On Saturday, she accompanied the tiny caskets to their final resting place.
For the last five years, Quinn, 43, a licensed funeral director, has devoted her time to burying or cremating babies and children 18 and younger whose families can't afford funerals. She even stepped in to help the victims of the duck-boat crash last summer.
Quinn collects no salary. Her nonprofit, known as Final Farewell, is funded by donations - the bulk coming from a Berwyn multimillionaire who fears fires.
Quinn, her 9-year-old daughter, and her 19-year-old stepson live in Olney on the income of her husband, Tom. He's a funeral director at his family's business. It's one of the homes that forgo fees when burying small children.
Because there's never enough money in Final Farewell's coffers, Quinn uses her standing in the funeral community to negotiate deals for parents, getting cemeteries, casket suppliers, limousine companies, florists, and others to cut prices or work at cost.
"I've called on Trish on many occasions," said Marty Hudson, a social worker in the neonatal intensive-care unit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where the sad reality is that some babies die.
"Trish is very devoted and passionate. She feels every child has the right to a dignified burial or cremation. It's really a mission for her, and I don't know of anybody else who does this."
Roberta Edwards, whose niece Rasheedah Wilson, 33, and Wilson's three children, 8, 11, and 14, died in a North Philadelphia house fire in January, called Quinn "a blessing."
"She took care of everything," said Edwards, 49, a nurse's assistant. "We're so grateful she stepped in."
Palace of the dead
The Guckin Funeral Mansion on G Street in Kensington is a throwback to a time when the well-to-do erected estates with idiosyncratic touches, such as metal shelving built into room radiators to keep food warm.
Nowadays, the mansion is a palace of the dead, run by Betty Ann Guckin, a funeral director who gives office space to Quinn.
"When funeral directors hear about what she does, they give back," Guckin said. "We do cremations of children for free. And I donate my services to Final Farewell."
Sitting at a desk in a cavernous side room of the mansion, Quinn tried to explain her need to tend to children after they die.
"I don't know why I do it, really," she said. "I just think about a family, alone, a poor kid in the hospital and the mom, who has four other kids, going to that hospital every day. And then the child dies.
"I help mostly the poor, but after you have a child who's been sick a long time, then dies, parents may have lost jobs from caring for them. So they become poor."
Parents who receive welfare cash benefits are entitled to around $800 for funeral expenses when a child dies. But just one in 10 Americans living in poverty receives welfare. And there are few if any programs to help the poor bury their dead.
"Final Farewell fills in a void," said Eugene Suplee, who retired last month as senior forensic investigator for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
"She recognizes a need that no one else even knew existed," said Laurie Stewart, a social worker at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Not surprisingly, low-income children are more vulnerable than other children. The poorest may face as much as an 88 percent greater risk of mortality than higher-income children, according to a 2010 report by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
Scientists cite higher infant mortality among the poor. "The poor love their kids as much as the rest of us," said Renee Turchi, a St. Christopher's pediatrician. "A proper burial is part of the journey of healing. To take away the stress of having to pay for that is incredible."
How she started
The youngest of six children of a homemaker and a Philadelphia police officer turned lunch-truck owner, Quinn has cerebral palsy, which leaves her with a limp. Her father, Eugene, died two years ago. Her mother, Anna, lives in Northeast Philadelphia.
Between ages 12 and 18, Quinn, who grew up in Feltonville, endured five operations related to her condition, all of them at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Quinn learned firsthand the fear a child has at night in a hospital bed. And she remembers her mother's helpless anguish over seeing a little one suffering.
After graduating from Cardinal Dougherty High School in 1986, Quinn worked as a civilian printer in the now-shuttered Naval Air Development Center in Warminster. At the funeral of a friend of her brother's who had died in a fire, she met Tom, who owned the Mary Givnish Funeral Home in Olney.
The two married six years later, and Quinn, wanting to help her husband, earned an associate degree in funeral-service education at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pa.
In 2002, Quinn was driving when she heard the broadcast of a fund-raiser that made her cry.
"It was for CHOP, to raise money for kids who survived cancer," she said.
It got Quinn to thinking about children who succumb to disease. Using $11,000 from the sale of a family business, she started Final Farewell.
