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Parental Bereavement Act Reaches Congress

The Sarah Grace Foundation for Children With Cancer, Inc., based in Hicksville, is proud to announce that the Parental Bereavement Act of 2013, also known as the Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act, has been formally introduced to the United States Congress.

Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) has worked closely with The Sarah Grace Foundation to help develop this bill, an amendment to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and presented it to Congress along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) on Feb. 5.

The original FMLA legislation, instituted in 1993, allows for employees to take job-protected, unpaid leave from the workplace for certain family or medical issues – such as the birth of a child or the illness of a spouse. However, the original legislation fails to cover the pressing issue of the death of a child. The Parental Bereavement Act, formally known as Bill #H.R. 515, would amend the legislation in order to fix this discrepancy, and allow employees to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave from their job in order to grieve before having to return to work.

“The death of a child, at any age, for any reason, is not a natural occurrence; there is no rule book as to how to process the experience or how to move on with your life, and there shouldn’t be because it isn’t the normal course of events,” said Matt Weippert, executive director of the Long Island-based Sarah Grace Foundation.  

In 2002, Matt and Marissa Weippert’s daughter Sarah passed away at the age of 12 from leukemia, and they founded the foundation the following year to honor her memory.

“Sarah was buried on a Wednesday, and I returned to work the following Monday,” said Weippert, stating that he felt uncomfortable taking the extra time off of work since his employer had been very generous with giving him time off to begin with.

When Congressman Israel approached the Weippert’s about naming his legislation in Sarah’s memory, they were honored.

“I was extremely fortunate to work in a situation where I was able to take time off while Sarah was sick, but most families are not so lucky,” Weippert said.

The Sarah Grace Foundation, now in its tenth year, has been doing everything possible to raise awareness of the Act, and with its upcoming Blood Drive and Tenth Annual Night of Laughter, there are many opportunities to spread the word to people.

Having experienced the loss of a child firsthand, Weippert knows just how important this legislation can be.

“Families losing a child need time to heal, time to rebuild, and time to comfort one another, and that’s what this legislation is about,” Matt Weippert said. “We are proud and extremely honored to have Sarah Grace’s name attached to such promising legislation and grateful to Rep. Israel for bringing this to the forefront, and we ask everyone to contact their representatives and urge them to help pass this bill.”

The Sarah Grace Foundation can be found online at www.thesarahgrace foundation.org, or by calling (516) 433-9745. Additionally, you may find and contact your United States Government representatives at http:// house.gov/ representatives/find/.