Lorena Tapia of Project Loreal was selected to participate in the upcoming Central California Women’s Conference. Here she displays one of the nonprofit’s care boxes for mothers of stillborn children. Photo by Gabriel Dillard.

published on September 16, 2022 - 1:32 PM
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Following her own personal tragedy, a local woman is helping other women cope with one of the most difficult losses for a family to endure — the loss of a baby.

Project Loreal was founded by Lorena Tapia after the stillbirth of her daughter, Loreal.

Tapia progressed normally through a healthy pregnancy when, at 34 weeks, her daughter was delivered via cesarean section. Loreal was delivered with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

“It was a very dark time for me,” Tapia said, adding that while family and friends did their best to comfort her, the feeling of understanding was lacking.

In late 2014, Tapia decided to act.

“What led me to this was, when I left the hospital that day empty handed, I was given a box,” she said. “All it had in there was Loreal’s little onesie, a little hospital bracelet and a little clipping of the hair.”

The box inspired Lorena to research further into baby loss, connecting with individuals who have gone through the same tragedy.

“What I ended up doing was making my own boxes,” Tapia said. “They’re boxes just filled with inspirational stuff, encouraging stuff; with informational stuff from other nonprofits — other organizations that do what we do.”

The boxes provided by Project Loreal often contain small keepsakes and mementos for a mother to keep, as well as informational packets about support groups and emotional assistance following the loss of an infant.

Since their founding, Project Loreal has donated over 430 boxes to hospitals and mothers around the country.

Along with the boxes, Tapia is also a passionate supporter of the Caring Cradle, a temperature-controlled device that can preserve the child longer, allowing mothers and families to spend a little more time with their baby after birth.

These devices can extend the time a mother can spend with her baby by as many as three days.

“Just recently, a few months back, we got the very first Caring Cradle bought in Central California, and it was placed in the Reedley Birthing Center,” Tapia said.

Tapia hopes that Project Loreal can donate more Caring Cradles to hospitals in the Central Valley and, eventually, across the country.

The challenges Project Loreal faces, however, are primarily funding related. Despite becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2021, Tapia often purchases the materials for boxes herself out of pocket.

In addition to the boxes, a Caring Cradle can cost upwards of $6,000

Another challenge Project Loreal faces is dialogue. Tapia said it’s a difficult subject for people to open up about prior to a birth, and often only gets brought up following a loss.

“It’s a very sensitive subject,” she said. “It’s a taboo subject; nobody wants to talk about it and I totally understand and get it.”

With that in mind, Project Loreal hopes to expand services, not only geographically, but functionally as well, with Tapia hoping to someday provide counseling services as well as an office.

Recently, PG&E provided Project Loreal with a grant that Tapia says will hopefully go towards funding more Caring Cradles to hospitals that do not provide them.

The organization has also been invited to the Central California Women’s Conference on Sept. 20.

For now, though, Tapia says much of their correspondence and marketing is done via word-of-mouth and through social media.

“We are on Facebook, we are on Instagram, and hopefully we will be going further, maybe into Twitter and a few other social media outlets,” Tapia said.

 

 


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