Turning Tragedy Into Celebration

Mar 12, 2013

For many, a child’s first birthday is about balloons, gifts and cake.  But for one Sioux Falls couple, tragedy is forcing them to celebrate in a different way.   

Quinn Noel Terhorst was born in the early morning hours on March 12, 2012.

  “I had 28 hours of labor,” says Alison Terhorst.  “She was very laid back and happy.  Our first born and the joy of our lives.”


Alison with Quinn
Credit Alison Terhorst

But in July, at just barely four months old, the joy turned into sorrow.

  “We were going to lay her down for the night.  She was acting really fussy and that’s not normal and then she just went limp,” says Alison.

  They performed CPR and took Quinn by ambulance to the hospital.  When they arrived Alison was told to say goodbye.

   “Forty-five minutes after we went to lay her down it was over.  It all happened very quickly,” says Alison.  “Talk about a shock.”    

Quinn died on July 21, 2012.  The autopsy showed healthy organs.  Her cause of death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  


“Not what you would think of because she was in our arms at the time,” she says.


Alison Terhorst teaches Advanced Placement Psychology at Sioux Falls Washington High School.  Because of her training she says she has self-awareness of the five stages of grief.  She says it helps her keep her grief in perspective.  Or, she says her personality and faith get her through each day along with a strong support system.

  “I am convinced people pray me out of bed each morning,” says Alison. “That’s not to say I don’t have moments I’m angry about it or question God.  I don’t know how I’d do it without our faith.”

  Last September, Alison started a blog about her grieving process.  She says she did it for her out of town family and friends so she didn’t have to repeat her story.  She describes her grief as teetering through depression.

  “I’ve mostly been heartbroken through the whole thing.  I can’t be angry at anyone.  I can’t fix it.  I’ve been in the depressed heartbroken state,” says Alison.”

  There’s nothing Alison would like more than to stay in bed and cry on what would have been Quinn’s first birthday.    

“My biggest thing is I had all these hopes and dreams for my daughter,” Alison says as she begins to cry. “Of how she’d touch other people’s lives and in an instant those hopes and dreams were gone.  And I feel if I stay in bed feel sorry for myself on her birthday then everything she was to me stays in bed too.”

  Alison heard of people celebrating birthdays by doing random acts of kindness for others.  She is encouraging family and friends and students at Washington High School to reach out to others on Quinn’s birthday and touch lives the way Quinn touched hers.    

Alison put the idea on her blog and within a week it has received 25,000 views.  She even wrote an article in the high school newspaper. Students are taking pledges as a way to hold them- selves accountable.

   “People have pledged to pay for other students who can’t afford lunch and making gift packages with tags on it.  I’ve heard of a couple of teachers who have gone out to eat and left big tips and a note explaining why they were blessed.  My insurance guy is coming and serving the entire staff pancakes for Quinn’s birthday,” Alison says


  For Alison and her husband Tim, they are planning to help other families in need and leaving a few things up to randomness.

  “Little things leaving quarters at a car wash.  Pay for someone’s groceries; those types of things and we also want to bless families who don’t have as much,” Alison says.

  Alison doesn’t really want the acts of kindness directed toward her, but she knows people will.  She also hopes this catches on and others take this idea to remember what she calls hard anniversaries or birthdays.  

“Then we have acts of kindness all the time,” says Alison.  “I would love for people to join just and love for people I don’t even know to be blessed by my daughter and because she lived and because she was born on March 12th. 


Alison and Tim Terhorst have declared March 12th as "Celebrating Quinncidence" day – a day where kindness is not a coincidence.  It is their family's way of turning tragedy into celebration and one mother's way for a reason to get out of bed in the morning.