FINDING A PATH FROM TRAGEDY

Family starts foundation after loss of infant daughter

by Lynn Colburn

A local family’s faith and love for their baby Penelope is an inspiration for all. Despite their heartbreak, Penelope has inspired the Schaver family to move forward by starting a foundation in her name and spirit to give to children in need as well as to help comfort grieving families.

Mickenzie Schaver was born and raised in Beardstown. She recalls, “Josh and I met at Monmouth College our freshman year. Josh is from Erie, Illinois.” They graduated in 2008 and were married in August 2010. “We both knew we wanted to grow our family but decided to wait a few years so that we could have fun and make memories as newlyweds … it was time well spent as we knew once children came along we wouldn’t have as much ‘freedom.’”

After the couple enjoyed their “freedom,” they settled in. “I have always wanted to be a mom,” says Schaver, “and I can tell you now that it is the MOST fulfilling job on this earth. In July 2014, Acen was born. “We didn’t find out his gender until he arrived, and it was so exciting hearing those words ‘It’s a BOY.’ Watching him grow and learn those first two years made us positive we wanted more.”

They became pregnant in 2016 and suffered their first heartbreak with a miscarriage at 10 weeks, but Schaver knew they would try again. In February 2017, they were pregnant with their daughter, Liv. “She is a true ‘rainbow baby’ as we would have been due that month with our prior miscarriage. Liv, now two and a half, is the sweetest little thing and loves to play with her baby dolls. She definitely is the ‘mama hen’,” Schaver says lovingly. “I was the middle child and always wanted to have at least three children. I did a little convincing and got Josh on board! We were blessed with our fourth pregnancy in August 2019!”

“We were all so excited,” continues Schaver. “Everything with my pregnancy with Penelope was perfect! A healthy baby girl. The family found out together while shooting out pink streamers in front of our home! In all honesty, both my husband and I thought we were having another boy. But, oh boy, was I excited to see the PINK! If you know me, you know I love all the bows. Acen was a little bummed to not be getting his ‘lil’ bro, however Liv was over the moon to have a baby sister joining us in April 2020!”

“We were 36 weeks and 6 days when full labor started so we rushed to the hospital,” Schaver reveals. “We knew Penelope would be here that day! I decided to wait on any medication because I was feeling pretty good given the circumstances, so we settled in with anticipation of holding Penelope for the first time.

A few hours passed and all was good, then there was a dip in her heart rate, so the nurses came in and gave me some oxygen. I rolled on my side and her heart rate went back to normal. That was the only scare we had throughout our labor and delivery.

Shortly after that my amazing doctor came in and broke my water. Penelope was out in six contractions, but we knew something was wrong as she couldn’t catch her breath fully, so the nurses started working on her.

I can tell you that the next 42 minutes of our lives were the longest there will ever be. Hearing the words, ‘Call it,’ after thinking this day was going to be the best day of our lives, broke us in every single way that morning. We held our beautiful, precious baby girl all afternoon and evening. Not wanting to let her go for one second … I can go on and on about this day and the days to follow, the pain and sadness are unimaginable … however our faith in God cannot be broken.”

With time, love, faith, counseling and support, families can move through grief into healing. The March of Dimes says, “one way is to find special ways for you and your family to remember your baby.” That is exactly what the Schaver family did. Although it is still early after Penelope’s passing, they have already started their path towards healing and honoring their Heavenly Angel.

Schaver shares, “The support and prayers from all our family and friends and even complete strangers who have gone through a journey similar to ours is what got us through each day. For that I am beyond thankful! My husband and I have become stronger as a couple and we are more connected now as a family than ever before.”

In the midst of her grief, Schaver found a way to help others with the blessings Penelope had given her. “I was fortunate to be able to pump and donate our milk to a local family who has become so close to which has been a blessing,” says Schaver. “That story alone is so amazing. You really do see how God works if you sit back and let him show you.”

The family has set up a foundation called Penelope’s PATH (Preaching Among The Heavens), a 501(c)(3) foundation, in their daughter’s name. Penelope’s PATH is raising funds to go to charities that assist with their mission as well as different events and projects the foundation starts up. The focus of the foundation is to help children and families in need or who are grieving the loss of a loved one (particularly a child/infant) through ministry.

In the month of June, when Penelope would have been two months old, the family set up a 5K-A-Day “Paving Penelope’s Path” challenge on Facebook where people pledged to run and donate. They were pleased to report nearly $10,000 in donations.

People could walk or bike if they prefer or can simply contribute to Penelope’s PATH by donating at www.paypal.me/penelopespath or by going to “Penelope’s PATH” on Facebook. If you would rather send a check, reach on Facebook via private message or by email: mschaver@penelopespath.org or jschaver@penelopespath.org.

“We will have our website, www.penelopespath.org, up and going very soon where you will find a link to PayPal,” says Schaver.

If donating is not possible, the Schaver family says, “You can pray. Pray for guidance for us as we start this journey for our daughter Penelope. Pray for our world, we need it more now than ever – we need kindness and love. Pray for our churches and ministries. Pray for each other.”

On June 30, after his own month of running, Josh Schaver wrote on Facebook “I can’t say enough how grateful we are for all of the love and support. This month we set out to pave the PATH for the future of Penelope’s Foundation on short notice and with no idea how it was going to turn out. We took a leap and decided to go for it. It was the best thing we could have done. Over the past 102 miles I spent dreaming, envisioning and receiving ideas on what all we can do to honor Penelope’s legacy. We have some big ideas that will take even more courage and faith to step into. Today was bittersweet it was the end, but it is only just the beginning of what we can truly do to help others and make a difference in the lives of those in need. I found myself overwhelmed with emotion multiple times today reading comments, receiving donations and hearing people’s journey. Thank you so much for joining us it has truly helped lift us up in times of great uncertainty and pain. While we wish every day that Penelope was here with us, we know without a doubt that God has and is going to do amazing things as a result of Penelope’s passing. Stay tuned for updates we have only just begun.”

“We will need volunteers to help with events for the children in our communities. Let us know if you or anyone you know is grieving over the loss of a stillborn/infant/child so that we can try to comfort them,” says Schaver.

“Although we are new to this unfortunate group of parents who have lost a child, we are here to help you on your journey through grief. We want you to find peace, hope and strength through God. I’ve been asked if I am angry with God … My answer, I cannot be angry with God because he is who gave me the time I had with our Penelope and for that I am thankful. His love for me and all his children is the greatest love of all.”

“We are still at the beginning stages of this, but we have high hopes that we can do awesome things with God and our Angel’s help along the way. Praying for this foundation is the most important thing anyone out there that is reading this can do!”

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