Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2 - Dear Nicholas Sparks

Dear Mr. Sparks,

The Super Bowl was played last night.   I watched with my family because they are football fans.  I am clueless about the sport but I watched the halftime show and commercials.

The Nationwide commercial tugged at my heart.  Today, I am livid at the outcry against the ad.

As a grieving mom, I know that children sometimes die.  It's a horrible, awful thing but it happens.  It's the worst that can happen in this world but it does happen.

As a charity leader that works for a cause that sometimes includes child death, I know that awareness is very hard to raise.

Today, Nationwide Insurance is being boycotted and attacked for daring to try to help prevent the accidental deaths of children and raising awareness during the most televised event of the year.  How dare they upset people like that?   No, how dare the country take offense to something like that? 

The media loves gossip, crime and feel-good stories.   They don't often write about "downers" like dying children.   This is reflected in the constant rejection that our cause gets trying to raise awareness on TV.  Thankfully, some will help.  But we're told "no thanks" 99 times for every "yes".

When we stood in the outside audiences for "Good Morning America" and "The Today Show" in August with photos of our children, we were told that if we wanted air time that we had to put the photos away.   A producer told me that they "only want happy things for a morning show".   They then proceeded to interview a lady with a severe medical condition and focus the camera on people raising awareness for breast cancer.

Often I am turned away for meetings and speech opportunities because Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia is "too sad".   People don't want to hear about, or acknowledge, child death.

When our charity is in contests with other charities for awareness opportunities, our cause isn't chosen.  It's overlooked for more well-known, popular causes.   For awareness contests.    Dying babies just isn't sexy and popular.  

Infant death has been a taboo subject for centuries.   Child death is talked about a bit more because these children have "been in society and known to others" so the loss feels more real to outside people.   You would think that in the 21st century that we would be more enlightened and not force families to pretend their children didn't exist and their deaths didn't happen.

But here we are, in 2015, and our country isn't in an uproar that children are drowning in bathtubs, being strangled on playgrounds, overdosing on their parents medications or being poisoned from household cleaners.  Our country is in an uproar because the commercial scared people into thinking child death could happen to them and that's what they are really upset about.   How dare a company make them think of such awful things?   Even if it is a possibility?  Even if that company is trying to save lives?

Yet other commercials that included disabled children were celebrated.    Sick children are ok, if it's a socially acceptable and well-known cause like cancer or prematurity.   But death... don't ever speak about child death, even if to try to prevent it.  It's not a "feel good" story.   Unless it involves gun death and then it's a politically charged story that makes for good ratings.   Those poor children who have the misfortune to die from other accidents or medical conditions... they don't deserve awareness because it's politically incorrect to upset anyone.

800 children die from CDH every single year in the United States.  Where is their news coverage?

If the commercial had been about stopping puppies from drowning, it would have won CLIO Awards.

As a grieving parent who has lost a child, was it hard for me to watch?  Absolutely.  But Nationwide didn't need to remind me what my child missed out on in life.  I live with that every day.   Of course I cringed when I saw the commercial, who didn't?  But if it saves one life, or a thousand lives of children and prevents other parents from grieving like me....  I can't just think of myself and my feelings.  Make me cry a million times if it will save other children. 

As a parent who has lost a child, let me say that parents WANT and NEED awareness for whatever took their children.   I doubt a single parent who lost a child to an accident is going to boycott Nationwide.  I doubt any person with a heart for children who wants to save any child from losing their life to any cause, is going to boycott Nationwide.   

What happened to compassion in our country?  Why is the gut reaction "Do not upset ME with that stuff!" instead of "What can I do to help save children?".    To me, that is far more disturbing than any commercial could ever be. 

Regardless of how people feel about this commercial, it raised awareness and for that I say, "KUDOS!" to Nationwide.   Your courage and compassion may very well save the lives of children and I applaud and respect your choice to make this commercial.

Whew!  Thank you for letting me vent, Mr. Sparks.   I know you understand the need for awareness because of the characters in your books. 

But do you see what we are up against as a charity?   It is so hard to raise awareness for our children at all.  A cause barely known is even harder.   Our children need your voice.

Dawn M. Torrence Williamson
Shane's grieving mom


  1. Very well written Dawn. I appreciate your candidness.

  2. AMEN its so hard to raise awareness whenever anyone asks about my daughters passing at 3 1 /2 days old they are afraid of asking or upsetting me most people havent a clue about CDH or think they are protecting me by not asking me or to sit long enough conversation but she is right taboo sweep them under the rug it hurys worse by raising awareness not only do we give our babies a purpose for the fight they lost or the battles of everyday life we need help to raise money research awareness our babies are just as important as people with any disease and the worst part of it all these babies and families go through so much and for me and my family the Cherubs organization was the only thing that has given me the most education for what was coming while expecting it didnt make the outcome any easier but it has helped me to talk about her condition then i get the why haven't i heard of this why isnt there a cure why isnt there preventions or known causes and that is where i begin my awareness and also direct them back to the Cherubs page we need more organizations more donations more awareness

  3. Well done, great posts and I also agree 100%. CDH is a very hard disease to fight when there isn't enough knowledge of it out there. If no one knows it is happening then no one is trying to stop it. This must change.

    Most families don't understand unless they have to face it head on.

    CHERUBS gave my daughter the most support in a time when her whole world was turned upside down. She had a beautiful baby Cherub on Dec 24, 2014 who she also had to say goodbye to that same night.

    There is cancer awareness and support, diabetes awareness and support. If you hear of someone who has or had MD, MS or Spina Bifida, most of you can tell what they are.

    But if you ask almost anyone out in the world what CDH is, they don't know. Even most of my daughter's doctors had to be reminded what CDH stood for and that is just sad.

    AWARENESS is what is needed, and then research.

    That anyone would have anything negative to say about trying to get this kind of information out there, is completely heartless.

    Please help Cherubs!

  4. Spot on Dawn.

    People are afraid of reality. If you make child death real to them, they need to worry about the possibility that their children will die. They believe that if they think about it, they will make it real. And if it's real it can happen to them.

    Two years ago I would have thought that the ad was in poor taste. My son Reilly hadn't been conceived yet.

    A year ago I would have been horrified at the commercial because we were fighting CDH at the time and the last thing I needed was the reminder that children die.

    This year I applaud the commercial. Reilly will have been dead for a year on February 19th.

    I would not applaud the commercial because it highlighted Reilly or CDH, or even made a lot of sense (an insurance company doesn't help prevent accidents, it ameliorates the financial impact of them). I applaud the commercial because it brings a sensitive subject to light.

    We need to break that taboo so that people can speak about it, and in speaking about it can raise awareness of the things that take our children and infants from us.

    It is a step.

    Sean Wilson
    Grieving father of Reilly Wilson (Jan 28 - 2014 - Feb 19)