Christine Parenton is living the nightmare every parent fears.
The loss of a child.
But it’s how Parenton responded to this tragedy that has helped her move forward as a stronger, more resilient woman and has kept the memory of her young daughter alive.
In 2012, Parenton, her husband and two young daughters, Callie and Cailyn, moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge for her husband’s work. Just days after celebrating her first birthday on Feb. 14, 2013, Cailyn unexpectedly died in what physicians labeled a SIDS death.
“Here we were in a brand new town trying to get comfortable and, boom, tragedy hits,” says Parenton. Parenton leaned on family and friends but admits she lost her faith for a short time. “I’ve always believed in God but, to say the least, I was a little angry and confused and hurt.”
Parenton received grief counseling and—to try and make something positive out of a horrible situation—she and her husband created the Cailyn Michael Parenton Foundation. Although the purpose of the nonprofit organization was at first a little unclear, Parenton says she wanted to remember Cailyn by enhancing other childrens’ lives. She just wasn’t sure exactly how to do so. In the meantime, she discovered that was pregnant with her son, Jude, which put the foundation focus on the backburner for a bit.
Only recently, with the launch of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge, expected to open in 2017, did the Parenton family find the perfect fit for their foundation. The museum is specifically geared towards enhancing the lives of children through positive learning exhibits and active engagement in arts and athletics. The foundation committed funds in Cailyn’s name to sponsor the museum’s “I See Food Cafe Learning Zone,” a hands-on exhibit that will allow children to learn about nutrition and inspire creativity through play in a restaurant setting,
The foundation is also now working with the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans to name the museum’s “Sensory Lagoon” exhibit in honor of Cailyn.
“I just want to celebrate her life,” Parenton says. And creating a foundation in Cailyn’s name is a chance for Parenton to show her other children, especially Callie, who was five years old at the time of her sister’s death, that one can make something meaningful out of a tragedy.
“I feel like I’m teaching her how to be resilient,” Parenton says. “How you get through things with faith and family.”
Eventually, Parenton hopes the foundation will be able to provide financial assistance for SIDS research and act as a resource for other parents who lose children.
“It’s good to lean on somebody who went through it, because I did,” Parenton says.
The foundation accepts donations through its website, and Parenton says she plans to hold several fundraising dinners in the spring.
Visit cailyngives.org for more information. Click here to read about the rest of the Women with a Cause for 2016, and if you know someone who would make a great Woman with a Cause in 2017, let us know by emailing [email protected].
How long have you been involved?
Cailyn passed away a week after her first birthday in 2013. We started the foundation right after that in memory of her.
How is the goal of your cause?
We want to create, build, help and enhance the joy of small children.
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
I believe at the end of the day, these efforts are reaching little kids and putting smiles on their faces and providing things to them that they don’t have.