By Holly Hendershot
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — The nonprofit organization Loving Daniel, based in Uniontown, started with one family’s devastating loss, but has led them to help hundreds of others through similar pain.
Nicole and Bill Dice’s son, Daniel John, was born at 8:38 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2015. By 10:07 a.m. he was gone, succumbing to a fatal form of dwarfism known as thanatophoric dysplasia. The couple spent 89 minutes with their son before he passed away, and then another three days at the hospital with him, making memories, grieving and then saying goodbye.
Through this tragedy, the Dices decided they wanted to help other families get through similar hardships and honor their son’s memory by creating a nonprofit in his name.
“We had some families reach out to us that had losses,” Nicole Dice said. “Through those discussions, we realized that our experience that we had through the loss of Daniel was not the same as everyone else. People didn’t always get to spend the time with their child that we had.”
Over the last five years, the Dices have supported many families coping with the death of an infant, still-birth and miscarriage. One of the ways they do this is fundraising to give hospitals Cuddle Cots, which are cooling units in baby baskets that cools a baby after their death to give families more time with their infant.
“We really wanted other families to have time to make memories like we had made in the time we took with Daniel,” Nicole Dice said. “For our healing, that closure was extremely important.”
IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For additional information on Loving Daniel, including ways to contribute, visit lovingdaniel.org.
The organization has since donated eight Cuddle Cots to hospitals in the tri-state area, one each to Uniontown Hospital, St. Clair Hospital, Ruby Memorial Hospital, Washington Health System, Washington Health System Greene, Jefferson Hospital, Forbes Hospital and Mon Health.
Dr. Rod Hojat, obstetrician-gynecologist and pregnancy doctor, at Southwest Women’s Healthcare, was the doctor who delivered the news about Daniel’s circumstances to the Dices during the pregnancy. Now he encourages their work through Loving Daniel.
“When such events occur, it’s an indescribably terrible time for families, and the benefit of the cots is that it at least gives them that extra little bit of time that is precious to them and helps them process and grieve during such a difficult time,” he said. “The (Dice) family is doing a fantastic thing.”
The organization also provides books and other resources that help families go through the grief process after the loss of a child. In addition, they provide care packages and memorial ornaments for parents to put the name or photo of their child in.
During the pandemic, Nicole Dice said they have had to cancel all their fundraisers, and they haven’t been able to go to hospitals to donate Cuddle Cots due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The COVID situation has really put more of a stress on us as far as carrying out our process of meeting with hospitals and donating Cuddle Cots,” she said. “We’re hoping that by this next spring or summer we can start doing that again.”
Although they have to limit most of what the organization does right now, Dice said they have still had people reach out to them for books and other resources, so they’ve been able to carry out that aspect of their nonprofit in a safe way.
“We have a warrior group of supporters within our non-profit,” she said.
Dice said the best way to contribute to Loving Daniel is to help with fundraising efforts to purchase Cuddle Cots. The organization had to cancel their annual calendar party this year, but next year’s calendar party is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10, 2021.
She also said people are free to reach out to them about any hospitals that may need a Cuddle Cot.
“It’s important for others to see that they’re not alone in their grief,” she said. “We want the parents to know that we understand what they’re going through and we understand their grief, because we’ve walked through that.”
Holly Hendershot is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Readers may email her at [email protected]