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Meet Karlena Kelliher - Westfield Local Heroes 2021

Helping parents recover

Sands Canterbury
Compassionate. Vivacious. Dedicated

Karlena Kelliher has spent two decades helping grieving parents rebuild their lives after losing a baby to miscarriage, during birth or as a newborn.

As a volunteer with Sands Canterbury, Karlena helps parents recover from their loss and achieve a fulfilling life. Her greatest comfort is knowing she is honouring the memory of her daughter, who was stillborn in 2002.

Karlena provides ongoing support to about 60 people a year, reaching out by phone or text every one or two weeks to offer a listening ear.

She packs 100 memory boxes annually for parents who lost their baby after 16 weeks.

The items are donated or purchased through fundraising, but Karlena puts her hand in her pocket to buy them when needed.

She also puts together 700 support packages for parents who experienced a miscarriage before 16 weeks.

Each year she speaks to trainee doctors, midwifery students and social workers to help them understand and support parents who lose a baby.

Karlena says she is humbled to be nominated as a Westfield Local Hero. “There are no other groups in Canterbury who offer support for baby loss, so it’s really important for me to continue this work. I can’t make it better, but I just try to walk beside them with their grief,” she says.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Sands Canterbury will use its funds to pay for memory box items and to send committee members to an upcoming Sands conference in Hamilton.

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here

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