The first child Quinn helped bury was a police officer's son who had died of a brain aneurysm; Quinn paid for a headstone. Because she contacted the funeral home and not the family, Quinn said, the family may never have known that she was its benefactor.
Keeping Final Farewell going isn't easy. Quinn has been turned down by nearly every major charity she has approached.
"Everybody wants to give money to be part of a cure," she said, "but they don't give money for the death of a child." Thank goodness, Quinn said, for James Paulits.
A computer software entrepreneur, he sold his basement-based company in 1999 for $20 million.
In 2001, he paid $50,000 for the funerals of 11 members of the Shelton family - including seven children - who had died in a fire in Oak Orchard, Del.
When Paulits, who said he was "scared to death" of fires, heard about Quinn, he decided he had to work with her.
In 2008, Quinn volunteered to help the Liberian immigrant victims of a day-after-Christmas fire in West Philadelphia that killed seven people, four of them younger than 18. Paulits gave Quinn $10,000 for the funerals.
"Trish has been doing this night and day on a shoestring," said Paulits, 59, a Kensington native living in Berwyn. "She has her own health problems, and she's nothing but gracious. I cannot stand the thought of her having to beg for money for children at the end of their lives."
He called Quinn "the best negotiator I ever knew," based on her dealings with funeral homes.
The full price of a child's funeral can be about $12,000. Even with discounts, families can face charges of $1,000 or more for church and cemetery fees, Quinn said. That's where donations such as Paulits' make the difference.
Federal tax records show that last year, Quinn raised $40,000 from Paulits and other individuals and small organizations. Nearly all of it was spent on funerals, leaving about $3,000 in the bank, Quinn said.
She sometimes volunteers to help in other special cases. After the duck crash on the Delaware River in July, Quinn arranged for Hungarian victims, 16 and 20 years old, to be shipped home. She spent nearly $1,000 of her own money and drove the bodies from Philadelphia to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, from which they were flown to Hungary.
Quinn gets numerous calls for help from funeral directors and hospital personnel from all over the country.
"What Trish did for us was an act of kindness I never heard of before," said Brent Kuehl, 39, a real estate agent in Sarasota, Fla., whose year-old son, Rocco, died of diabetes last year. "We were financially strapped, and a friend told us about this lady, who called funeral homes for us."
Quinn negotiated decreased costs with Florida colleagues, then gave Kuehl and his wife, Heather, 35, $1,000 and free memorial cards with Rocco's photo on them.
"When you lose a child, you go through so many emotions," Heather Kuehl said. "I only spoke with Trish on the phone, and she lent her emotional support. It takes a wonderful person to do this."
It's common for immigrants in Philadelphia to ask Quinn to help ship children who died back to their native country. Quinn said no such death haunted her as much as Brian Nava's.
Quinn learned that before he died of cancer, the 17-year-old North Philadelphia youth begged family members not to accompany his coffin back to their native Mexico, from which they had emigrated illegally.
But they insisted on going, even knowing that they could never return. Quinn offered to allow Nava's sister, who had one more year left in high school, to live with her.
The family declined. After Nava died, Quinn paid for his casket as well as his final trip back to Mexico. And she watched, despondent, as the Navas, who had lost a son, lost America as well.
'I have to help'
In the early afternoon of Feb. 22, Quinn was in her kitchen, baking brownies with her daughter, when she heard the harsh blare of fire-truck sirens. Later, she learned that the Taing home at 134 Sparks St., just six blocks away, was burning down.
"They're my neighbors, and I have to help," Quinn told the Medical Examiner's Office. It put Quinn in touch with the family.
She secured discounts from merchants for the grave sites, chapel, coffins, flowers, and other needs for the Buddhist burial Saturday. The Cambodian community also helped the family with contributions.
At the last minute, Quinn bought balloons so the family could release two of them Saturday, to symbolize the rising spirits of the dead. But the balloons got caught in a tree as the family watched, horrified.
Undeterred, Quinn quickly asked a cemetery worker to help. He climbed the tree and shook the branches till the balloons flew free.
"That's something that couldn't go wrong," Quinn said later.
"I just wanted to make this as easy as possible."
Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano
at 215-854-4969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.