First Donation- Thank you ABC7 for covering it

Thanks Cheryl Conner for covering our first donation.  We really appreciate the respect that you gave to the event.  Thank you.


Handmade blankets are given to the emergency room staff at Washington Adventist Hospital. They will be used for one final comfort for infants and small children who passed away.

The parents of a baby who died from donate homemade blankets to the ER at @AdventistHC where their baby was given her final blanket.

“We can’t pretend this has a happy ending, and so I love that people are able to be okay with that,” said Summer Porter, the creator of Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.

Porter and her husband turned their healing into helping others by creating Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.

Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade started shortly after she died 8 months ago. Now close to 100 blankets are made in celebration of her 1st bday

“She went down for a nap and just didn’t wake up from a nap,” said Porter.

Breelyn would have turned one on Sunday. Instead of cake, her family and complete strangers built up the blanket supply and then came back to the hospital to thank the doctors, nurses and paramedics who tried to revive her.

“One of our nurses, not too long after Breelyn came in, after the team worked on her and could not revive her, then went to the closet and took one of these blankets and just wrapped her,” said Ann Roda, who provides mission integration and spiritual care at Adventist HealthCare.

Breelyn died from SIDS back in June while at Little Angels Daycare in College Park, which is no longer on the state’s child care database following accusations they were understaffed.

“It’s really unusual that families come back to us and give us some closure,” said Dr. Linda Nordeman, the medical director for Washington Adventist Hospital.

Fifteen blankets were given to the hospital on Monday, and Breelyn’s family plans to continue to donate.

Porter says she and her husband have to keep going for their three-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

“If we can make somebody’s worse day just a little bit better, then we have to try,” said Porter.

“If we can make somebody’s worse day just a little bit better, then we have to try,” said Breelyn’s mom, on the blanket donations.,

You can learn more about how to donate a blanket at

Fire/EMS Personnel Moved by “Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade”

Thank you Prince George’s County Fire and EMS staff for meeting with us today.  Meeting the first responding team touched us beyond words.  Really- meeting the men that first tried to save our daughter had us all in tears.  Thank you for the work that you do.  It matters.


Fire/EMS Personnel Moved by “Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade”

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930     @PGFDPIO
An emotional and uplifting event this morning at the Emergency Department of Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park provided an opportunity for a family to meet and thank firefighter/medics and hospital staff for their efforts in attempting to save the life of their infant daughter.

On June 17, 2016 firefighters from the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company, medics from the College Park Fire/EMS Station and an EMS supervisor were dispatched to a home in College Park for a 911 report of an infant that had stopped breathing.  Fire/EMS units quickly arrived and initiated CPR and transported the infant to Washington Adventist Hospital where despite the very best of treatment by all involved was pronounced deceased.  This tragic death was sudden and unexpected.

Sunday, February 19, 2017 would have been Breelyn Porters 1st Birthday and today first responders and hospital staff were called together by the her family.  Summer Porter, Breelyn’s mom, and family met and thanked everyone involved in efforts to save Breelyn’s life.  The Porter family presented each person with a homemade blanket which carries a very important and impactful meaning to the family.  The Porter family felt their grieving process was helped by seeing their daughter wrapped in a homemade blanket when she passed away.

The homemade blanket meant so much to them that the Porter family started Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.  This brigade is an effort to provide homemade blankets to all area hospitals and perhaps help others in these circumstances.  On a website promoting the effort, Summer Porter stated, “We want to give that moment of love to other families who have lost their children. Making an entire blanket is a daunting task and 5″ x 5″ squares are much easier to commit to. I’m twelve squares in and I only learned to crochet a month ago. Anyone can learn- my first grade niece is a pro! I encourage you to try making some squares. Crochet, knit, quilt- whatever works for you! Goal is approximately 30″ x 40″ blankets (48 – 5″ squares). Gender neutral colors are probably best – green, yellow, purple, etc.  Make a blanket or make a square – let’s show others that we care. Join Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade today!”

