Marleny Koch is turning the worst tragedy a parent can suffer into triumph.
The El Jebel woman and her husband, Chris, lost their 8-month-old, William, to sudden infant death syndrome on Oct. 27, 2010.
Overwhelming grief eventually gave way to a determination to raise awareness about the syndrome, which causes the deaths of thousands of babies annually. A definitive cause of SIDS continues to elude experts.
Koch and her family attended a fundraiser last summer for Angel Eyes, a Denver-based organization that provides risk-reduction and awareness services about SIDS and related syndromes.
Koch wanted to raise money for the organization and, as an 18-year employee at City Market, knew about the movement to ban plastic bags in her grocery and at Clark’s Market. An idea was born.
“I thought since they were going to ban the bags, maybe I should just make bags and raise money for SIDS awareness,” Koch said.
A few weeks ago, after getting donations from Carl’s Pharmacy — where Chris has worked for 20 years — Jaime’s Services, and A Mom’s Day Off, she took delivery of 2,000 reusable cloth bags, which come in maroon and tan. Printed on the bags is a picture of William, a ribbon that says “End SIDS Now” and the address and website for Angel Eyes for donations.
The organization could not have asked for a better fundraiser. Koch smiles and laughs easily and often, and the customers she knows by name would fill a long check-out line.
“I’ve been working here for 18 years and everybody knows me. Right, Veronica?” she laughed to a customer outside. “See: She has [a bag] too.”
Setting up a table outside the Aspen store, or at the groceries in El Jebel and Carbondale, on her days off, Koch speaks to customers about William, SIDS and Angel Eyes.
“It’s hard when you have to explain to the people, but it makes me feel better,” she said.
With a good cause — and a cute contingent of kids, including Koch’s daughter and a neighbor’s child, helping her — the bags are selling quickly for $2 each, with all proceeds going to Angel Eyes.
“They can’t really resist when they see that,” she said of her sales pitch.
On April 27, Koch mailed a donation for $1,000 to the organization, and she is more than halfway toward her goal of sending another $1,000.
Longtime Aspenite Leah Stein had a SIDS bag. Given the need for reusable bags now that the plastic ban is in place, Stein said she wanted to support a good cause and help her friends.
SIDS is “something that needs to have more attention paid to it than has been because it’s still a great mystery,” Stein said. “I think [Marleny and Chris] are very brave and wonderful people.”
Stein and Koch then hugged. Another triumph over tragedy.