There was standing room only at The Loft on Monday as community members gathered to support The Briggs & Barrett Project’s second annual Spirit of Giving fundraiser.
The nonprofit welcomed Kurt Workman, CEO of baby-monitoring company Owlet, as the first guest speaker of the night. The company’s main products are “owlets,” or smart socks that track heart rate and oxygen levels.
The Briggs & Barrett Project, a local nonprofit that raises awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), has been donating owlets to Norfolk mothers since early 2018.
“When I think about The Briggs & Barrett Project, the word that comes to mind is courage,” Workman said. “I think that really describes (founders) Melissa and Allison in a big way. To focus all their energy on giving back to others — that’s wonderful.”
The Briggs & Barrett Project began in 2018 after Allison Uecker and Melissa West both lost their sons to SIDS and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). The two mothers created the organization, which also offers safe sleep classes, “halo sleep sacks” for swaddling babies and retreats for mothers who have lost their babies to SIDS.
“I remember last year (at Spirit of Giving) and we were just hoping that 30 people showed up,” West said. “Now it’s incredible to see where this project has gone.”
Workman first learned of SIDS at 12 years old after his cousin died from the syndrome, which is a type of SUID.
SIDS is also the leading cause of death for infants ages one month to one year, according to The Briggs & Barrett Project. The term describes the unexpected death of a baby less than a year old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several years later, Workman became wary about his future children’s health when he met his wife, who has a congenital heart defect. So Workman partnered with three other fathers, Jordan Monroe, Zack Bomsta and Jake Colvin, to create Owlet in 2013.
“I remember feeling really apprehensive to be a dad and really knowing what’s wrong,” Workman said. “As a parent, you always want to know what’s going on.”
The sock doesn’t prevent SIDS, but with the addition of safe sleep practices, it can help monitor an infant’s heart rate and oxygen levels closely, according to The Briggs & Barrett Project website. The wireless sock connects to an alarm that sounds if any of the readings dip below a normal level.
A common report is the owlet will alert parents if their baby’s face is in the mattress, which can lead to interrupted breathing, Workman said.
Since The Briggs & Barrett Project began last year, more than 800 owlets have been donated to local mothers, which is a value of more than $240,000, said Kelly Jueden, director of owlet care. The socks usually retail at around $300.
The nonprofit donates about $9,000 in smart socks every month, according to the organization. Families may apply for a smart sock at The Briggs & Barrett Project website, but about 70 families aren’t able to receive a free sock every month due to demand.
At Monday’s Spirit of Giving fundraiser, the organization received special donations, such as $826 from the Norfolk Fire Division and $1,200 from Hoskins Craft and Vendor Show, among others.
“The Briggs and Barrett Project makes owlets more affordable,” Workman said. “They are saving lives and helping families.”