By Stacy Rausch | Catholic Herald Producation Coordinator
Good things can sometimes come from tragedy.
Jennifer Bush-Lawson lost her life in 2014 after spending the morning volunteering at Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington. She was struck and killed by a passing dump truck while putting her daughter in her car seat.
It’s great how the community comes together to support the neighborhood and Neal. It’s a way to keep in touch and support one another. ~ Courtney Portner
Neal Lawson, Jennifer’s husband, has devoted himself to honoring his wife’s memory through the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JB-LF), launched in 2015 on the anniversary of her death.
The foundation provides funding for medical care for pregnant women and their children through the first year of life. Being able to help women receive quality healthcare — especially for high-risk pregnancies — is important to the family since the Lawson’s three children were born prematurely, and Jennifer struggled with difficult pregnancies.
One of the ways the foundation is funded is through an annual 5K race and family fun day, now in its third year. This year’s race raised more than $100,000. The Nov. 18 5K race started and finished at the Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus council home in Arlington. The Knights donated the use of the grounds for the event that drew more than 450 racers ranging in age from 7 to 69. Many families bundled up for the chilly fall day race while pushing babies and toddlers in strollers.
The activities included face painting, moon bounces, food trucks, silent auction and live music.
The foundation’s mission “is to serve economically vulnerable mothers and infants by improving access to high-quality maternal and pediatric healthcare and support.” The JB-LF partners with the Virginia Hospital Center outpatient clinic and the Arlington Pediatric Center to carry out this vision.
Michele Werner, director of development at the Virginia Hospital Center said, “The best thing about working with the JB-LF is how innovative and forward thinking they are to help solve problems for patients, and they care about the population of expectant mothers and children.”
High-risk pregnancies include many doctors’ visits, which can become untenable for many women, especially those with lower incomes or the uninsured. Through the JB-FL, infants receive access to well child medical care, acute care, specialty care, developmental assessments, and pack and plays for a safe place to sleep. Mothers are getting crucial pre-natal care, ultrasounds, and help monitoring their pregnancies through support such as telemedicine, a smartphone app that allows them to check in with a doctor from work or home. This free service has decreased greatly the number of missed appointments.
Courtney Portner, a parishioner of St. Agnes Church in Arlington and friend of the Lawson family, has volunteered at the event for three years. “The race was not only about raising funds,” she said. “It’s great how the community comes together to support the neighborhood and Neal. It’s a way to keep in touch and support one another.”
“The sense of community and giving back is especially important for the kids,” she added. “It was great to see all ages come out, whether they were running or not, to raise money for a great cause.”