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Infant’s death inspires local woman

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Alan Dale

Cedar County News

HARTINGTON — Sarah Gustafson was not going to let adversity keep her from doing bigger and better things for more people.

She was a foster parent to her 29-year-old niece’s premature son.

In October 2018, the infant died in her arms at the age of three months.

Kheondrae was born at approximately just shy of his eighth month and would go home with Gustafson in Hartington.

“The State of Nebraska was going to take him away because he was born with drugs in his system and other problems,” Gustafson said. 

Kheondrae’s death was ruled as Sudden Unknown Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDE) and Gustafson wanted his death to be more than just a passing footnote.

It needed to have more meaning, she said.

That’s why she decided to make a difference by creating K’s Closet.

“I started what is called a foster care closet and I run it out of our house,” Gustafson said. “We take donations of any kind for all different ages and sizes – even adult size. When foster families receive kids or have them as they get older, they can come and shop for free.”

Gustafson said that even non-fostering parents can come to her in a pinch.

“We have helped a family in Norfolk where the mom is a single parent and found out she has uterine cancer and we were able to help her out over Christmas,” Gustafson said. “All together, we have helped about 15 different families since this started.”

Chelsey Pena has known Gustafson for many years and reconnected through Facebook. 

There, Pena said she posted on her wall how her nephew has been born premature at 25 weeks-plus. The infant stayed at the hospital for the next four months while Pena tried to get everything together to help the child move forward.

“Sarah had a bunch of stuff and she used what she had from Kheondrae and we have clothes, diapers and bottles,” Pena said. “She basically helped us start our journey when we brought him home on New Year’s Eve.”