Turning Grief into Action

By Jessica Troskosky, June 6, 2019
Lou Magrone ’04, DPT ’06, and his wife launched Walk in Sunshine to support grieving parents.
parents with a child in the woods

Lou and Francine Magrone with their son Nicholas.

(Photo submitted)

The months leading up to a baby’s birth are often filled with excitement, planning and information-gathering through books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Dude, You’re Gonna Be a Dad.” Parents-to-be may celebrate with pregnancy announcements, gender reveal parties and baby showers.

Most likely these were the types of things Lou Magrone ’04, DPT ’06, and his wife, Francine, were thinking about as they prepared for the arrival of their first baby in March 2017. However, in an instant, their world shattered. At 30 weeks pregnant, Francine noticed that the baby’s movements had slowed. She tried to chalk up her concerns to first-time pregnancy jitters but couldn’t shake her fears. She went to the hospital where she worked as a family nurse practitioner and confirmed that the baby was still, and there wasn’t a heartbeat.

Saying Goodbye

headstone

Joseph Louis Magrone was stillborn in January 2017.

On January 6, 2017, the Magrones both welcomed and said goodbye to their baby boy, Joseph Louis Magrone. “Seeing Joseph for the first time brought a sense of pride,” says Magrone. “I knew he must have been such a fighter.”

The days following Joseph’s birth were long and riddled with tasks that no one preparing for the arrival of a baby would ever want to imagine. The Magrones had to arrange an autopsy, purchase a family burial plot, weigh the costs of honoring Joseph, and so much more. Without a single resource to help with all the decisions to make, the process was a gut-wrenching experience that ultimately led the Magrones to start a charity called Walk in Sunshine.

“As an entrepreneur and someone who has evolved my career, I am no stranger to life and business challenges,” says Magrone, who left his Staten Island physical therapy practice in 2010 to eventually succeed as one of the top medical device salespeople in the country. “But nothing could have prepared me for the most horrific experience of my life. However, in the back of my mind was the football helmet on the Ithaca locker room wall that said, ‘Champions Meet Challenges Head On.’ And this is what we did.” Since his time at IC, Magrone has gone on to own 12 limited liability companies in construction, medical billing, and hardware — in addition to creating Walk in Sunshine.

Walk in Sunshine

Walk in Sunshine helps parents who have lost a child through stillbirth or other unexpected loss. The not-for-profit provides financial assistance to New Jersey families who are grieving the loss of a child and online resources for families around the world. Magrone writes blog posts about maternal health care and other relevant resources to bring grieving parents together. In the future, they hope the organization will grow to support better stillbirth and infant loss research and prevention.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics research, more than 20,000 babies are stillborn every year in the United States. The Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network states that the causes of about one-half of stillbirths cannot be explained, making preventative care challenging.

“Losing a child is a difficult story to share. But Walk in Sunshine allows me to talk about something very important to me and gives me a way to help others,” says Magrone.

Getting Walk in Sunshine off the ground in August 2018 as a charity was no small feat. It took tenacity, hard work and a passion for helping others.

“My Ithaca collegiate career helped to create this charity,” says Magrone. “The college doesn’t just provide education. Its football coaches, professors and mentors like Father Scott Kubinski help prepare students with life skills like coping, working hard, and compassion.”

Magrone lives in Westfield, New Jersey, with Francine and their second son, Nicholas, who was baptized by Father Scott, onetime chaplain at IC.

You can learn more about Walk in Sunshine at WalkinSunshineCharity.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/WalkInSunshineCharity.