Cedar Rapids family honors late son through infant headstone purchases

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A Cedar Rapids family is working to make sure children who die in infancy are not forgotten.

The Taylor family unveils a new infant marker at Cedar Memorial on Oct. 13, 2019. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,500 babies in the US die suddenly and unexpectedly each year.

On Oct. 13, 2016, Karim Benjamin Taylor died at just seven months old, leaving his parents and siblings heartbroken.

“He always was smiling. He had one of the most beautiful smiles in the world,” Karim’s father, Angelo, said.

When Angelo and his wife, Karissa, buried Karim in the Garden of Angels, the infant section of Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, they noticed there were about 20 babies who didn’t have bronze plaques as he did. Instead, they had smaller markers in the cemetery.

For some families, the price for a plaque, around $800, might have been too much.

“We know as a family, it was not easy to get Karim’s plaque originally. We had a lot of help, and we appreciate that, so from that experience, we try to give back to help others,” Angelo said.

A few months ago, the Taylors started “The Karim Project," a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with the goal to purchase a plaque for each of the infants without one.

“That’s just our mission, to commemorate the babies,” Angelo said.

That mission isn’t lost on their eight-year-old daughter, Tatianna.

“Losing a baby’s a scar for life, but knowing that they’re still here, they’re never going to be forgotten ever,” she said.

On Sunday, after months of fundraising for this mission, including selling popcorn and holding a garage sale, and on the third anniversary of Karim's passing, the Taylors unveiled the first marker paid for through The Karim Project.

“They want to make sure Karim’s little buddies have their own markers,” said Julie Freese, a celebrant at Cedar Memorial, during the ceremony.

The first marker is dedicated to twins Jordan and Jade Hughes, who died in 1996.

“I feel like I’m doing something positive for the little angels out here in the garden, but I wish I wouldn’t have had to do it because Karim’s gone,” Angelo said.

While Angelo never had a chance to meet Jordan and Jade’s mom, he’s comforted to know her twins have the same marker as their “little buddy,” Karim.

“If we could’ve met her, we would’ve wanted to embrace her with love and affection and let her know that it’s people that care and people that got love in the world still,” he said.

The Taylors are planning more fundraising events for The Karim Project in the future, adding that they hope to buy headstones for some of the adults at Cedar Memorial after they take care of all the babies.

Anyone who wants to know more about The Karim Project can visit its Facebook page, linked at either the bottom or on the right-hand side of this page, or email ktaylor@thekarimproject.org or ataylor@thekarimproject.org.