POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – Cristina Memo was always interested in doing pageants, so she decided to run for Mrs. Ohio as she approached her 40th birthday.
As she started the process for the pageant, she realized she needed to spread a special message.
“My passion for this project is my daughter, my hero, Gabriella,” Memo said.
Memo had infertility problems when trying to have her first child, Gabriella. She delivered her five weeks early. It was her stay at Akron Children’s Hospital that pushed her to spread awareness and make a difference.
“When she was in the NICU, I was blessed to take her home, but I met babies that did not make it. When I left, I said, ‘I want to come back and help these babies,’” Memo said.
Eight years later, she is trying to spread the message to help.
“As I was celebrating my milestone birthday, my whole message turned into wanting to spread the message to help all babies reach their first birthday,” Memo said.
As she competes for Mrs. Ohio, she is doing just that. She is getting the word out about how big of an issue infant mortality is in the state.
“I felt that if I was going to do this pageant, I was going to do something very good with it. I wanted to make a difference,” she said.
Doctor Elena Rossi at Akron Children’s Hospital was the doctor who helped deliver Memo’s first baby.
“If we can prevent some of these deaths in poor or wrong sleeping positions, we can help these babies reach their first birthdays, and the infant mortality will go down,” Rossi said.
Rossi also said three babies die each week in Ohio from unsafe sleeping habits. She is backing Memo as she hopes to make her safe sleep project gain national attention.
“Our message is for safe sleep positions. Here’s our little baby. She’s alone, in her crib on her back. The crib has a tight fitted sheet,” Rossi said.
“ABC’s of sleep: You sleep alone, on your back and in an empty crib. Now we can use blankets to cuddle with our babies and to hold them, but then you have to take the blanket off and put it in the crib,” Memo said.
Rossi has raised money here in the Valley to back the safe sleep initiative. She is making door hangers that are put on every door at Akron Children’s to spread the word about safe sleeping for babies.
“Safety is everything, and, as an infant, they sleep about 16 hours a day. So if we can properly teach the ABC’s of sleep – alone, on their back and in a crib – we have potential to help them reach their first birthdays,” Memo said.
“With someone like Mrs. Ohio using this as her platform, how wonderful for people to see real moms, real people believe in this and want to see this get better,” Rossi said.
Memo is set to compete for the title of Mrs. Ohio next Saturday. Although she wants to leave with a crown, she says this has already been a blessing to get the word out.
“If anything, I’ve raised so much awareness for infant mortality and the ABC’s of sleep that I already feel successful,” she said.
When competing for Mrs. Ohio there are no requirements of community involvement. Memo did this out of the kindness of her heart and wanting to help every child reach a milestone birthday. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, she is going to continue her safe sleep project.
Sunday, the day after the competition, Memo and her husband Mark are headed to Chicago for a convention for the National Medical Alliance, where they are going to present their project to hopefully secure funds on a national level.