Security Health Plan: Neillsville family turns tragic loss into opportunity to support others

It’s hard to imagine the grief parents face when they lose an infant or child. One family in Neillsville experienced that heart-wrenching situation and turned it around to help ease the pain of others going through the same challenge.

Samuel Lee Strangfeld was born on Sept. 5, 2019, to Sierra and Lee Strangfeld with a rare health condition that is not compatible with life, Trisomy 18 or Edwards syndrome. His parents say they “had three amazing hours with him in their arms” before Samuel “opened his eyes to Jesus” that same evening.

The Strangfelds decided immediately they wanted to do whatever they could to spread awareness of Trisomy 18 and to support families going through the loss of an infant or child for any reason. In their desire to help others, they founded a nonprofit organization, Smiling for Samuel.

“Right after we lost Samuel it was a way for me to work through my grief,” Sierra said. “Everyone deals with grief differently. I know my journey would have been a lot different if I didn’t have something like this to work on. Smiling for Samuel has really helped me through the grief process.”

“The big reason we started Smiling for Samuel is you may not have had a connection with Trisomy 18, but chances are you know someone who has gone through a miscarriage or lost an infant,” she added. “A lot of people don’t know how to deal with those feelings or how to be supportive of loved ones who have gone through the loss of a child. We want to support the parents but also those near to them.”

Nominated by social worker Monique Coleman, Smiling for Samuel received one of Security Health Plan’s 2021 Employee-Driven Corporate Giving grants. Each month Security awards a $1,000 grant to a charity or organization nominated by a Marshfield Clinic Health System employee that makes a positive difference in the community.

“This family is a true inspiration,” Coleman said when nominating the organization. “They lost their son and turned something tragic into something so beautiful by raising money to help other families coping with infant loss, as well as provide scholarships to high school seniors.”

Security’s grant is helping to place a memorial sculpture in the Neillsville City Cemetery, where Sierra’s son is buried. Titled “I Knew You in the Womb,” the sculpture depicts an angel weeping over an empty cradle. Sierra said the sculpture will be installed in 2022 in a sitting area with up to three benches.

About $30,000 in donations are needed to complete the project. Sierra said her family will donate one of the benches in memory of Samuel, leaving two opportunities for other families to remember a loved one.

“This will be a place where parents can visit and have some peace and closure after they’ve lost a child,” Sierra said. 

“I Knew You in the Womb” is just one of the Smiling for Samuel projects that donors can sponsor. Other projects include:

  • Creating memory boxes that include books and other items given to families challenged with infant and child loss.
  • Purchasing books to help children understand the loss of a sibling.
  • Providing $1,000 scholarships available to graduating seniors of Neillsville High School who pursue an education in fields related to infant and maternal health. 

Smiling for Samuel holds awareness and fundraising events each March during Trisomy 18 Awareness Month and each October during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Bracelets from the October “Run to Remember” run/walk are still available to purchase and wear to raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss. Supporters are also encouraged to raise awareness by lighting a candle for an hour during the national “Wave of Light” event each October.

Interested persons can learn more about these projects and events as well as join Smiling for Samuel at