Sacramento Area Woodworkers make small urns for the children.
Emily Rose, Joseph, Michael, Robert ...
are the names of children, some of them infants, who died abandoned in Sacramento County. There are 20 of them, 14 just since April.
The little ones are kept at the county coroner's and would have remained there for who knows how long. But Victor Hipolito happened to see a program about the Garden of Innocence project. It is an effort on the part of some communities to give names and dignity to deceased, unwanted and unidentified children with a proper burial.
Wondering what happened to the county's abandoned children, Victor made calls and learned there wasn't a final resting site for the children. Sometimes, just as this past week, social service and law enforcement agencies would arrange for a burial and service for an unwanted child, but those are the exceptions.
Even though he didn't know the children, Victor was touched by them. He wanted the children remembered. They should all have proper resting place.
"Even though they're not alive, I feel as if they're a person," he says. "They're not living but they're not forgotten."
So with no experience and no budget, Victor began contacting groups and businesses who might help. He made presentations about his plan to bury the children. He found others who felt as he did.
Individuals and groups, such as South Sacramento Quilts for Kids, sewed tiny quilts to keep the children's remains warm and comforted. They will be placed in an urn made and donated by Sacramento Area Woodworkers. And probably for the first and only time, the children will have a plush toy to always be with them.
"How could I not?" people said when asked for help.
East Lawn Memorial Park in Citrus Heights donated land for the grave sites. Victor says eventually there will be a gated entrance to the "garden" and he hopes for a mural with a children's theme on the wall of the building on one side of the site. There will be a headstone with angels and the children's names.
About those names: the Garden of Innocence project doesn't know the real names of abandoned babies. It's likely many were never were given a name. Some were unidentified children and not all were babies. Victor says there are children up to 8 years old. Emily Rose, Robert and the others are names chosen by those donating to the project. More children still need names.
There are other needs that still need to be financed. Certificates of abandonment, cremation, death certificates, the opening and closing of the burial plots ... Anyone who feels compelled to help financially can contact email@example.com.
Still, it's all coming together. On Saturday, Sept. 21, there will be a gravesite service and burial at East Lawn. Victor says the Knights of Columbus are sending an honor guard. Poems written for the children will be read: he'd like for others to send him poems or tributes to the children that focus on the positive and not the sad circumstances surrounding their short stay on Earth.
"If you think about the baby just being left by someone at the hospital, being set aside with no one to care for it, we've built a community that does care about them," Victor says. "It brings me joy to bring dignity to a baby, a human baby."