VOL. 42 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 23, 2018
Starfish Foundation helps clear infertility challenges
It would take Kara and Brandon Edwards three years of emotional, financial and physical struggle to achieve pregnancy.
Now the busy mom of 4-year-old twins raises money and gives grants through Starfish Infertility Foundation to help defer treatment costs for others. And Edwards hopes to be a sounding board for people going through it.
Spring and fall golf tournaments raise money, which is awarded in the spring and fall. The spring tournament will be May 7 at Five Oaks Golf Course in Lebanon. Sponsorship information and registration.
Edwards said it was naiveté that made her think that one in-vitro fertilization cycle was all she and her husband, Brandon, would need to finally achieve pregnancy.
In her mid-30s, she’d been treated for endometriosis and knew there were some other minor factors that may have affected getting pregnant. She’d also been on rounds of fertility drugs and gone through several inseminations.
It turned out she would go through four IVF cycles before becoming pregnant at 37. She stopped counting the cost of their four-year effort to conceive after they’d spent $110,000.
Edwards owns a photography studio and was manager at the Wildhorse Saloon. Her husband is a financial planner. They figured it out, paying for one IVF at a time before trying for another.
It was during an IVF training class to learn how to do her daily injections, when they heard another couple’s story.
“There was a couple who told us that this one time was it,” she recalls. As is usual, insurance did not cover it, and they had enough money for one IVF cycle. “If that didn’t work, they wouldn’t have kids, they told us. What a terrible burden.”
“So, I told Brandon, we need to do something about this,” she adds. Still in the middle of their own quest for pregnancy, they resolved to help once they could.
Some IVF providers offer financing options, and nationally, there are a handful of foundations that offer help. Some couples may also turn to crowdfunding or asking family for help. Others use credit cards, personal loans or medical loans.
After their first IVF cycle failed, Edwards was devastated. “I went into a black hole,” she recalls. “I just shut everyone out and didn’t want to talk about it.”
For the most part, the Edwards’ dealt with the months of testing, bloodwork, procedures, a black-and-blue belly from shots, and the financial and emotional ups and downs by themselves. Just a few people knew. For Edwards, her outlet would be an online forum at her fertility clinic that led to a Facebook group of 16 women who supported each other like no one else could.
They understood the stress, the hormones that make a person go nuts, arranging life around an injection schedule and the deep heartache.
At first, she was overwhelmed with her idea and started to second-guess her ability to help.
“The biggest truth was that I can’t help everybody,” she explains. “I mean, 1 in 8 couples has issues. I thought I just couldn’t make a big enough difference.”
Then she heard the story of the starfish.
An old man was throwing washed-up starfish back into the sea and a little boy asks what he was doing. Well, helping the starfish. But there were too many, the boy told the man that he couldn’t help them all.
The man threw one back and said, “I just helped that one.”
“I almost started crying,” says Edwards about that story. “I didn’t have to help everyone, but I could literally change one person’s life.”
They started fundraising with golf tournaments, and Starfish Infertility Foundation became a 501c3. The grants are named after their kids.
The Bexleigh goes to a local couple and the Braxton grant to an out-of-state couple. It gave out the first $3,850 grant in Oct. 2015 to Tracy and Casey Hightower who are now the parents of Logan. Another grant, for $5,000, was given in June 2016 to Paul and Abbey Watkins, who had twin boys last year. Last fall, the foundation was able to award two grants to hopeful couples.
In June 2017, the grant was given to Matt Dudney and Christy Sutherland at Starfish Infertility Foundation’s Music for Miracles event.
At that point, the couple had spent about $70,000, with help from their families and incurring debt that was almost paid off.
“We’ve been praying for God to let us know if this is what we’re supposed to keep doing,” Dudney says. “When we were chosen for that grant, it was an unbelievable answer to prayer, a confirmation.”
“Words cannot express our gratitude to the Starfish Infertility Foundation,” Sutherland adds. “It’s also really cool to now be personally associated with such an incredible foundation whose true heart offers compassion and hope to so many of us out there struggling with infertility.”
The foundation accepts applications for grants on its website. Starfish Infertility Foundation information: https://starfishinfertilityfoundation.org.