Our most valuable resource at Cribs for Kids has always been our dedicated staff. We are very fortunate to work with a fantastic group of people that feel strongly about our mission of helping every baby sleep safer. As we kick off our Staff Spotlight Series, we thought it would be fitting to first honor a member of the Cribs for Kids team that not only helped shape the organization but taught all of us to view the world in a more positive and compassionate light. One of the original five ladies depicted in our book, Five Ladies and a Forklift, Eileen Carlins was an inspiration to us all. On March 24, 2017, Eileen Carlins lost her battle with cancer and the world lost one of its shining stars.
Eileen was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. When her daughter Rachel died in 1980 of SIDS, Eileen dedicated the time she would have spent with Rachel to volunteering as a peer contact with her SIDS bereavement support group in Huntington, WV. Her desire to assist other bereaved families who had lost an infant to SIDS soon turned into her vocation. After earning her Master’s degree in Social Work and graduating Valedictorian of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work in 2001, she joined the staff of SIDS of Pennsylvania as our first Director of Support and Education.
When the organization took on its new mission and changed its name to Cribs for Kids, Inc., Eileen was on the forefront of developing infant safe sleep educational curricula that is now being taught throughout the country. Nursing schools, child care providers, mortuary science students, hospitals, health departments, high school health classes and non-profit organizations were privileged to be educated by Eileen. Her heart, however, was devoted to Healing Hearts, a bereavement program she began for families whose infants have died that included home visits, telephone calls fielded throughout the day and night and a monthly support meeting that she facilitated at our Cribs for Kids offices in Hazelwood.
Eileen’s professional affiliations included: President of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Alumni Society; Special Discipline Instructor, Pennsylvania Keys to Professional Development; Member of the Allegheny County Child Death Review Team; Member of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Safe Sleep Committees; Adjunct Professor at Carlow University School for Social Change – Department of Social Work and field instructor at Carlow University, Chatham University, Duquesne University School of Nursing and the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work.
Over the years, Cribs for Kids has had many successes but has suffered heartbreak too. Eileen’s death exemplifies the greatest heartbreak we have endured. For as long as we can remember Eileen had a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson taped to her computer monitor that said “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Eileen fulfilled her purpose in life and we will be forever grateful that her life touched all of ours.
At every Cribs for Kids Safe Sleep conference, it has been our tradition to give our Making the Difference award to someone who has done just that. In 2017 we decided to give that award to Eileen. None of us ever thought that it would be given to her posthumously. This prestigious award is now referred to as the Eileen M Carlins’ Making The Difference Award in her honor. As we continue on with our mission we miss Eileen every day. She made her mark on our lives and on the lives of countless parents in need. We honor her legacy by continuing her work with our Healing Hearts program. If you or someone you know is suffering the loss of an infant, please know that Healing Hearts bereavement group is here to offer support and compassion. Healing Hearts has helped countless grieving families come to terms with their grief, just as Eileen knew it would. Thank you for sharing your well-lived life with us Eileen .
CLICK HERE to discover how you can help to honor Eileen’s legacy by purchasing an engraved leaf, acorn, dove or stone in memory or in honor of someone that you love. The tree is located at Crib for Kids’ Headquarters.