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Clara Barton Steps for SIDS walk-a-thon
Hoisington throws support behind family of ambassadors
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Clara Barton Hospital PA Kelci Burkey and her family were chosen as the KIDS Network of Kansas SIDS Ambassador Family of the Year. They will be walking next weekend in the Step Up for KIDS 5K and Memorial Walk hosted by the KIDS Network in Wichita. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

HOISINGTON — Tuesday afternoon was beautiful walking weather, and Clara Barton Hospital’s Steps for SIDS Walk-a-thon was clearly the winner in the weather lottery. Community members, including a number of teachers and staff from the USD 431 schools, enjoyed yard games and walking around the newly paved perimeter of Clara Barton Hospital. They were there in support of the Burkey family of Hoisington, who have turned a tragic experience seven years ago into an ongoing opportunity to share about ways to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The Annual Step Up for KIDS 5K and Memorial Walk hosted by the KIDS Network will be held April 21 in Wichita. Clara Barton Hospital PA Kelci Burkey and her family were chosen as the KIDS Network of Kansas SIDS Ambassador Family of the Year and will be honored at the event. Seven years ago, the Burkeys’ son, Maxton, passed away from SIDS when he was just 2 months old.

Ambassador family chosen
When Jim Blackwell, Clara Barton CEO, and Sydney Rugan, communications specialist, learned the Burkeys were chosen, they knew that many of the hospital’s employees and community members wouldn’t be able to make it to the event to support the Burkeys, so the idea to have their own walk in Hoisington was born. The result was Tuesday afternoon’s Steps for SIDS Walk-a-thon at Clara Barton Hospital.
“At first we thought we would do a walk, and then someone suggested we do walking tacos, and we thought we’d do a raffle too,” said Rugan. “Everyone really pitched in and helped out and it turned out to be an awesome event.”
All proceeds from the event will go to the KIDS Network, Rugan added.
The finale was a balloon release at 6:30 p.m.

Burkey devoted to SIDS prevention
In 2011, Kelci and Kevin Burkey lost their eight-week-old son Maxton to SIDS. The Kansas Infant Death and SIDS (KIDS) network was there to help them pick up the pieces through their support services. KIDS chooses an ambassador family each year from families who have lost a child to SIDS.
“Our family was nominated this year,” Kelci said. “It’s a terrible honor to have, I guess, but it’s an opportunity to help others learn to prevent SIDS. We don’t want anybody else to have to go through the heartbreak of losing a child.”
Before Maxton was born, Kelci had applied to the PA program at Wichita State University twice, and had given up and chosen a different career. Then, her child ended up in the hospital on life support for nine days.
“We had a lot of interaction with the doctors and nurses and they were fantastic,” she said, her voice breaking as she remembered that time. “They made something that was absolutely terrible a little bit easier to understand, and gave us options.”
The experience ultimately motivated the Burkeys to find positive ways to move forward. They made the decision for Kelci to quit her job and go back to school. She applied to PA school again, and this time, she got in.
Today, she is a certified Safe Sleep Instructor. Through Clara Barton Hospital, she attends training every year and hosts clinics in Hoisington to teach day-care providers, grandparents, and baby-sitters about safe sleep and prevention of SIDS. Last year, she put on three classes. This year, the hospital will host a combination CPR and safe sleep class geared toward high school students interested in becoming baby-sitters.

Maxton remembered
In 2017, Kelci and Clara Barton Hospital and Clinic partnered with Barton County Health Department to hold its first community baby shower. Participants in the WIC program attended a party where Kelci taught about tobacco cessation, breastfeeding and safe sleep. At the end of the shower, each mother receives a pack-n-play crib she can use to ensure her baby has a safe place to sleep.
“We are hoping to put on another one in the spring,” she said. “We have a lot of things in the works.”
The turnout Tuesday was overwhelming for the Burkeys.
“I’m so glad to live in Hoisington,” Kelci said. “This community is amazing.”
They will be attending the Step Up for KIDS 5k and Memorial Walk as a family next weekend. It will be Kelci and Kevin, son Camden, 6, daughter Boston, 3, and son Rexton, 1. Their son Maxton would be 7, had he survived. He is forever in their hearts.