Oct. 12, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
A Sunnyside-based charity is about to get its moment in the national spotlight yet again and could receive a $35,000 injection.
Orlaith Staunton, a longtime Sunnyside resident, was selected as one of 10 finalists for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth contest for her work founding The Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention.
Launched in 2006, the contest recognizes women across the country who dedicate their time to philanthropic causes. Staunton was selected from a pool of over 6,200 applicants for her organization.
Staunton founded the organization with her husband after her son, Rory, died from sepsis, an infection that entered his bloodstream through a small cut on his elbow that he got while playing basketball at school.
Rory got the cut on his elbow on a Thursday, Staunton said, and was misdiagnosed as having the flu both by his pediatrician and doctors at the NYU Langone Medical Center, until he was finally diagnosed on Friday evening, when it was too far gone to treat effectively, and he died on Sunday April 1, 2012.
“After he died, we started trying to figure out what could have been different, and we realized that Rory shouldn’t have died if he was diagnosed earlier,” Staunton said. “I started thinking ‘what can I do so other moms don’t have to go through this awful pain and heartbreak?’ So we started our foundation to spread awareness of sepsis.”
Staunton explained that the main purpose of the foundation she started with her husband Ciaran is to educate both children and adults about what sepsis is, and how to spot the signs.
Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with over 250,000 people dying from it each year, but is not very well known. It occurs as the body’s reaction to an infection where it ends up attacking its own organs.
“We wanted to figure out what happened, because Rory was such a happy, buff kid, and we discovered he died from sepsis, but I had never heard of sepsis, and neither had anyone I knew,” Staunton said.
She said she did some research, and found that there was not a lot written on the topic, so she made it her mission to educate people about the symptoms.
“We need to educate people about the signs of sepsis so they know how to advocate for themselves,” Staunton said.
She was nominated for the L’Oreal award anonymously, and then went through an application process. By being selected as one of the ten finalists, she will receive $10,000 for her foundation. However, if selected through an online vote as the winner, Staunton would receive an additional $25,000 to go towards the foundation.
She said that she hopes to form a youth education program with the funds from the award, because “young people need to be aware that they need to watch any cut or infection closely.”
“If Rory had learned about sepsis, we would have sat around the table and talked about it, and then when Rory was sick I would have known the symptoms and to ask the doctors about it,” Staunton said.
“Orlaith’s cause spoke to L’Oréal Paris and our panel of judges because of the direct impact she made on a cause that affected her in such a tragic way,” said a Loreal representative. “The Rory Staunton Foundation works around the clock to ensure that no other family suffers the devastating loss that theirs did.”
“Women of Worth is so important because it lends a voice to a range of causes and the everyday women committing their lives to making a change. In addition to monetary support, L’Oréal Paris provides each Women of Worth Honoree networking opportunities, marketing support, and a platform to tell her story,” the representative added.
All ten finalists will receive $10,000 towards their charity and will be recognized at a ceremony in Manhattan on November 16. Each will have a chance to speak about their cause and explain its importance.
To vote for Staunton to win the Women of Worth contest and to learn more about her story, visit http://www.lorealparisusa.com/women-of-worth.aspx#Orlaith-Staunton. Voting closes on October 28.