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First Candle Gala Raises Funds and Awareness

The industry came together to battle Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

First Candle’s annual charity gala was held at The Pierre in New York City last Thursday and drew more than 150 attendees who helped raise $200,000 for the non-profit organization. At the event, First Candle honored the Star Legacy Foundation, whose programs raise awareness about stillbirth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); Benjamin Okaty, Ph.D., a young researcher making inroads in the field; Kate Spade & Company, for its efforts to educate employees on SIDS; and Kappa Alpha Psi, a fraternity that educates men all over the world on sleep-related causes of infant death.

“The recognition of our honorees, each of whom contribute so greatly to the overall mission here was the highlight,” offered Karen Sackowitz, First Candle’s PR communications specialist. “Dr. Okaty from the medical side, Kate Spade from the business side and The Star Legacy Foundation and Kappa Alpha Psi from the social side—it seemed like everybody had something very real that was impactful to this cause in one room.”


First Candle CEO Alison Jacobson

First Candle’s newly-enstated CEO Alison Jacobson personally experienced the tragic effects of SIDS, having lost her son Conner in 1997.  She movingly talked about how the painful experience spurred her to action. “You really have no choice,” she said. “You’re either going to curl up and die or do something with it and honor your child’s memory.”

Jacobson rattled off the current stats to Pregnancy and Newborn recently: “Every year, 3,500 babies die in the United States due to SIDS or other sleep-related deaths, and there are another 24,000 stillbirths,” she said. “These numbers are astounding and heartbreaking. I’m shocked when I speak to pregnant and new parents who tell me that they were never given information about the importance of counting kicks during pregnancy, creating a safe sleep environment for their baby and other ways in which to reduce the risk of SIDS. My goal is to make sure that every new parent receives these messages.”


Dr. Hannah Kinney, a neuropathologist whose research defines the causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), with First Candle CEO Alison Jacobson.

Started in the 1960s, First Candle is committed to eliminate Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) and stillbirth through education, advocacy and medical research.


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