Showers and sun alternated like tears and smiles Saturday morning at the seventh annual John’s Baby Steps walk and run, the John D. Gomke Charity event at Kinnick-Feller Park in Adel, where about 200 people gathered to honor the memories of area infants and young children who have died.
The John’s Baby Steps event was organized in 2010 by Steve and Jessica Gomke of Adel, who formed the charity organization after the death of their 33-day-old son, John Donald Gomke.
“After learning at first hand the heartache and crushing pain that makes you not able to breathe and shatters a parent’s world with the loss of a child,” Jessica said, “we wanted to help sick infants and the families who have lost an infant while they are going through this shocking and agonizing time. So we started this charity.”
Jessica Gomke began the proceedings with the Angel Baby Star presentations at 8:30 a.m., in which the parents, siblings and other family members of each of the children honored by this year’s event received a rose and a certificate showing which star in the endless sky was named for each lost Angel Baby.
Following the presentation of the Angel Baby Stars, the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by a sweet-voiced girl, and numerous blue, pink and green balloons were released for the Angel Babies to play with in the endless sky.
Special honors were given by Gomke to two area babies who recently passed away. The 2016 Honorary Angels were Mason Cass Nemmers, son of Ryan and Ambers Nemmers of Des Moines, and Blake Monroe Frettim, son of Joshua and Tiffany Frettim of Norwalk.
Other Angel Babies continually remembered by the charity include John Donald Gomke, Avery Corbett, Logan Dale Hiatt, Parker James Miller, William Martens, Paul Arthor Hildman, Alyssa Lorraine Kuonen, Peyton Rae Wright, Jaxton Daniel Plathe, Sam Alekos Kazos, Jaiden John Drake, Zach Michael Van Pelt and Gavin Lee Sievers.
The 1-mile and 5-kilomteter walk and run began in drizzles around 9 a.m., followed by a Kids Fun Run about 10 a.m. Redfield Volunteer Fire Department First Captain Wes Bosier and Training Officer Jon Jennings stood by to show interested visitors some of the department’s emergency medical gear.
Donations raised by the non-profit John D. Gomke Charity Inc. have been put toward a number of worthy purposes, including providing 26 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to nine area school districts.
Donations have also supported First Aid and CPR training for more than 100 people.
More than 150 families suffering through a loss have received keepsakes through the John D. Gomke Charity Inc., including handprint and footprint molds and ink prints, and every Angel Baby names a star.
The charity also sponsors a golf tournament every June. For more information about the John D. Gomke Charity or to make a donation, visit the group’s website.