IRIS Celebrates 25 Years in Faribault, New Location
By Rebecca Rodenborg
Faribault Daily News
July 7, 2012


Twenty-five years ago, Diana Sundwall and a group of friends started a group with the hopes of offering family and friends support, education and resources following the death of a child.
The goal was to help one person a year.

To date, however, the staff and advocates of Infants Remembered In Silence (IRIS) have helped more than 90,000 people.
"I just never thought it would last this long," said Sundwall, executive director of IRIS. "It's overwhelming to think about how much this effort has grown."

IRIS is based in Faribault, but after numerous requests for services from members of surrounding communities, Sundwall chose to let the organization expand as needed. It now provides free services to parents who live in, deliver in, or bury a child within Rice, Steele, Dodge, Goodhue, Le Sueur and Waseca counties.

Services include burial clothing for infants 10 to 40 gestational weeks and advocate services before birth, at the time of the loss, and in the years that follow. Families are also given bereavement support packets, one on one assistance and are invited to support group meetings.

"The important thing is to make sure no one has a sense of being alone," Sundwall said. "We want everyone to have the chance to talk with people who are either going through the same thing right now, or have gone through it and survived it. We want people to know it is survivable. It's not easy. It's not something you'd wish on your worst enemy, but it's something you have to deal with."
Sundwall and a group of friend started IRIS in 1987, just two years after her son was stillborn. Sundwall said it was during that time she realized she was given the opportunity to do things not every family who lost an infant was allowed because she knew the nursing staff.

"They came to me and asked questions about what I liked or didn't like about the process, what I was okay with, what I wished went differently," she recalled. "I realized that everyone should have those options, and they should be able to make informed decisions."
With two paid staff and a team of about 300 volunteer advocates working in the various communities IRIS supports, the nonprofit agency operates on an annual budget of about $90,000. IRIS also received a large amount of in-kind donations -- everything from office materials to yarn for blankets.

Donations or funding received in a specific community stays in that community, Sundwall said.
On Feb. 28, the organization's office space flooded and the team was forced to relocate. They moved two blocks away to an office at 112 Third St. NE.

"It's really working out nice. This is a beautiful facility," Sundwall said. "It's just that people are having a hard time finding us now."

An open house at the new location is set for Tuesday.