HIGHLANDS RANCH - At every table in the room there were children immersed in crayons, paint and their thoughts.
"Mommy, I want to draw another picture," 5-year-old Lilli Pethe said.
She was concentrating on making the little girl in her painting perfect. She asked her 8-year-old brother, Tyler, for help.
"Do you have a brown crayon?" Lilli asked.
Something so simple helps unlock something too complicated to fully understand. That is true at any age.
"I defiantly think it can help them express their feelings. They've gone through something traumatic," Amber Pethe said.
Amber is mom to Lilli and Tyler's mom.
They all feel so much.
Another little girl, Madi, was busy coloring hearts and stars on her picture. She let out a big sigh.
"I loved him," Madi said, as her voice trailed off as she thought of her cousin Caleb.
They are cousins, sisters, and brother with youth and loss in common.
Tyler pointed to his painting.
"This is my baby sister, Tayla," Tyler said.
"She is safe in heaven," Lilli added.
The kids came together to create art in honor of family members who are not here to do it with them. It is a way they can show their grief and show their love through drawings. It helps them find some happiness in situations that seem impossibly sad.
"I smile when I think about her," Lilli said.
They want that for their parents too.
Tyler has worried about his family. They have all grieved the loss of a baby.
"I am sad that my mom and dad are sad that they lost Tayla too," Tyler said.
"Every time I draw pictures for my family it makes them feel better," Madi said.
The program is called "Drawings from the Heart." It is to engage families in the work of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) and to provide siblings, cousins, and other children affected by infant loss a chance to express their feelings through art.
Cheryl Haggard understands the importance of that.
"Maddux was born Feb 4th 2005. He was a four child, a second son," she remembered.
Maddux was 6 days old when he died. On his last day, a photographer took pictures of him with his family. In those intimate moments came what would become an outlet for many other families.
"That is where Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep was created," she said.
After she lost her baby she shared her experience with other moms who realized how important those pictures would be. She and photographer Sandy Puc decided they would start the nonprofit organization. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep connects families facing the loss of a baby with a photographer to capture memories.
For big sister Devan Griffin, it was so important.
"All I had were Now I Lay me Down to Sleep pictures, so it helped me get to know him, even though he never came home," she said.
"Our baby daughter remains a part of our family and she will remain a part of our family forever through those pictures," Amber said.
There is nothing simple about why they draw and paint. The ones who are old enough to say more about it talk about it being a kind of "self therapy."
It is a time to remember and to imagine what those infants would be like today.
They are learning that sometimes the hardest, most unfair circumstances bring unexpected beauty: like compassion, empathy, and understanding.
"I always think that she is an angel in heaven that has wings," Tyler said.
He knows many other people have angels in their lives too.
"Through terrible loss they have learned such deep lesions," Haggard said. "I can't wait to see what these kids do in their lifetime."
The children are entering their drawings into a contest. More pictures are welcome. It runs through August 31. Drawings are uploaded to the website, www.drawingsfromtheheart.com, for family and friends to vote for their favorites. Votes are $1 with a $5 minimum. All proceeds benefit NILMDTS. Every drawing submitted will be included in a commemorative coffee table book.
You can access the drawings from the Heart website on the main page www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)