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From empty arms to new purpose

The death of her firstborn child, Dominick, from sudden infant death syndrome left Becky Bruns with empty arms and a heart full of grief.

 “All of a sudden I went from being a parent to being a parent of a baby who was no longer here,” Bruns said. “I needed something to do.”

Working with local hospitals and health organizations to educate the public about SIDS gave the young Danube mother a new purpose.

When she founded the Dominick Bruns Memorial Fund in 2008, her focus was on providing sleep sacks to safely swaddle newborns at Redwood Area Hospital in Redwood Falls, the hospital where Dominick was born.

These days, the nonprofit fund is much more. Bruns works with prenatal programs and day care providers to educate people about sudden infant death syndrome. She especially focuses on rebreathing deaths, which can happen when infants are placed to sleep on their stomach or are surrounded by blankets, stuffed toys or padded crib bumpers that allow carbon dioxide to build up to potentially fatal levels.

Races and golf tournaments help raise funds, spread the word and build support. The fund has its own website at

Most of all, the memorial fund is visible in the Halo sleep sacks it provides for area infants through a project Bruns has named “Sweet Dreams from Baby D.”

“He didn’t get to have a legacy so we’re creating a legacy for him,” Bruns said.

Both the Redwood Area Hospital and Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar wrap newborns in the sleep sacks and give parents the option of receiving a brand-new sleep sack when they bring their baby home from the hospital. The Dominick Bruns Memorial Fund also supplies sleep sacks to Renville County Public Health, along with selling them directly to local families.

In the five and a half years since the fund was established, it has donated or provided more than 3,000 infant sleep sacks.

It has been both encouraging and rewarding, Bruns said. “Everyone wants to help. We’re always looking for new things to do and getting new people involved. The communities are what makes this possible.”

Dominick was born on Oct. 28, 2007, to Becky and her husband, Shaun. He was five months old when he died unexpectedly April 1, 2008, while in day care.

The cause of his death was never identified, Bruns said. “They have no idea what happened. I’m afraid there’s not an answer for that but there is an answer for rebreathing. Rebreathing deaths are 100 percent preventable.”

Providing sleep sacks for newborns is a tangible way that Dominick’s memorial fund is helping, she said. “We weren’t just telling parents what to do, we were giving them tools.”

In the years since Dominick’s death, Bruns and her husband became the parents of two daughters, Faith and Addison, and another child is on the way.

Dominick is still greatly missed but working with his memorial fund “has been very healing for me,” she said. “I hope others can learn from it. If there’s one baby that doesn’t die because of it, every moment and every cent is worth it.”

Note: pic of Dominick is in P2P: 041214-dominickbruns

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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