This spring, Eudora Koh and her husband organized a virtual run fundraiser in memory of their late son, Joen.
Marissa Kingzett, coordinator of Community Partnerships, spoke with her to learn more about her personal experience of loss, their fundraising journey, and how they are keeping the memory of Joen alive.
MK: I know you have a personal story that inspired you to give back. Could you tell us a little about it and why it led you to support the Foundation?
EK: My husband James and I lost our baby boy at 24 weeks gestation. We were told there was no longer a heartbeat and that I would have to be induced into labour to deliver him. So when we were admitted knowing we weren’t going to leave with our baby, we were complete wrecks the moment we entered the hospital doors.
We had few to no words because we couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on. However, I have to say that my experience at the hospital was the best I could’ve had, given my devastating and painful circumstances. It made such a huge difference to have a care team that asked me what I wanted, even though sometimes I didn’t know the answer. We were regularly checked up on yet at the same time, given enough privacy so that we could spend time with each other and with our baby Joen too.
When I came home from the hospital, I wanted to do something to both honour Joen’s memory and also thank the hospital team for delivering high quality care, and for showing deep levels of empathy and compassion. I thought a fundraiser would be a good way for me to channel my grief into something positive and uplifting.
We called it “A Fundraiser in Joen’s Name” and ended the fundraiser on the day Joen was supposed to be born, the date of his walk of remembrance, May 18. Our kind friends at C&O Apparel printed emerald green t-shirts for us (to honour the colour of Joen’s May birthstone) that we designed. We were able to sell nearly 50 shifts to help raise money, in addition to cash donations by our friends and family. In total, we raised just over $4,000 for the BC Women’s Health Foundation, a donation that was made in Joen’s memory and his name.
MK: Is there anything you wished you had known, that you would want to pass on to other families experiencing loss?
EK: I wish I had known that loss is more common than I thought,that there is nothing wrong with me, and there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent this outcome. I was so surprised at the statistics once I read into them. They estimate that miscarriage occurs in about 15% to 25% of pregnancies in Canada. This was staggering to me. But a lot of times, these stats aren’t widely known, because pregnancy loss is something that isn’t talked about in society. I found that once I opened up about losing Joen, others opened up to me and felt more comfortable in being vulnerable and sharing their own very personal story and experience.
Initially I felt so alone but I also found a community of other parents who are walking a similar path of loss. We’re able to understand one another and lift each other up in a way that no one else can, because of the lived experience we share in common. I also wasn’t aware of the number of support networks and resources available to me after losing a baby. I had access to clinical counsellors, social workers and peer support groups, all of which have helped and are continuing to help me heal. I don’t think I would be this far along in my recovery without their care, support, and love.
MK: What was it like fundraising through a virtual run? How did you connect with others and the meaning behind the run?
EK: I think you have to be persistent for any fundraising event, but even more so for a virtual one. People are busy these days, and attention spans are probably shorter than ever with the amount of information that is being consumed on a daily basis.
We sent reminder emails and I shared a lot on my own social media platforms, to help amplify the message and our reach. For us, the more people who know Joen’s name and the reason behind our fundraiser, the better.
We were asking primarily our family and closest friends to help us in our efforts. We received an overwhelmingly positive response, it really showed their support and love for us and our efforts to keep Joen’s memory alive. With social media playing such a big role in our lives today, we were still able to connect with others and demonstrate the reason and cause for this fundraiser on very “public” platforms.
MK: What advice would you give to someone else hosting their own fundraiser?
EK: Don’t be scared or intimidated; sometimes the hardest part is actually just starting! You need to be clear about what you are raising money for and why it is near and dear to your heart. Your passion will come across that way. It’s also about being persistent. People have a lot going on and are overloaded with information these days, so reminders don’t hurt.
I’m not a fundraising professional, nor am I super comfortable doing it, but for our fundraiser in Joen’s name, I wasn’t afraid to ask people to donate. I cared so much about the cause and raising much needed awareness for perinatal loss.
After what we had gone through, it became easy for me to talk to anyone and everyone about our fundraiser, because I felt that it was my purpose to share our story with the world. It was a way to remember Joen and make sure he wasn’t forgotten.
MK: You received such amazing reception and participation from your community. What was that like?
EK: James and I were filled with gratitude at the response to our fundraiser in Joen’s name. The people we are surrounded by have such generous, kind, and big hearts.
We saw this support as love… for not just us but more importantly, for our baby boy. He has made an impact far greater than any of us would’ve imagined. Through our fundraiser and beyond, Joen has managed to touch the hearts of so many people in our community. I couldn’t be happier and more grateful.
MK: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Eudora. Final questions: How has isolation impacted your connections to your community? Are there any changes or learnings that COVID-19 has brought that you hope remain?
EK: When COVID-19 hit, James and I were still very much grieving the loss of Joen, so the lack of human interaction and physical contact made things that much more difficult for us.
We weren’t able to hug our loved ones, or see many friends and family while we were all quarantined at home. However, I couldn’t help but see the parallels of what we experienced and what the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon our world.
We’ve slowed down, and have really realized the importance of our health and our lives. Sometimes, you’re just not in control, no matter how hard you try to be. I hope that people remain kind, compassionate, and willing to help. I hope what remains is the best of humanity that was revealed during the pandemic. Our world can never have enough of that.
- Learn more about “A Walk to Remember Joen” and Eudora’s experience on her Instagram @Eudorable, or her website eudorable.com.
- Support other families like Eudora’s by participating in or donating to the 2020 Butterfly Run happening virtually October 2 and 3, 2020. Funds raised will support those experiencing pregnancy loss, child loss, pregnancy after loss, and infertility.
BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice.