Triathlete’s gift brings baby boxes to Adirondack Health

Ryan Heisler presents a check to Sylvia Getman, Adirondack Health president and CEO, at the 2017 Ironman Lake Placid opening ceremony, while Heisler’s wife, Kelly Burns Gallagher, and their daughter, Ivy, look on. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — Thanks to the generosity of Ironman triathlete Ryan Heisler and his family, new babies (and new parents) in the Adirondacks can sleep a little easier.

On his way to successful completion of the 2017 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, Heisler and his wife, Kelly Burns Gallagher, raised more than $10,000 through the Ironman Foundation’s “Your Journey, Your Cause” program, in memory of his infant son, Owen.

Heisler and Gallagher, who live in Connecticut, reached out to Adirondack Health in the months leading up to the race and expressed their desire to donate to the hospital’s Stafford New Life Center.

“As maternity nurses, we are always looking for compelling ways to promote safe sleep education,” said Marilyn Leitsch, RNC, director of perinatal services at Adirondack Health. “A baby box, in addition to being a great conversation starter, is a simple and effective way to reinforce safe sleep habits that will directly save young lives.”

Baby boxes, which originated in Finland, promote safe sleep practices by providing a flat, secure location for infants to sleep alone and on their backs. Finland also happens to have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. The laminated cardboard boxes are coupled with safe sleep educational materials, diapers, children’s books and other necessities to ensure that families are equipped with a starter set of knowledge and supplies upon discharge from Adirondack Health’s Stafford New Life Center. The boxes are manufactured by The Baby Box Company.

Justin and Audrey Levine, with their new son Hudson, received Adirondack Health’s first baby box in mid-September. (Photo provided)

“We cannot thank Ryan and his family enough for this heartfelt and transformative donation,” said Sylvia Getman, Adirondack Health’s president and chief executive officer. “Each year, nearly 200 babies are brought into the world at the Stafford New Life Center. Now, every one of them will have this wonderful resource to get them off to a great start.”

As part of the baby box program, parents are encouraged to participate in an infant care educational class, offered at no cost by Adirondack Health. They learn that babies should always be put to sleep alone and on their backs, on a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet. The baby boxes provided by Adirondack Health include just such a mattress and sheet.

“Ryan approached us with a clear desire to see his donation make a real difference in the lives of newborns and infants in the Tri-Lakes region,” said Bonnie Ohmann, Adirondack Health’s grants and strategic projects manager. “We did a little research and determined that this would be a great way to launch a baby box program.”

October is national SIDS awareness month. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 3,700 sudden unexpected infant deaths occur in the United States each year, half of which are due to SIDS. Since pediatric experts began recommending that babies sleep on their backs in the mid-1990s, the overall U.S. SIDS rate has dropped by approximately 60 percent.

To learn more about the baby box initiative or schedule a pre-natal visit, contact Adirondack Health’s Women’s Health Center at 518-897-2726.

For more information about The Baby Box Company, visit