Hailing from Crown Point but now residing in Gary, Madeline (Maddie) Raspe is a unique person with a huge heart. Her story is one that needs to be heard, as she has helped so many other people who have struggled through the same complications as her, truly perpetuating the golden rule.
Raspe’s story starts off on a sad note. She and her husband, Kingsley, gave birth to Sterling, a beautiful baby girl. At Sterling’s 21-week anatomy scan, she was diagnosed with a rare type of congenital heart disease, hypoplastic left heart syndrome variant (HLHS).
During their time watching over Sterling together, Raspe and her husband experienced many long ICU stays, but they were not alone in their journey. The two of them were exposed to the generosity of benefactors and supporters in the process. It all left them with inspiration to begin the Sterling Strong Foundation, a non-profit organization in honor of their daughter, who passed away in her parents arms, showing the silver lining that can result from saddening situations.
“Our goal with the Sterling Strong Foundation is to bring comfort to other families who experience long hospital stays, and just giving back and helping pay their mortgage bills or whatever kind of bills they need help with because we were in the hospital ourselves for a little over 200 days,” Raspe said. “We were shown so much love and so much support, and now we know the best ways to help other people."
Though Raspe may not actually be a part of the foundation, she is still just like a superhero, her job as a hairstylist serving as her alter ego. Great people are what you need when running these types of organizations, so it’s amazing when you have a wide variety of people helping out.
“My husband is the one who runs it; he’s the president,” Raspe said. “And then the vice president is actually one of Sterling’s cardiologists. And the treasurer is my best friend from New York City, so there’s kind of an array of people.”
Work like this not only helps the community, but it also helps with one’s mindfulness and well-being, too. That may just be the reason to pursue getting involved with this type of work. Plus, it could help someone who may be experiencing grief, like it did for Raspe.
“After experiencing what we lost with Sterling last May, I think this work has helped us through our healing process,” Raspe said. “We're putting our energy into something else, into wanting to help others.”
More than merely donating money, there’s a lot that goes into foundations like these: it’s a simple way for people to look out for others, to support people going through intense, stressful circumstances, like watching a loved one go through an arduous time in the hospital or facing an insurmountable pile of bills.
What Raspe and her husband lost shall not go unmentioned. However, the little angel Sterling has left a legacy of relief and assistance to the families of children who may have to withstand these similar sorts of trials, serving as a way for her to live on and highlighting the importance of the Foundation.
“It's hard being in the hospital for that long, and it's important to us to help other people feel like there are people out there who love and care for them, even if they're complete strangers,” Raspe said. “We know what they're going through, and we want to be able to take away or help them with any financial problems so that they can be there longer, so they can stay with their child in the hospital and not have a financial burden.”
The greatness doesn’t cease there, since the Raspe’s are expecting a new baby, whose name has a much greater significance than one may think and a relation to Sterling.
“We picked out a gender-neutral name for both Sterling and this baby. For this baby, we picked out the name Wren, W-R-E-N, and the wren is actually a little bird that represents rebirth and protection. I liked the name to begin with, but after hearing that, it was even more of a reason to really love it,” Raspe said.
Raspe’s story with Sterling surely goes to show how certain happenings may close one door, but just because one door closes does not mean that another door won’t open, a door allowing for true kindness and awareness to be given and spread.
If you’re looking to donate or find out more in-depth details about the Sterling Strong Foundation, you can find its website at https://sterlingstrong.foundation/.