Southeast Missouri State University Alumnus Wayne Turley II, co-founder of Catherine Cares, has turned personal tragedy into a service that helps families heal.
In 2014, Turley and his wife Lauren were expecting their second daughter, Catherine. At 20 weeks, Catherine was diagnosed with an extra chromosome 18, a syndrome called Trisomy 18. She was born Dec. 30 and lived for an hour.
“We started Catherine Cares while Lauren was pregnant with Catherine,” Turley said. “After learning that our time with her would be short, we needed to turn our sad story into something positive and uplifting for others.”
Catherine Cares is their daughter’s legacy. It is a non-profit organization that provides services to families who are dealing with life-threatening prenatal and new-born diagnoses. Turley hopes that the non-profit service becomes known for helping families transition from heartache to healing.
“We launched our newest service in February, heartbeat bears, designed with the help of Build-A-Bear Workshop. The bears contain a pocket with a recording device. Hospital teams record the baby’s heartbeat on the device and present the bear to the family,” Turley explained. “We’re providing bears to hospitals in nine different states and talking with more. We have also shipped bears to families around the world.”
One of Turley’s most memorable experiences with Catherine Cares was witnessing the reactions to the first bears he delivered to hospitals in St. Louis.
“It was incredible seeing how moved the doctors were. They knew the impact this service would have on families,” he said.
Turley plans to expand the non-profit’s services and expand the positive impact they are making on families worldwide.
“We want to ensure that every family who receives a prenatal or newborn life-threating diagnosis receives one of our heartbeat bears,” he said.
Turley credits his college experience at Southeast, including the quality courses he took and the faculty who taught them as providing the foundation for his career.
“Many courses placed a premium on distinguishing myself via quality work and great communication,” he said. “Those skills are very important for students to learn early.”
He advises students to be passionate, pick a career that relates to something they enjoy and learn to see situations from multiple points of view.
Turley, a native of Festus, Missouri, graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in applied computer science. He also works as a program manager for an IT consulting company in St. Louis. He now lives in Kirkwood, Missouri, with his wife and first daughter, Madeline. They are expecting a healthy baby girl in November.