A short life has led to what Beckie Smith hopes is a long legacy for her deceased infant son, Walker.
Walker’s Boxes are handcrafted red oak memory boxes given to parents of newborns who pass before leaving the hospital. Beckie, a respiratory therapist who works at the Owen Sound hospital, started this program in 2015 after losing her son at Victoria Hospital in London and receiving a special memory box of her own.
The boxes were donated by the Lambeth Lions Club. The box contained Walker’s name band, ultrasound images, clothing he wore in the hospital, a blanket and molds of his feet. “It meant so much to me when leaving the hospital that I did not have completely empty arms. To this day Walker’s Box is still my most cherished physical possession. I knew I needed to bring a program like this to my workplace,” said Beckie.
The items for the Walker’s boxes are purchased by Beckie or generously donated. They include a quilt, a tiny hat, clay molds, seeds to plant and a special stuffed puppy. “Most parents don’t expect to leave the hospital without their baby, so they don’t bring an item to send with them on their final journey. It was comforting when a nursing friend in London gave me a small stuffed dog to send with Walker on his journey; it made me feel like he was less alone. So, the tradition of the stuffed puppy continues,” she said.
About 10 to 12 Walker’s Boxes are distributed each year in Owen Sound and a couple in Collingwood. For Beckie “Walker’s legacy continues; giving families something to hold onto in recognition of their child’s short, yet meaningful life.”
Beckie and her family plant a red oak tree on their 50-acre property each spring in honour of Walker’s birthday.
Donors contributing to Walker’s Boxes:
- Handmade boxes from Joe Struys
- Clay molds from Bicyclette Rouge Children’s Boutique in Port Elgin
- Knitting by Elizabeth Ouellette and Carol Purbricks
- Stuffed puppy from Keepsakes & Memories in Port Elgin
- Wildflower paper hearts from Suzy Norwood with tags by Kim Schmitt
- Quilt by Brenda Legris-Gainfort