Springboro, Ohio teen Sidney Depp had no idea how rampant the cases were of infants born with addictions to heroin and opioids. But then, she's only 16 and a cheerleader sophomore at her local high school and still being raised in a very secure family household. But two years earlier, her world suddenly opened up when some family friends were taking in foster children, including a heroin-addicted newborn.
The moment Sidney lay eyes on the baby, she recalled she felt her heart break, especially after finding out the baby had 10 other types of drugs in its system. It also empowered her to do something about the issue, especially when addicted newborns enter the world with more than a few strikes against them.
Today, she's running a not-for-profit association called The Love Project, which donates blankets to Ohio-based hospitals to cover and comfort babies born with addictions. So far, more than 2,000 swaddling items have found their destinations to hospital nurseries. It's a drop in the bucket considering an American child is born with an addiction to opioids every 19 minutes. But it's also made a difference in the well-being of the young recipients. A GoFundMe campaign is also actively seeking finances to expand operations and send out even more blankets.
“When I first started doing this, it broke my heart to find out that most of these babies are left alone to go through withdrawal because their mothers aren’t able to see them,” Sidney says. “Nurses can’t spend enough time with them and hospitals need more volunteers. But with a blanket, at least these babies can feel some comfort and relief. And when the blanket goes home with them, they’ll always have a reminder that they are loved.”
Blankets, discovered Sidney, are one way in which swaddled babies can receive some form of comfort, critical when physicians are trying to withdraw them from the opioids fed to them before they were born. A red flag rose in her mind when she also found out that nearby Ohio towns were in the national drug overdose top 10, including Dayton, which was at number one.
Sidney is getting a lot of support from parents Virginia and Phil Depp, who are proud of their daughter's initiative and willingness to step in for a needy cause. She's also getting assistance from the rest of the town with citizens donating blankets, while the local WalMart cut a deal with Sidney to sell her blankets at a discounted $1 per item. But they aren't sent as is; before dropping them off, Sidney irons on a patch emblazoned with the slogan "You Are Loved" as a reminder that these infants aren't stereotypical addicts.
“When most people think of a drug addict, they think of somebody on the side of the road in a big city,” she says. “But the reality is that heroin addiction is a problem in small towns as well, affecting children before they are even born. I want to raise awareness for these forgotten victims, and also remind the babies’ mothers that they are loved.”