When Joyce and Rich Davis traveled to Florida in December 2000, they never could have imagined the impact of that trip. Visiting Rich’s parents with their three young children, 6 year old Eliza, 4 year old Lauren, and their newest addition, 4.5 month old Garret, the family was set for vacation, not for a series of events that would forever change their lives. A Pack-n-Play, purchased for Garret to sleep in, was made to be “more comfortable “by purchasing a supplemental mattress, sold right next to the crib. The combination of that mattress and the soft-sided crib suffocated Garret when his face was caught between the gap caused by the added mattress and the side of the soft sided crib, and he tragically passed away.
How the Davis’ turned their loss into passion and purpose is the story of KEEPING BABIES SAFE. Their timeless dedication to promoting safe sleep for all babies is nothing short of remarkable, and each day, more babies are benefiting from this charity’s work. After Garret’s death, Rich, an attorney, did extensive research and found that there were other babies that died in a similar manner. In 2003, he met Jack Walsh, a crib safety expert, who explained to him that while these risks were known, there were no laws to keep retailers from selling these two items side by side. Together they lobbied Congress, meeting with Robert Torricelli, Robert Frelinghuysen and Jon Corzine (then all Representatives of NJ), fighting for stronger crib laws. While the accomplishments in the field of child safety product laws had been remarkable, there was much to be done in the world of safe sleep environments.
In 2008, Joyce, now with 3 girls at home in Warren, (She and Rich became parents to Jamie in 2002) became the president of KEEPING BABIES SAFE, a foundation aimed toward the legislation of safer sleep laws. Three years later, thanks to Joyce’s tireless efforts, the strongest crib laws in 30 years went into effect. Drop-sided cribs were eliminated with 2 million recalls; stronger hardware was used, and laws for residential cribs mandated 3rd party testing. All hotels and day care centers all had to comply.
But new cribs cost money, and that is where fundraising comes in. KBS’ “Project Safe Crib” donates cribs to hospitals and human service agencies that get the cribs to needy families in NJ. Every $125.00 donation pays for a brand new crib for a family in need. To date, KEEPING BABIES SAFE has donated over 8,000 cribs! Each year, Joyce coordinates a 5-K walk at Harry Dunham Park in Basking Ridge, where friends, family, and local running enthusiasts come out for a morning of music, food, and of course, a run/walk! This has become a yearly event that many in our community look forward to and participate in. A big part of KBS’s mission is educating new parents on safe sleep and perhaps the biggest moment for KBS came this past January, when Governor Chris Christie signed into law that ALL hospitals and birthing centers were required to educate new parents on crib safety. Until now, parents were taught about car seats and lactation, but never safe sleep!
A quick review: What is safe sleep? BARE is best! No bumpers, blankets or stuffed animals! HOW OLD IS YOUR CRIB or Play Yard? If it’s manufactured before2013 your crib and play yard are no longer considered safe. Take your emotional attachment out if it, and get rid of any old cribs or play yards that you may have been holding onto. And never, ever, add a supplemental mattress to a portable crib as this is a known suffocation hazard.
Last year KEEPING BABIES SAFE, backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, was successful in docketing a petition with the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to ban the sale of supplemental mattresses. Since the filing of this public petition, TOYS R US, buybuy BABY, KMART, SEARS and WAYFAIR.COM have all voluntarily pulled the sale of these mattresses, thanks to Joyce and KBS! The biggest sale of this dangerous combination right now is AMAZON & WALMART, where unfortunately, no matter how hard Joyce and her team have been trying, there are still moms and grandmas posting reviews of how well their babies slept in a play yard, and contributing that to the extra mattress.
But I know Joyce. And I have no doubt that her dedication and promise to honor her young son will not rest until there are no more sales of supplemental mattresses, and every single baby in the USA is doing what they have a right to do… sleep safely. To donate to KEEPING BABIES SAFE and learn more about safe sleep, visit their website: keepingbabiessafe.org If you know of someone in your community who is helping to make a difference in others’ lives, please email Anna at Connectionsnj@gmail.com or call 908-903-1799.