The Branchville Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad, Inc. and the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department strongly encourage everyone to help in whatever way possible to Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.  For additional information on how you can help go the this website and Facebook page:

Breelyns Blanket Brigade

Breelyns Blanket Brigade Facebook Page

Fire/EMS Personnel on the call included:

Branchville Engine 811

Richard Leizear

Ronald Leizear

Orville Saunders

Dafonso Davage, Jr

Medic 812 – College Park

Brian Goldfeder

Haywood Kelly

EMS Duty Officer

Dale Giampetroni



The First Blanket Donation- Hospital

And so we awoke, the day after Breelyn’s first birthday.  Today was the day that we would make our first donation.  Today was the day that we’d return to the hospital where our child was pronounced dead.  We’d walk through the E.R. doors.  We’d meet the people that worked so hard to save our child.

This was a family affair for us- including grandparents and my aunt and uncle.  We needed to be together to get through this.  And so we arrived.  And so did everyone else.  I’d expected to meet a couple of medical staff members who’d worked with Breelyn.  I wasn’t prepared for all of the first responders.  I can’t remember the exact number but 8-10 men in their uniforms arrived.  They were the men who’d first cared for Breelyn- who’d diligently performed CPR, who fought so hard to save my baby. I was moved.

And then there was the medical team.  I saw the doctor who told me that Breelyn had died.  I wasn’t sure that I would remember anyone from that day but I remembered her.  I remembered the hurt that she had in her eyes when she told me that it looked like Breelyn had taken a nap and not woken up.  And the hurt was still in her eyes when we exchanged a hug.

And I met nurses who had helped Breelyn.  One had covered Breelyn in the handmade blanket.  He gave me a card that the staff had prepared in honor of Breelyn’s birthday.  I didn’t know what sort of card one could ever provide to celebrate the birthday that wasn’t but it was perfect.  The front of the card says “You outshine every candle on your cake.”  Inside “Happy Birthday to a brilliant beacon of God’s love.”  There’s a verse printed- “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. Matthew 5:16”.  And then everyone has signed it with messages of happy birthday to a beautiful angel, thinking of you, praying for you, etc.  I’m moved.

I’m not a lover of the spotlight but I have a message- a purpose and so I try to get it out there.  This meant that the media was also there for the donation.  It wasn’t easy, I wasn’t eloquent, and I didn’t sugar coat.  I was honest. This was hard- our baby had died and we struggle.  BUT, how these men and women had handled the day that Breelyn died, had made a difference- it was why we were here.  Their decision to cover our child in a blanket had influenced me to learn to crochet and then to invite others to do the same.  And a ripple effect continued.  The original person crocheted the blanket, the medical team covered Breelyn, I was moved and made blankets and invited others to do the same, those others invited others, who invited others…  and in five short months, we’ve created 100 blankets.  That represents 100 families who will know that they aren’t alone.

There isn’t a happily ever after to this story.  These dear babies and small children will still die.  But our blanket represented our baby not being alone.  It helped me feel that others saw her as a baby.  That she was cared for and loved.  And so, we make/collect/distribute blankets.  We pray for the receivers and for the medical teams and first responders. We ache for the loss that they will endure.  And we pray that they will all endure- that they will be able to go on to help others.  We’re not perfect and this still stinks, but the blanket made a difference to us, so we have to try to make a difference for others.

The First Blanket Donation- Dedication

Last night we gathered for a family dinner to remember Breelyn.  It was her birthday and we knew it.  My mom made sandwiches and cookies in the shape of butterflies which is our “thing” for Breelyn.  I think that we were all just trying to keep it together so we actually didn’t mention Breelyn.  We were just together.  Until the end of dinner, when I said that we had one more thing- we wanted to dedicate the blankets that would be donated.

And so the blankets were stacked up, all 100 of them.  We gathered around and discussed our hopes for these blankets- that the receivers would feel loved, that their worst moment would be just a bit better.  When my mom puts the “Made With Love By Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade” tags on, she prays for the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We’ve lived this and so we prayed for the others that would live this- that they would find the strength to press on.

Breelyn’s Birthday

On 2/19/17, Breelyn would have turned one.  We would have had a party.  She would have squished some cake.  She would be standing, walking while holding onto things, saying mama and dada, and laughing.  She’d be grabbing her sister’s toys and smiling at her sister’s antics.  But none of those things happened.  Instead, we visited her grave.

