After Julie Joiner experienced the deaths of her infant daughters Korie and Kacie in 2013 and 2015, respectively, due to heart conditions, The Woodlands-area mother decided to find a way to honor her daughters while helping other families going through similar loss.
Joiner founded the Korie & Kacie Foundation in 2015. Based in The Woodlands, the nonprofit provides support for families dealing with the death of young children.
“Starting the Korie & Kacie Foundation has really been a source of healing for our family,” Joiner said. “When our girls passed away, there weren’t a lot of resources available to us. We wanted to find a way to give back to the community and help other families dealing with loss because there aren’t many resources like this out there.”
One of the ways the foundation supports families is by contributing funds to cover medical and funeral expenses. Joiner said cremation or burial services cost an average of $3,000-$10,000. Joiner said that those expenses are further magnified because in many cases, two-income families become one-income families after the death of a child because a parent will often choose to stop working.
“We were still paying our birth expenses when we had to pay funeral expenses,” Joiner said. “What’s even harder is that after you’ve already buried your child, you continue to get bills from their birth so there’s a constant reminder that you don’t have your child anymore.”
Although the relatively new nonprofit is only able to make a small contribution toward these expenses, Joiner said she hopes the organization is able to completely cover those expenses for grieving families in the future.
The nonprofit also offers support by delivering care packages, hosting bereavement support groups, arranging meals for grieving families and connecting them with other families who have experienced similar loss.
“It’s really important to network with other families who have dealt with loss because after you lose a child, everything is different,” she said. “All of your friends are still living their lives with their children like normal, so it’s hard to talk to them because they can’t necessarily relate.”
Creating a network
To cultivate these relationships, Joiner hosted the organization’s first Angel Moms Scrapbook Retreat in April, which allows women who have experienced the death of a child to get away for the weekend to enjoy pampering and crafting with other moms.
The weekend was so successful Joiner said she has already planned another moms retreat next April and will host a similar retreat for families who have experienced the death of a child in August. The family retreat will include outdoor activities, such as fishing, horseback riding, archery and camping, combined with grief therapy.
“After a loss, families get out of their normal routines so we just want to bring everyone back together,” Joiner said. “And most of the time, dads get put on the back burner in these situations because they almost always have to work, and three days of bereavement is just not enough time.”
The couple’s 8-year-old daughter, Brodie, is also involved in the nonprofit by distributing Korie and Kacie Kare Kitties. People send stuffed animals to Brodie, who then adds the foundation’s specialty tag and distributes them to babies in hospitals with cardiac conditions, to honor her sisters.
The nonprofit relies solely on donations and raises money through vendor events, raffles and T-shirt sales.
Joiner said in the future, she hopes to have a facility with an on-site therapist and rooms for support groups.
“I don’t want our organization to get so big that I’m not involved with it because I like being able to meet with and talk to our families and become friends with them,” Joiner said. “We want to make it so that people feel comfortable to talk about their children even though they’re not here. Many people don’t talk about it, but it’s something that needs to be talked about.”