In the end, a tiny newborn T-shirt and receiving blanket broke down the wall of a woman’s heart. Her teenage daughter was pregnant and she was encouraging her to obtain an abortion. But the two walked into the Women’s Support Center of Milwaukee and into the arms of Mary Gilpin.
The executive director counseled the grandmother-to-be about the benefits of life, of opening up to God’s will, and of the long-term physical and emotional effects of abortion.
“The mom was giving her daughter all the reasons for having the abortion, so I brought in the tiny undershirt and blanket and the girl kept looking at it,” Gilpin said. “It brought the reality of the baby to both of them, and helped begin an attachment between the teen and the baby growing inside her – and she went on to have the baby.”
That’s just one of the many success stories Gilpin has been part of as director of the Women’s Support Center.
Before her daughter Lucia was born a year ago, Danielle Silva Heckenkamp, as a volunteer with the Women’s Support Center, witnessed similar difficult scenarios faced by unwed teen and young mothers, and of families experiencing financial hardship.
“However, after having our baby, it became difficult for me to devote so much time outside of the home,” said the 26-year-old who has been married to her husband, Joel, for three years. “But I still wanted to help.”
Last January, Heckenkamp developed Swaddle for Life, a company developed to aid families struggling with the commitment of a new baby.
“It is a life given an everlasting soul by Almighty God,” said Heckenkamp who also owns a floral design company that creates arrangements for weddings and special events. “Through monetary and material donations, Swaddle for Life works to reach those mothers and fathers who chose life and are in need of the support, care and love required to raise a child in God’s beautiful world.”
Through the sale of handmade and gently used items, Swaddle for Life will donate a percentage of its sales to provide pregnancy help centers with formula, diapers and layettes; for education of parents with critical information and advice in raising and caring for children; for additional items to be given to parents in need; and to educate the public about the purpose of pregnancy help centers.
“As a parent, I know the many costs involved in raising a child, and Swaddle for Life was developed with the dream of supporting those pregnancy centers and families who are having trouble meeting those monthly expenses,” said Heckenkamp.
For its first fundraiser, Swaddle for Life is hosting a trunk show, Saturday, July 17 in the auditorium at Heckenkamp’s parish, St. Stanislaus, on Historic Mitchell Street in Milwaukee.
“Local designers will be selling their products at the trunk show,” she said. “Such items will include handcrafted purses and jewelry, baby quilts, nursery décor and children’s clothing, which are a few items among many more. The event was organized to provide a fun shopping experience for a great cause, and we hope it can be a regular event in the Milwaukee area.”
A group project, Heckenkamp, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and who has worked as a paralegal, developed Swaddle for Life with the assistance of friends and family dedicated to supporting life and local pregnancy centers.
“My designers (are) people I already know that do this for fun. When I mentioned starting this company and using it to help support pro-life organizations, they were interested in selling items to benefit a good cause,” said Heckenkamp, explaining she was raised with a pro-life outlook. “My grandma was big into pro-life and I followed in her footsteps.”
If you want to go:
Swaddle for Life’s trunk show
When: Saturday, July 17
Time: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Where: St. Stanislaus Parish (in the attached school auditorium)
524 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee
There will be a small coffee and pastry bake sale whose proceeds will be donated to the parish and oratory of
For more information
She noted that many friends and family members have volunteered to assist with her new venture through advertising and marketing, creating handmade items to sell or volunteering to set up the event. Her husband, an accountant, has helped her with the business part.
In addition to the local designers, Heckenkamp will offer her own handmade children’s quilts, knitted baby hats and hand-painted nursery accessories, as well as a section of gently used adult and children’s clothing, shoes and books.
“A 10 percent discount off the total purchase will be given to anyone who brings a package of diapers to the trunk show,” she said. “These diapers will in turn be donated to a pregnancy center or directly to a family in need.”
Pregnancy help centers, such as the Women’s Support Center, look forward to help from the trunk show.
“We are really hurting financially,” admitted Gilpin. “We are hand to mouth every month – we are really busy and should be hiring people, but we can’t and rely on volunteers to help us … and when I get a woman (who comes) in who is considering abortion, I drop everything and work with her first, so we are appreciative of any help we can get.”
In addition to providing pregnancy tests and layettes for expectant mothers, funds from the trunk show will assist the Women’s Support Center in developing its “Earn while you learn” program. The program is designed to educate new parents on child rearing topics in exchange for coupons for the center’s new store.
“The program will be up by August or September and will allow parents to take classes in exchange for ‘baby dollars’ to be exchanged for baby items in our store that they might like,” said Gilpin. “This is another way to bring the idea of having a baby in a positive light. The new parents can walk into the little store and see the baby items and will help make the attachment for the new life.”
Following the trunk show, many of the designers will feature items on the Swaddle for Life Web site. As with the show, a percentage of the proceeds will benefit Women’s Support Centers of Milwaukee, and Care Net Pregnancy Centers.
For Heckenkamp, developing Swaddle for Life is an extension of her commitment to life.
“My only motivation (in developing the pro-life outreach) is from my time volunteering at the pregnancy crisis centers, and since I don’t have the time to physically go there now, I wanted to do something to help, and that’s why I started this business,” she said.
“As a Catholic, I believe it is important to support and help other souls, as we are all created and loved by God. The sanctity of life is not always valued in our society as it should be, and through Swaddle for Life, we hope that our mission will reach those families who do not completely understand the wonderful blessing of children given to us by Almighty God,” said Heckenkamp.