Friends and family have rallied around a Cessnock family who experienced the unfathomable heartbreak of stillbirth last month.
Savannah Mackenzie Relf – the daughter of Catherine and Russell Relf – was born sleeping on May 6, at 38 weeks and four days gestation.
While it has been a soul-destroying time for the couple, they say the outpouring of support they have received has been “phenomenal”.
Among their biggest supporters is the pregnancy and infant loss support organisation, Bears of Hope.
As the name suggests, Bears of Hope provides bereaved families with a teddy bear to take home, so they don’t have to walk out of the hospital with empty arms.
The Relfs received a bear named Sebastian, which was donated by another bereaved family in honour of their angel.
Bears of Hope also gave the Relfs a beautiful memory box and suggestions for creating memories with Savannah.
The organisation provides a range of ongoing services for people who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss – such as free, qualified phone and email support; parent-led, psychologist-facilitated support groups; counselling, community events and resources.
To honour Savannah’s memory and thank Bears of Hope for their support, Mr Relf and a group of 14 mates have teamed up to participate in the Beards of Hope campaign this winter.
The team – known as Savannah’s Boys – will grow their beards for three months while raising funds for the charity, and will shave them off on the first day of spring.
“We are incredibly grateful for everything that Bears of Hope have done for us and we have an opportunity to help them to help more families like us,” Mr Relf said.
Savannah’s Boys and another team from Cessnock – the Crumb Catchers – are leading the charge for this year’s Beards of Hope campaign, raising almost $20,000 between them so far.
As reported in last week’s Advertiser, the Crumb Catchers are growing their beards in memory of Ashton Bower, the beloved son of Anthony Bower and Jaye Hoelscher, who passed away when he was three days old.
As of midday on Tuesday, Savannah’s Boys were on top of the leaderboard with $9153.50, slightly ahead of the Crumb Catchers on $9134.83.
The next closest of the 17 teams taking part had raised $3170.85.
Mrs Relf’s brother Ross Barker – who will part with his beard of seven years at the end of the campaign – was on top of the individual leaderboard with $1692.45.
The couple said the support of their family, friends and the Cessnock community has given them great comfort after experiencing such a devastating loss.
“It’s incredibly important to us that Savannah has a positive legacy and we would love to see some good come from this soul-destroying time,” Mrs Relf said.
The couple’s eldest daughter Cadence, who turns two in August, has also been helpful at keeping her mum and dad happy during the tough times.
Savannah’s Boys will hold their shave-off event at the Australia Hotel on Saturday, September 1.
The Friday night meat raffles at the Aussie during winter will also support the cause.
The team is selling Entertainment Books and has a few other fundraising ideas in the works.
Follow their Facebook page ‘Savannah’s Boys for Beards of Hope’ for updates.
Donations to any of the teams or participants can be made at beardsofhope.com.au.
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