Ten Minutes with Alison Jacobson
Alison Jacobson is an only child who grew up in Port Chester. After graduating from Marymount Manhattan with a degree in communications, she worked first in post-production and then, public relations. At 24, Jacobson launched her own PR company and four years later, sold it for a healthy profit. After a move to Connecticut, a wedding, and motherhood, an unimaginable tragedy changed Jacobson’s life forever. People across the country know her as Safety Mom, but she is now also the CEO of CJ First Candle.
What is CJ First Candle and how did you end up as the CEO?
We are a national, non-profit organization and our mission is to eliminate SIDS and other sleep-related infant death and preventable stillbirth through education and research while providing bereavement support to families who have lost a baby. They approached me two years ago and asked for my help with business development. In February 2016, I became the CEO. I want to educate parents about the importance of creating a safe sleep environment for babies, which includes a separate sleep area with a firm fitting mattress and nothing else in the crib. It’s especially important to reach lower socio-economic communities who aren’t getting these messages. They also need access to pre-natal health care and to resources. Our motto is “Saving babies, supporting families.”
Tell us about your personal connection to this subject.
On August 5, 1997, at 7:15 am, I dropped my son Connor off at a day care run by a grandmother and her daughter. He’d just had his four-month check up and everything was great. I got to work in Manhattan by 9 am. At ten, I got a call. “There’s a problem with the baby. He’s not breathing.” I must have started screaming because all these people rushed to my door. My boss called a car service to take me to Stamford Hospital. The driver was speeding on the FDR and we got pulled over. When I told the police what was happening, we got an escort the entire way. The whole time I was bargaining with God in my mind. I was frantic. When I got there, my cousin was waiting for me and I heard her say, “This is the mother.” They took me to a small room where my then husband was waiting. All he said was, “He’s with God now.”
How did you cope with your grief?
At first, I was in shock. But I got a lot of support from family and friends and received cards and letters from people around the world. It was the worst possible situation and it was handled in the best possible way. I went back to work and got involved with CJ First Candle, then SIDS Alliance to help them to take their message national. I testified in front of Congress about increasing SIDS research funding. And I had three more children—Spencer, Kelsey, and Hannah.
What advice would you give to new parents?
SIDS is still the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age. Learn about how to create a safe sleep environment and other ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related infant death.
What is your life philosophy?
Live fearlessly, faithfully, and fabulously. Follow the path that is being put in front of you. It may be scary but there’s a destiny that awaits you. Have the faith to follow it you will end up where you are supposed to be.