What do you do on the birthday that wasn’t?  For me, I had two goals.  One was to make a blanket donation in honor of the Breelyn and the blanket that she was covered with at the E.R.  My goal was 30 blankets and we received 100.  Thank you to everyone- you are amazing!  My second goal was to complete teddy bears made of clothing that Breelyn had worn.  I finished bears for myself, my spouse, our toddler, and both sets of grandparents.  I have plans to make more bears for my sisters and sister in law but didn’t make the February deadline.  The bears make me smile.  I love that I have memories and photos of my daughter wearing the fabrics.  I love that the red and white polka-dot was worn by my toddler for her first haircut and by her baby sister.  I love that these bears tell a story.  I’m lucky to have siblings that have older children- it has meant that most of the fabrics in these bears were first worn by my nephews, nieces, and toddler- I love that.  I love that the bears are made up of all of these different pieces.  The toddler’s bear is made of dotted fabric and she calls it “Dotsy”.

Teaching teenagers to crochet

I’ve been lucky enough to have two school groups decide to contribute squares to Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade.  I’m ironing out the kinks but I thought that I’d share some of the things that I’ve learned.

  • Provide written, picture, and youtube instructions- I put together a handout compiling information found online.
  • Use yarn that is easy for beginners- I use Caron one pound in various pastel colors.
  • Get a ball winder to break the one pound yarn into smaller balls-I use Yarn Ball Winder by Knit Picks. (makes approximately six balls)
  • Use one quart ziploc bags to store individual balls- students can label with sharpie markers
  • Get everyone the same size crochet hook- I use 5.5mm.  Joann Fabrics often has sales.
  • Make five inch paper squares and put one in each ziploc.  Students will be able to measure the correct size for their finished square without needing ruler.
  • Consider starting each project- start first 2.5 lines.  Often times you only have 30 minutes with the students.  Learning to make the beginning chain is the most difficult and time consuming.  With the second school, I opted to start all of their projects and that allowed them to learn and progress much more quickly.  When they complete a square, I can start a new one for them quickly.
  • Use stitch markers to keep your place-I use Boye (there are 25 in a box and they are around $4).  They will keep your work from unraveling.
  • Provide storage to keep all projects in one space.  I use soft clothing storage box by iWill (found on amazon for about $10).
  • Give students a visual for how their squares will contribute to a blanket.  I’m attaching a picture of the first blanket that I made- using single crochet, Caron yarn, 5.5 mm hook.

I’m certain that there will be more things that I learn along the way…  Working with students has been exciting and inspirational.  It is so amazing that they are wanting to make a difference to these grieving families.  Do reach out if you are interested in getting some teenagers crocheting. I’d love to hear your stories!

Thoughts for my session on “Let’s Pray”

I wanted my visit to “Let’s Pray” to be authentic but I’m a planner and so I wrote down some things that I wanted to share.  I ran out of time and didn’t get to touch on everything so thought that I’d share them below:

Initially, I didn’t have the words to pray and so I let others do it for me.  While stopped at a traffic light on the way to the hospital, I text messaged my small group to pray.  From the emergency room, I let the chaplain pray with me and then with my family when they arrived.  Our pastors prayed.  Our friends prayed. But no prayers from me, what could I pray for?  And so I prayed for others.  The morning after Breelyn died, I prayed for the parents who would lose their children that day- that would live and survive their worst day.  And I did that every day.  And when I needed prayer but couldn’t do it myself, I continued to turn to others.  Social media was an avenue that could guarantee me prayer at any time of the day/night.

