SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Mayor played a vital role as chairman of SIDS of PA�s board of directors

            Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O�Connor had a big heart, and no one knows that better than SIDS of PA, a charitable organization with whom Mr. O�Connor continued to work closely even after he took office as mayor.

Until his death, Mr. O�Connor served as chairman of SIDS of PA�s board of directors, but he served this organization in numerous vital ways over the course of his 14-year involvement.

In 1992, O�Connor�s infant niece, Yael Pelled, died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). At the time, Mr. O�Connor had just been elected to the Pittsburgh City Council.  He contacted SIDS of PA, asking how he could become involved, and was asked to join the board of directors.

From that time on, he was continuously involved with SIDS of PA, serving as chairman of the development committee, chairman of the finance committee and vice chairman of the board. When he took his mayoral office, he divested himself of many of his outside interests, but he chose to remain actively involved with SIDS of PA and was elected chairman of the board on June 29, 2006.

His work was a direct and crucial help in SIDS of PA�s successful effort to reduce SIDS death rates in Allegheny County and, more recently, other counties and states.

In 1998, Mr. O�Connor was responsible for obtaining funding for SIDS of PA to start its Cribs for Kids Campaign, which distributes cribs to needy families, providing them with safe sleep environments for their babies and thus reducing the risk of infant death due to either SIDS or accidental suffocation.  Since the inception of this program in 1998, Allegheny County�s SIDS death rates have dipped significantly lower than the national average, and the Allegheny County Child Death Review Team credits Cribs for Kids with making this reduction possible. 

More than 5,000 cribs have been distributed in Allegheny County since Mr. O�Connor obtained those first funds.  Now the program is being replicated in 49 counties in Pennsylvania plus 24 other states.  Most recently, New York City has signed on as a Cribs for Kids partner, and Pittsburgh�s own SIDS of PA will help New York implement a plan to distribute 5,000 cribs in its first year of operation as part of Mayor Bloomberg�s initiative to reduce infant mortality.

Because of the compassion that arose from his own familial connection to SIDS, Mr. O�Connor also worked to provide support for families affected by SIDS. Following a SIDS of PA board meeting in 1994, Mr. O�Connor and SIDS of PA Executive Director Judith Bannon discussed the need for a place for siblings of SIDS victims to go to express their grief. They began to make phone calls to social work departments of local hospitals and hospices.  Within six months, the Pittsburgh Center for Grieving Children was established.  The Highmark Foundation later acquired it and renamed it The Caring Place, and it now has locations throughout the state.

�Since 1992, Bob has opened his heart to families whose infants have died and also worked to reduce the number of infant deaths through the Cribs for Kids program,� Bannon said.  �He was loved and will be missed by the SIDS community.  He was not only our leader, he was our friend.�




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