mailed to Keithley Monuments, 2509 Vine, Hays, KS 67601, or they can be dropped off at Al's Chickenette, 700 Vine.