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Safe Haven Day in Pennsylvania

SUNBURY — An infant known as “Baby Mary” was killed by her mother in Sunbury 11 years ago, but her legacy lives on through a national law known as the Safe Haven Law.

Colorful flowers surrounded the grave site of the infant known as “Baby Mary”. She is buried at a cemetery in Shamokin Dam.

Baby Mary was killed by her mother in 2001 as soon as she was born at their house in Sunbury. She was discovered at the Sunbury Municipal Transfer Station inside a trash compactor.

“When you have an infant that passed away, especially at the hands of her mother, that’s not something you hear of everyday. You try and make a positive when you have something that negative that happened,” said Jim Kelley.

Kelley is the coroner in Northumberland County. He said he will never forget the image of Baby Mary, thrown away by her mother. He and his daughter Mary Kate bring flowers to Baby Mary’s grave site every year. In 2002 Kelly pushed for what is now known as the Safe Haven Law. The law allows parents to give up their babies anonymously.

Kelley said all police stations and hospitals in Pennsylvania are safe haven centers. Mothers and fathers can bring their babies to a drop off location like the Sunbury Community Hospital, put their infant in the bassinet, no questions asked.

“Some people have a problem with that, that there is not a prosecution and not getting a history on the baby. But I don’t look at it that way. We’re saving a life,” said Kelley.

Officials at Sunbury Community Hospital said there have not been any babies dropped off there, but a staff member checks the bassinet every half hour.

“We’re going to first of all make sure the baby is physically alright, but then secondly get them into a foster program. That way the child has every opportunity to survive,” said Kevin Shovlin, of Sunbury Community Hospital.

Kelley said there have been 16 babies in Pennsylvania saved by the Safe Haven Law, and more than 1,000 across the county. It all started because of Baby Mary.

“This is going to be her legacy. There are other children being saved because of her. It is something that sticks with me everyday,” said Kelley.

For more information on the Safe Haven Law click here.



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