Families decorate tree for children lost too soon

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A recent tradition in Austin has been to decorate trees for the holidays along Highway 360. One tree just north of the 360 Bridge got some very special decorations Saturday, made by mothers and their families, to remember children loved and lost.

The families have had kids going through life-threatening challenges at the Dell Children’s Medical Center. Marty Barnes of the support group Mommies of Miracles became friends with Vanessa Venhuizen while both of their young girls battled Cerebral Palsy. Last year, Vanessa’s 6-year old Giulianna didn’t make it. The decorations were made to remember children like her.

“I think about her all the time. I love her dearly, I won’t ever love her less,” said Venhuizen. “But I want to have and have this need to honor her, and let the whole world know she existed, and what a wonderful kid she was.”

The decorations contain mementos, keepsakes and letters to the lost. Dozens of them were placed on a nicely chosen tree.

Marty Barnes is still dealing with her own family struggles and she knows what Vanessa has gone through, “This is something that hits home,” Barnes explained. “It’s something our community, and the special needs community, is always worried about, dealing with and stressed about. So yeah, it’s very personal.”

Mommies of Miracles is one of the largest support groups in the world for mothers of children battling through medical or developmental disabilities. They offer extended support, hope and a wealth of resources to help folks get through.

Vanessa and these families will now pass by the tree knowing they’ve left something of themselves there. It might make the holidays a little easier. A little.

“Christmas is the toughest,” Vanessa said. “It’s the time you rejoice on all you have and it’s hard not to feel that hole a little bit more. Giulianna was completely dependent on us for her living and there is something very humbling about that.”

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