MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – Baby Penelope Grace died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in her sleep on Father’s Day, 2016.
She was just six months old.
“Penelope Grace…she passed away Father’s Day morning. I woke up and found her and the house went into a panic [but] there was nothing we could do about it,” said her dad, Jacoby Gonzales.
“I knew right away [that she was dead] as soon as I touched her, she just felt really cold,” he added.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) commonly refers to a sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than one year of age.
While infant mortality has declined overall, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is still one of the top three causes of infant deaths in the state.
“Being a new dad I didn’t know any of the safe sleeping habits,” Jacoby said Wednesday in an interview with KFOR.
“You never think it’s going to happen to you until it actually happens… I never thought it was going to happen to me.”
Searching for peace of mind and a way to remember Penelope led to fundraising.
“We knew we wanted to do something to help other families so they wouldn’t have to go through this,” Kristen said.
That effort started with a penny and grew into The Penny Project Foundation.
Learn more about the organization here.
“Jacoby came up with the idea to collect pennies in a jar. That’s how it started. We’d take jars to local businesses and people would donate,” Kristen said, adding that the money went to various charities and related partnerships.
Today, the mission has grown to raise awareness of SIDS and education others on safe infant sleep.
“A lot of people think that SIDS is just the baby suffocated in a blanket or a baby choked [but] it’s not always the case,” added Kristen.
“We knew we wanted to do something to help other families so they wouldn’t have to go through this.”
The non-profit established a partnership with Owlet Dream Sock, a predictive sleep tool that allows parents track sleep patterns, and more.
The company’s technology was cleared by the FDA in June.
Through donations, the foundation is able to provide parents in need with Owlet Dream Socks for babies and infants to help minimize the loss of infants due to SIDS.
“We keep up with so many of the babies we send socks to [and] I love to see their journey,” said Kristen, adding that they have been able to help families in fifteen states, so far.
For every Dream Sock purchased through the Penny Project Foundation, the couple said Owlet will donate two additional Dream Socks, allowing the organization to reach many more families.
“[We are] taking this tragedy that we went through, and [turning it] into something to help save so many other babies,” Kristen said.
“People all over the nation reach out to us all the time. If we can keep people from losing a baby and going through something like this, it’s a really big deal,” added Jacoby.