IRIS Helping Thousands in Area
Faribault Daily News
By Pauline Schreiber
January 31, 2009


Custom-made burial clothing for pre-term infants are made by volunteers and given to Faribault's Infants Remembered in Silence. The organization gives the clothing free to parents who lose a child in pregnancy or early infancy. (Pauline Schreiber/Daily News) Chris Petrick, left, and Diana Sundwall, right, charter members of Infants Remembered In Silence show Friday some of the burial clothing and blankets made volunteers. (Pauline Schreiber/Daily News)

Founders of Infants Remembered in Silence had hoped to help a few women per year who lost babies in pregnancy or early childhood when the Faribault group was started 22 years ago.

Advocates last year helped 103 families in Faribault who lost infants. They also estimate they assist between 6,000 and 7,000 people annually who are touched by the death of an infant in the six-county area from which IRIS pulls volunteers and donations.

"We had no clue there were so many who needed our help," said Chris Petricka, a charter member of the organization and friend of Diana Sundwall of Faribault, executive director and founder of the organization.

On Saturday, Feb. 7, IRIS is hosting a "Family Fun Night" at the Faribault Community Center to raise money for the organization. On Sunday, Feb. 8, it offers a pancake breakfast, a silent auction and bingo at the American Legion.

"It's very important that our fundraisers are a success so we can keep on helping families," Sundwall said.

Even though it has been around for 22 years, many people in Faribault aren't aware that IRIS exists, Petricka said.

"It's one of those organization you don't pay attention to unless you need the services," she said.

Sundwall and her husband, Mark Sundwall, experienced the stillborn death of their son, Derek, in 1985. She tried to find an appropriate grief support group to help them through such a sad time in their lives, but was unable to find one.

"The loss of a child in pregnancy, stillbirth and early infancy is really a lot different than an older child," Sundwall said. "Losing a child so young, you loose a part of your future. The loss stays with you."

But at the time of Derek's death, loss of a child in pregnancy or early childhood was something hushed by most and not talked about. Sundwall founded IRIS to help parents have a place to come to, to talk openly about their loss.

"What I didn't expect is the numbers," Sundwall said. "Losing a child in pregnancy, stillbirth and for other reasons in early childhood happens more often than most people know about."

The group's Web site,, gets thousands of hits from around the world, Sundwall said.

"We've had people contact us through it from China, South America, European countries and from many other areas of the globe," she said. "All of us who started this organization are amazed by just how needed this organization turned out to be."