After the unspeakable loss of her son at 24 weeks, Rachel Feriend founded The Jasper Fox Project to give comfort to other parents who have to walk out of the hospital without the baby they so desperately wanted. Her sister’s gift of a stuffed fabric fox matching the weight of Rachel’s stillborn son gave her palpable comfort as she and her husband dealt with their loss. Now, with a dedicated corps of volunteers, they provide precisely weighted handmade Jasper Foxes to comfort grieving parents.
Tell us about the first Jasper Fox and how it sparked your creative non-profit organization. Why do you do what you do?
My husband and I were eager to grow our family after our first son had turned one. We soon were pregnant with our second child. At our 20 week ultrasound, we found out we were having another bouncing baby boy. We named him Jasper and were excited to plan for the future. When we went in for our routine 24 week appointment, our son had no heartbeat. Jasper was stillborn on July 12th, 2018. He weighed 1 lb 13 oz. He was perfect, sweet, and left us too soon. Realizing the depth of my grief, my sister-in-law took it upon herself to help me. So she sewed a handmade stuffed animal fox weighing 1 lb 13 oz. When I held the exact birth weight of my son in my arms again, I felt as if a piece of my son came back to me.
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My husband and I experienced the extreme depths of loneliness when walking through pregnancy loss, and we decided we needed to help others like us. So we started the Jasper Fox Project Non-profit Organization where we carry on the legacy my sister-in-law began by sewing handmade foxes and weighing them to match the exact birth weight of a child who has passed away. We believe that no one should have empty arms after the loss of a child and that when families hold these personalized foxes they can take a step forward in the grieving process.
Your son, Jasper, is central to your story. Do you feel comfortable sharing a bit about him?
Jasper was a perfect little boy who looked exactly like his dad. I’m grateful we were able to spend time with him before we said goodbye. My heart has a 1 lb 13oz hole in it. And although he left us too soon, my Jasper is a little boy making a huge difference in lives across the world. We have sent out over 100 personalized foxes in the last year and a half, to 27 states and 2 countries internationally. He was such a little soul that has inspired so much healing, love, and remembrance.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out?
The Jasper Fox Project is unique in many ways. We have a group of incredibly talented volunteer sewers who hand make each fox with handpicked, quality fabrics. But the most important part of our process is the weight. Every fox is weighted to the exact specifications of the child who has passed away. We can weigh a fox from a tiny 10 oz up to 12 lbs. This range allows us to cover early 2nd trimester loss up to early infant loss. We do this with a combination of glass beads, sand, and stuffing.
We have multiple styles of foxes. Our Original Fox, which is gender neutral, is made with orange tones. The Gentleman Fox is purposed towards boy losses and the Lady Fox for girls. We make a miniature fox, called the Memory Fox to serve families experiencing 1st trimester loss. These mini foxes are not weighted but acknowledge the depth of the loss. We also sew matching weighted swaddle blankets to accompany a fox that weighs more than 7.5 lbs. This allows us to service children up to 12 lbs while still upholding the integrity of the fox and fabric. Holding the fox swaddled in the blanket would equal the weight of the larger child.
Miscarriage occurs in approximately 1 of every 4 pregnancies. Stillbirth is 1 in every 160 births. I can tell you, these numbers are devastating. Although we can’t control the losses, we can control how we respond to them. These families need to know they aren’t alone and that their children mattered and will be remembered.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My sewing desk can easily be pulled out and used to sew at a moment’s notice. I have storage for fabric, foxes, weighting materials, boxes, as well as other supplies in our garage. I use my kitchen as my stuffing and weighing station. With an accurate scale and funnels, we make the magic happen. And then we ship everything right from our front door.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Our volunteers are absolutely indispensable! Without their dedication and belief in The Project, we would never accomplish the large number of fox orders that continues to grow each month. Technology keeps us in touch and on target as well as fueled with inspiration and supplies.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
We have developed our own process for our pattern. All of our volunteers use the same pattern for the foxes but get to have creative license with patterns and colors. This gives them consistency of shape and quality while being unique and personalized at the same time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Keep doing what you’re doing. If you don’t, who will?
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Motivation in this business is heartbreak. We keep sewing because another mom is told there is no heartbeat, or the tissue isn’t viable. Pain and tears keep The Jasper Fox Project moving forward. Because we have to help! We have to enable families to cry harder, love sweetly, and remember well. So, our motivation is you, her, them, anyone who has lost a baby.
How do you keep all the balls in the air? Is there one you wish you could drop? Which one will you never give up?
I would not be able to run this non-profit without the help of my board of directors as well as our many volunteers. Their belief in the project and their dedication is critical to our success.
What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?
The greatest challenge I face with The Jasper Fox Project is staying on top of running a non-profit correctly. I have no experience in being in charge of one, but I feel called to serve. So I enlist help, ask questions, and continue to stay humble as we learn and grow.
Tell us about your blog and website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting? Are there ways that people can help?
My blog, Heart Of My Own Heart, is a chronicle of my own personal journey of walking through miscarriage and stillbirth. In order to help myself wade through my grief, I began a blog to help sort out my thoughts and reground myself in my faith. I only published it so that it kept me accountable to my own mental health. I am currently turning it into a book format to make it more accessible and hands on.
The Jasper Fox Project website is meant to bring awareness to miscarriage and stillbirth and encourage individuals to purchase a fox for themselves or a loved one. People don’t know what to do or to say when faced with someone who has lost a child. We are giving them the perfect thing to do. Send a fox.
There are also opportunities to donate to our cause. We place the names of donors in the fox boxes on a sponsorship card to reassure families they are not alone and that people care about their loss.
Want to get involved? We always need sewing volunteers! If you are an experienced sewer and want to be a part of the comfort and love we send to families across the nation, please contact us! We need you. And you can live anywhere to do it! We have sewers across the US, sewing foxes meant for women who haven’t even lost their child yet. Please email me at [email protected] to get involved.
What do you hope the future will bring?
We have incredible goals for the future! We are beginning to partner with pregnancy resource centers, hospital birthing centers, midwife practices, and churches to be an immediate resource for child loss. I know how it feels to walk out of a hospital without a child and it is absolutely excruciating. We want to put a fox in a mother’s arms before she walks out the doors.
Our long term goals include a scholarship fund for paying for families medical bills for a child they didn’t get to take home.
We want to offer the Jasper Retreat, a fully funded respite for families after their loss. This would include everything from housing, food, extracurricular activities, and a possible stipend for taking leave from work.
Interview posted November 2022
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