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Kyra's Story

Envisioning a World Without SIDS
Virginia mother starts This Side Up campaign to raise awareness of SIDS

Kyra and Hayes One phone call forever changed the life of Kyra Oliver.

On June 11, 2002, the young mother picked up the phone only to hear that her son Hayes had stopped breathing.

“It was the most terrifying day of my life,” Oliver remembers. “To hear that Hayes was no longer breathing, then to see him at the hospital, lying there with tubes everywhere and no signs of life – it’s a memory that will be with me forever.”

After just 4½ months, Oliver lost her son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“We were just getting to know each other, and then he was gone,” said Oliver, who resides in Richmond. “I had heard of SIDS but never felt comfortable talking about it. I cringed at the thought of it.”

These days, Oliver wants to start the conversation.

“We’re making great progress in creating a world without SIDS, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Oliver, whose community service earned her company the Stevie Award for community service project of the year in 2007 and the Hugh Joyce Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in 2006.

Oliver started the Hayes Foundation in Richmond days after her son passed away to raise awareness of SIDS – the sudden and unexplained death of a baby with no known illnesses. Despite the fact that the SIDS rate has dropped by about 40 percent since the national Back to Sleep campaign was introduced in 1994, about 2,500 American babies still die each year of SIDS.

In 2006, the Hayes Foundation launched the This Side Up campaign – an educational effort that raises awareness of SIDS through the distribution of baby onesies and sleepers that read “This Side Up” on the front and feature other tips to reduce the risk of SIDS on the back.

The goal of the onesies is to provide parents, grandparents, caregivers and even nurses and pediatricians a tangible reminder that babies are safest from the risk of SIDS if placed to sleep on their backs. About 20 hospitals in Virginia – in Richmond, Lynchburg, Fauquier, Culpeper, Farmville and Hopewell, among others – distribute the baby garments to parents of newborns. And the This Side Up campaign ( has partnered with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s Smart Beginnings initiative to include the onesies in an educational package mailed to new parents in Central Virginia, Roanoke and Fredericksburg by the state health department.

In April, the Hayes Foundation campaign partnered with The Raise Foundation to launch the This Side Up campaign in Orange County, Calif., with a goal of spreading it throughout the state in the coming years.

And in June, the Hayes Foundation partnered with the Health Council of East Central Florida to launch the This Side Up campaign in Orange County, Fla. Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant and his wife Melissa, whose son Matthew Tryson Bryant died of SIDS in 2008, were on hand to support the launch.

Oliver’s goal is to continue spreading the This Side Up campaign across the country.

“It’s tragic for Hayes’ light to have dimmed so quickly,” Oliver said. “But I know that he lit a light within all of us that will continue to shine. His life will not leave us. We will hold him close to us and treasure all that he gave, not just as memories, but as the life-altering lessons that they were. Hayes came into this world to make us aware, and we won’t let him down.”

Stevie Award“We’re anxious for the This Side Up campaign to spread on a national level,” Oliver Hitzeman said. “Hayes came into this world to make us aware, and we won’t let him down.”

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