Dustin and Tasha Ruholl were inspired to make a difference out of their tragedy and grief following the loss of their late son, Daniel Anthony. They are awestruck by the love and support they have received from their local and online community who helped them raise funds to give the gift of time to families who will ultimately travel down the unimaginable path of losing a child.
These Teutopolis natives lost their son, Daniel, to stillbirth on October 16, 2017. Daniel was born just eight weeks shy of his due date, weighing 3 pounds, 10 ounces and measuring 17.5 inches long. Tasha Ruholl said, “We tried to memorize him-- to remember how our fingers seemed to soften as we ran our hands through his delicate brown hair, how the presence of his weight in our arms seemed to fill a part of the emptiness in our hearts. I couldn’t help but think how perfectly he laid on my chest, as if he somehow knew he belonged there.”
They soon learned time was not kind to Daniel. Dustin and Tasha were encouraged by their caring nurses at Sarah Bush Lincoln to send Daniel to the morgue for several hours at a time in effort to preserve him. Tasha recalled, “Calling the nurse to request Daniel to be taken to the morgue was unbearable. Watching him being taken away while knowing where he was destined to remain caused unfathomable physical and emotional pain.”
During the short time they spent with Daniel, Dustin and Tasha shared these precious moments with their families to help them also process their loss of a grandson and nephew.
A few months after Daniel’s passing, Dustin and Tasha learned of the CuddleCot system. This device cools the baby allowing the infant to stay with their family which delays use of the morgue and significantly preserving the baby’s delicate features. This ultimately gives families the gift of more time with their sleeping baby. The cooling pad can be placed in a bassinet or even used as a blanket so baby can remain in the arms of their family.
On September 28, they hosted a free-will donation lunch and dinner drive-thru fundraiser at McMahon Meats in Teutopolis. Much to their surprise, their initial 1,000 prepared hamburgers and porkburgers barely supported the lunch crowd. Tasha said, “We were blown away by the response of the community, yet, at the same time, it’s not a surprise that’s how our community reacted. When there’s anyone in need, the people of our community respond in such big ways. We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the community we live in.” She continued, “Honestly, at lunch, we had such a huge crowd, it was hard for us to keep up. There were cars lined down the highway, resulting in longer wait times, but everyone was still so patient with us. Without our small army of family and friends, that day wouldn’t have been possible.” She also recalled, “As individuals came through that day, we heard so many new stories about their own losses. Grieving the loss of a child can often make you feel so alone, but it’s in times like these when you realize there’s so many others who have also experienced the same grief and trauma. It was inspiring to speak with these individuals, because they have allowed us to see how they’ve made it through the toughest times in their lives, and they are living their lives fully and have been able to find true happiness. We walked away with several new friendships that day and we are so grateful for that.”
On that one sunny Friday afternoon, they raised $12,700. In combination with their online fundraiser, they raised approximately $28,736. Tasha stated, “We are truly speechless. The amount of funds we were able to raise is just beyond our wildest dreams. And because of all those generous people out there, so many families will be provided the gift of time with their sleeping babies.
Dustin and Tasha’s initial goal was to raise enough funds in Daniel’s memory to provide a CuddleCot to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, because this is where Daniel was born and where Tasha works as a speech-language pathologist. At this point, they have identified six other hospitals in the region which are in need of a CuddleCot. These hospitals include: St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham; Crawford Memorial Hospital in Robinson; HSHS St. Joseph Hospital in Breese; Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney; OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana; and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia.
Tasha stated, “We’ve realized it’s often times the smaller or rural hospitals that cannot deem it feasible to purchase a CuddleCot given the cost of the system and the fact it’s not used on a daily basis. Some of these hospitals we are donating to have approximately five stillbirths per year, which means the CuddleCot would be used approximately every other month.”
She went on to say, “These CuddleCots will do so much for so many. Parents who have experienced late miscarriages, stillbirth, and even infant loss (up to 1 year of age) can benefit from the use of a CuddleCot. It’s absolutely heartbreaking knowing that the CuddleCots will be put to good use, yet we know what a positive impact it will make on so many families. We couldn’t be prouder to be honoring our son, Daniel in such a profound way.”
The family extends their gratitude to the community’s generosity and support.