December 19, 2019 - Community leaders today announced that Fort Wayne UNITED and Healthier Moms and Babies will oversee the Infant Mortality Challenge, a fundraising effort to provide safer sleep options for infants.

“Twenty-Four babies in Allen County over the past five years did not live to see their first birthday due to sleep related deaths. Many causes of infant mortality are not preventable, but one is completely preventable: unsafe sleep deaths. Healthier Moms and Babies is excited to partner with Fort Wayne UNITED to reach more vulnerable families to provide a pack-n-play for those who need a safe place for their baby to sleep, but most importantly provide education to the entire family on the ABC’s of Safe Sleep,” said Paige Wilkins, Healthier Moms and Babies Director. “The twenty-four safe sleep related deaths our community has experienced over the past five years might have been prevented if more people knew and practiced the ABC’s of Safe Sleep.”

When referring to the ABC’s of Safe Sleep, “A” stands for Alone. Babies should be put to bed alone without mom or dad, or any toys, stuffed animals or bumpers. “B” stands for Back. Babies should be put to bed on their back. On their stomach, a baby’s airways can easily be blocked and they can suffocate. “C” stands for Crib. Put babies to bed in a crib or a pack-n-play. On a couch or adult bed, babies can become trapped in the cushions or sheets. Babies sleep safest on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet in a crib or pack-n-play.

The fundraising goal for the Infant Mortality Challenge is $50,000, which will allow Healthier Moms and Babies to deliver 500 pack-n-play cribs to those in need within the community, and to send a family case coordinator to the baby’s home to educate family members about safe sleeping. Healthier Moms and Babies has established a Cribs for Kids program to provide families with portable pack-n-play cribs which are easy to set up and transport to ensure babies sleep safely whether they are home or are staying with another caregiver.

Fort Wayne UNITED’s TenPoint Coalition will provide outreach to the most at-risk neighborhood in the community, the 46806 zip code. They will pass out door hangers in the Oxford Community, which is one of the areas most impacted by this issue. They will also provide referral forms to families and hand out Safe Sleep information at their monthly community meals. Any family they reach who needs a pack-n-play will be referred to Healthier Moms and Babies for education and a pack-n-play.

Trinity English Lutheran Church has already begun to collect donations for this Fort Wayne UNITED effort and announced their pledge to donate over $18,000 as a lead gift.

“Trinity English Lutheran Church has been, for some time, looking for a way to help address the infant mortality rate among our neighbors. We understand that this is a complicated issue and will not be solved with one, quick fix. But we know we found one way to play a small role in the solution and make a difference for families who need a safe place for their baby to sleep,” said Reverend Dr. Gary Erdos, Trinity English Lutheran Church Senior Pastor. “Remembering the very heart of the Christmas story, we are helping to provide pack-n-plays to assist the most vulnerable in our community. We are doing what we encourage everyone to do; look for a way to help your neighbor thrive, even in a small way, and do that.”

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation will assist Healthier Moms and Babies by coordinating distribution of pack-n-plays to other area low-income families in need of a safe place for their babies to sleep.

“St. Joseph Community Health Foundation has been committed to supporting pregnant women, infants, and vulnerable new families to prevent infant mortality for the past twenty years,” said Meg Distler, Executive Director. “In recent years, we have worked closely with Healthier Moms and Babies and others to build a Prenatal and Infant Care Network helping more than 300 local care providers of 90+ local prenatal programs connect resources with new moms.  The Infant Mortality Challenge is an important program we are pleased to support as part of our Prenatal and Infant Care Network’s Sleep Safely Campaign. In addition to providing pack-n-plays to low income families, the Sleep Safely Campaign will assure that all local parents who receive the pack-n-plays are also taught the safest infant sleep strategies.”

Those who would like to donate to the Infant Mortality Challenge may visit the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation’s website at

“Improving the health of our community is one of my top priorities, and I’m encouraged that several partners are coming together to say it’s time to make a positive difference,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “Infant mortality is one area that must be addressed. Too many innocent children are losing their lives. As a city, we can do better and I know we will. This new effort is a step in the right direction.”

The Infant Mortality Challenge is supported by the Allen County Department of Health, Fort Wayne Medical Society Alliance, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, Parkview Health and the TenPoint Coalition.

The mission of Healthier Moms and Babies is to reduce infant mortality and improve the outcome of pregnancy in Allen County by offering health education and case management services to low-income, high-risk pregnant women and their families. More information at