As a father of three young children, Seymour firefighter Mark Gillaspy would do anything to protect his own kids.
But he knows in some cases, a mother in a crisis situation may need to give up her child to ensure its safety.
That’s why he and his fellow firefighters support the country’s 11th Save Haven Baby Box, which recently was installed at Seymour Fire Station 3 located behind The Home Depot.
The station at 605 Meadowbrook Drive was chosen because of its proximity to Interstate 65, putting it within easy access of Louisville and Cincinnati, officials said.
“I feel like it was overwhelmingly supported,” Gillaspy said. “Any time we can put something in place like this to give babies a chance and mothers what they need if they can’t for some reason take care of their child gives them another alternative so that baby can have a better life.”
The baby box, which is on the east or back side of the building, allows a mother to safely and anonymously surrender her baby without fear of criminal prosecution under the state’s Safe Haven Law.
Surrendering an infant is the most difficult decision a mother will make, said Monica Kelsey, founder and chief executive officer of Save Haven Baby Boxes.
“This box is now available to women in this community, and this box represents no shame, no blame and no names,” Kelsey said.
She started Save Haven Baby Boxes in 2015 because she was abandoned at birth and later adopted.
“Every child is wanted by someone,” she said.
Equipped with a silent alarm to notify 911 dispatchers when the box is opened, the baby box has heating and cooling and locks when the baby is placed inside. Firefighters can then retrieve the infant from the box, which opens up into the station’s living quarters.
Gillaspy, who works at Station 3, brought his family to witness the dedication and blessing of the box Friday morning.
“Before, I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect,” Gillaspy said. “But when you see it and the technology of it and how it works, I think everyone is really impressed by it.”
The most appealing aspect is that it’s easy to use, he added.
Father Dan Staublin of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Seymour blessed the baby box with holy water and prayer, asking the Lord to protect any baby delivered to the box, their mother and those dedicated to caring for the babies.
“We pray for the protection of life,” he said. “May the life that is delivered here be kept safe in your care as we bless this box in your name.”
Seymour’s baby box was made possible by Columbus North High School 2019 graduate Hunter Wart. He raised $10,000 on his own by mowing lawns and scrapping aluminum cans and other metal to purchase the box as part of his senior project.
Originally, Wart had wanted the baby box installed at a fire station in Columbus, but officials in that community denied Wart’s request, saying it was not the “optimal way of dealing with the surrender of infants.”
Wart and his mother, Julie Kwasniewski, also attended Friday’s event.
He got the idea to buy a baby box after hearing a news report on the radio about an infant being surrendered in one.
“I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do for my senior project,” he said.
When he learned how much it would cost, he knew he had a lot of work ahead of him.
Through a lot of “blood, sweat and tears,” Wart was able to accomplish what he set out to do. Seeing the baby box in place made him proud, he said.
Although Wart has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, Kwasniewski said he doesn’t let it slow him down.
“Hunter believes all life is precious,” she said. “He’s a hard worker and wanted to make this Safe Haven Baby Box happen, and he did.”
But Wart said he isn’t done and already has started saving money to purchase another baby box.
Look for the full story in Saturday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.