SIDS benefit tasting night planned in Norwalk

On Thursday, Oct.19, several restaurants and caterers in the Wilton area will come together for a food and wine tasting at Aitoro Appliances, 401 Westport Avenue in Norwalk, in honor of Connor Rhodes, who died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)  in 1997.

Entitled Taste of Heaven, all proceeds will benefit First Candle, a national nonprofit committed to eliminating SIDS, sleep-related infant death and stillbirth, which claims the lives of 27,000 babies in the U.S. every year. October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. and tickets are on sale for $45 per person or $125 for a family of four with two children under 12. Tickets may be purchased online at

Restaurants participating in Taste of Heaven include Lombardi’s Trattoria, Little Pub, Tusk & Cup, Marianne Wilson Catering, The Painted Cookie, Ripka’s Beach Café & Catering, Café Dolce, Mac’It Gourmet Mac & Cheese and Chef Damon Daye.

Ridgefield-based Skunk Rockets will perform.

Wilton mom Alison Jacobson is the mother of Connor Rhodes and also the CEO/executive director of First Candle. When Connor died 20 years ago she turned to the charity for support.

“Back then there was no social media where I could share my grief with a group but I was able to search the internet and found First Candle. They connected me with other parents who had lost a baby and helped me get through some of the darkest days of my life,” she said.

Now, 20 years later, she heads up First Candle. Despite tremendous progress being made in the late 90s in reducing the rate of SIDS through the Back to Sleep campaign, it remains the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age. Combined with stillbirths, more than 27,000 babies die every year. First Candle’s mission is to not only reduce these rates but to also provide bereavement support for families who have experienced this indescribable loss.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics expanded its guidelines for Safe Sleep to now include room sharing, not bed sharing, with a baby for at least the first year of life. This, combined with keeping the baby’s sleep area completely free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, bumpers and loose clothing can dramatically reduce the rate of these deaths. Educating community leaders, caregivers, social workers and public health nurses as well as parents on these guidelines is a critical component of what First Candle does.

“We know that the rate of sleep-related infant deaths is higher in lower socio-economic communities and among teen parents where they might, for cultural, financial or logistical reasons choose to place their baby in unsafe sleep environments,” said Jacobson.

“But throughout all of our communities many parents still have not heard the message that keeping everything out of the baby’s crib is critical. We’re working to change that. We host Straight Talk for Safe Sleep training sessions for nurses, social workers and daycare providers and then parent classes where we distribute cribs, pacifiers and wearable blankets to help facilitate a safe sleep environment.”

A big part of First Candle’s mission remains bereavement support.

“Despite our work with new and expectant parents, there will always be babies we can’t save and for those parents, having other people who understand what they’re going through is important. We have grief counselors, books, peer support and online groups to help.”