Soon after Breelyn died- three things targeted my thoughts:

  1. I remembered the story in the Bible where the lepers are healed and the majority don’t come back to say thank you.  And so I made sure to thank the EMT and medical teams that had tried so hard to save Breelyn.  I thanked them for the dedication and for treating my child like a loved baby.  We also started concentrating on generally be thankful- even for small things like a dishwasher, air conditioning, etc.
  2. A Muslim friend messaged me that in her faith it is believed that there is a special place in heaven for those that lose a child and continue to praise God.  While I didn’t necessarily believe that to be true, I realized that I could continue to praise God.  While Breelyn had died, we were still blessed.  Even during the day of her death, God was helping.  Just that morning I had breakfast with a friend who’d become a vice president for the health system that Breelyn was taken to.  When the chaplain mentioned that their new vice president attended the same church as me, I said yes, I knew that, I’d just had breakfast with her.  The chaplain said “I’m calling her now” and thirty minutes later my friend was there.  I’d been having lunch with a friend less than a mile away from the hospital.  We were discussing her upcoming wedding and she shared that she was having pre-marital counseling with my senior pastor that day.  We finished lunch and I was driving home when I got the call to come to the hospital.  I was able to arrive at the hospital in minutes because of my lunch date location.  After I learned that Breelyn had died, because I knew my friend’s schedule, I was able to call her to come pick up my other daughter Brooklyn from daycare.  And when my friend called to let the pastor know that she couldn’t make the appointment, he was able to then contact me to see if we wanted him to come to the hospital.  My family was able to get the last seats on a flight from Boston.  And some thoughtful people spent their time and talents to make a blanket that the medical team would cover my sweet daughter with.  God still loved my family.  We were living in a sinful world but we were still blessed.
  3. My dad’s cousin sent me a cd by Selah. There is a Song- Press On that became my mantra.  I’d listen to it on repeat as I drove to/from work with tears streaming down my face.  And it became my goal, to simply press on.  And God would give me the strength to do that.  I ordered the cd for all of my family members and it became everyone’s manta- to just Press On.

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes

We find the strength to press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on

Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
We find the strength to press on
To press on


Some recent things that have been keeping me going:

  1. Therapy- you don’t need to do this alone.  Find a group, get a therapist.  Seek the help that you need.  There are some fantastic online support groups.
  2. A God box- in a sermon, my senior pastor mentioned that we didn’t need to ask God to take a burden, just give it to Him.  When I mentioned this to my therapist, she suggested a God box.  So in our house, we actually have a box wrapped up in pretty shiny paper.  When I have a thought that won’t leave my head- I tell God that He’s got it, I write it on a slip of paper and put it in the box.  This is especially useful at night when my mind is racing, I have to go downstairs to where the box is located- it gets me out of my head.
  3. Breelyn’s Blanket Brigade- we were incredibly touched when Breelyn was covered in handmade blankets. It felt like when we weren’t there to take care of her, someone else had.  And while it didn’t change the outcome, our daughter had still died, it helped in the moment.  And so I wanted to give that moment of love to others who had similar losses.  I learned to crochet. I visited one of my sisters and discovered that my seven year old niece could crochet too.  And I thought, if a seven year old can do this, maybe others can too.  And so I started a facebook group inviting friends to join my efforts.  Just months later, there are over 500 members. I’ve received near 70 blankets and most of them are from strangers!  A local church school group is making squares and The Columbia Visitor ran a story about it. A prisoner from OH is working on blankets.  It’s been amazing the energy, care, and time that the world is putting into this.  We’ll be making the first donations in late February in honor of what would have been Breelyn’s first birthday.

Loss with a toddler

Breelyn is on my toddler’s mind a lot.  Last week from the backseat she says “Breelyn died in heaven.” I explain to her that Breelyn died in Maryland where we live and that when Jesus returns we’ll all be together in heaven.  Toddler then says, “oh no, Daddy forgot to pick up Breelyn, we need to call him.”

And this week my mom and I decided to turn some of Breelyn’s clothes into teddy bears for my and my spouse’s siblings and parents.  Toddler says, “wait, Breelyn will need those clothes.”

This is hard- I won’t pretend that it isn’t.  It’s a struggle to explain that we can’t see Breelyn anymore, that we can only visit her grave, that she doesn’t need her special clothes to wear.

Our toddler will grow up longing for heaven in a way that I didn’t understand until Breelyn died.  Heaven is more than a really cool place- it will reunite families.  It will make hearts whole again.  It will make me whole again.