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Family turns tragedy -- losing a baby -- into a safe haven for other kids

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

LAPD Lt. Marc Reina, Capt. Beatrice Girmala, Xiomara Padilla-Banks, Darnell Banks, and Capt. Duane Hayakawa in the Miguel Leonard Padilla-Banks soft room at the Hollywood LAPD station. John Rabe

Tuesday afternoon at the LAPD's Hollywood police station on Wilcox south of Sunset, a simple plaque helped find a silver lining in one of the worst tragedies a family can face.

The plaque dedicated the Miguel Leonard Padilla-Banks soft room, a place at the cold, hard, scary police station where kids won't feel quite so scared.

The room is filled with toys, Dr Seuss books, a comfy couch, and a bassinet. The walls are painted light blue, like the sky, and the walls are covered with pictures and decals ... just like a home nursery. In fact, this is what Miguel Leonard Padilla Banks' room would have looked like, if he hadn't died in his mother Xiomara Padilla-Banks' 21st week of pregnancy.

Her husband Darnell Banks had two young sons when they married -- she jokes they're a "just add water" family -- and little Miguel, named for his grandfather, was to have been her first child. Xiomara says called Miguelito their Miracle Baby because she'd been told she wouldn't be able to have kids.

After the baby died, she was devastated, and Darnell says it was getting hard to walk past the bassinet they'd already purchased. Xiomara's brother in law is a police officer at the Hollywood station, and so came the idea to donate it to the station, in case any babies came in that needed it. "One thing led to another," Xiomara says, and one weekend, "my sister and I went crazy at Target buying decals and Dr Seuss books, pretty much allowing me to get out of my system, for back of a better word, the opportunity to decorate a room."

Close the door of the room they decorated, and you wouldn't know you're at a police station.

But there's more to the story. Not every police station has a soft room, and very few have one as comforting as this one. So Xiomara is looking into starting a foundation to help make them happen in other stations around the city. And if that happens, thousands of kids could benefit.

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