The Gilles family

Ryan and Grace Gilles hold their daughter, Joan Margaret.

Waunakee resident Ned Button recently set up a fundraiser for families impacted by stillbirth, following the loss of his niece in early November.

The Joan Margaret Memorial fundraiser has since raised more than $33,500.

Button said the money will be used for a memorial at the Waunakee Public Library, and the creation of an endowment fund that will provide support to families experiencing a similar loss.

“Pretty much everyone we know has been affected by stillbirth,” Button said. “It happens way more than people realize, which is really sad because no one talks about it… And our family feels that giving resources to people who go through this type of thing would help.”

Button’s relatives have been dealing with the effects of stillbirth ever since his sister, Grace Gilles, lost her daughter as she went into labor on Nov. 11.

She and her husband had a midwife throughout the pregnancy and planned to deliver at home.

When the midwife was unable to find their daughter’s heartbeat, she recommended that the two head to the hospital. Doctors later informed the couple that they had lost their child.

“It’s obviously pretty hard on my sister and everyone in the family right now,” Button said. “We have three siblings, and we all had a daughter or were pregnant with a daughter the same calendar year. So losing her daughter is going to be hard, especially going forward.”

Financially, the Gilleses were hit with an unexpected hospital bill.

Button and the rest of his family offered to cover the costs, but knew that there had to be more they could do to help their loved ones. They discussed a memorial to present to the Gilleses.

“Their No. 1 worry was that people would forget about Joan because they never got to meet her,” Button said. “So we wanted to find a way to remember Joan, and help my sister and my mother grieve. And we figured the library was a good spot, since my mom works there.”

The family told Grace and Ryan about their plans for the memorial. Once the couple agreed, Button started a GoFundMe page to raise money for at least a bench and plaque.

Not knowing how much it would cost, he set an arbitrary goal of $20,000.

“We shattered that in 24 hours,” Button said. “And I never even thought we would make that. But when I woke up the next morning, we were already at like $15,000. Apparently, a lot of people in our family don’t sleep, and our friends don’t sleep.”

The Gilleses met with library director Erick Plumb that afternoon to scope out possible locations for the memorial. They settled on a spot next to Six Mile Creek, with a pine tree along the bank.

Plumb said approval is pending, but described it as an appropriate location for a memorial site.

“It’s a very reflective, contemplative space,” Plumb said. “It’s going to be a beautiful place for people to just sit, relax and enjoy themselves. But if they also need to use the space as a place to remember those that they’ve lost, it will serve that purpose very well.”

The library director said the memorial will likely include a bench, a plaque and landscaping leading up to the site. Button said the entire cost of the memorial should be less than $5,000.

All remaining funds will be donated to the UW Foundation to create the Joan M. Gilles Endowment Fund.

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