With family comes tradition. And those who cherish the practices that are passed along to them often do so because of how they make them feel. It’s like when the delightful aroma of fresh pine, apples and cinnamon or the mouthwatering flavor of turkey and stuffing reminds you not only of the holidays but of home and of childhood.
It’s these heartwarming, cherished, grounding kind of memories we desire each preemie to live to have. We want the preemie parents to have those sweet Christmas mornings where their once-one-pound child is now eagerly ripping the wrapping paper apart, the often under-appreciated, invaluable chance to give their family’s newest little blessing their first taste of pumpkin pie.
Traditions. Holidays. If you consider them rightly, birthdays are both. Birthdays are a gift at every age, from one to 100+. And in my humble opinion, the bigger the number, the greater the gift – the present, of course, being life. The Gift of Life.
But I’ve been proven wrong before. In fact, I’m finding my own position arguable just now because….
Because I remember them. I remember the preemies I saw in the NICU, how tiny their diapers; how fragile their paper-thin, translucent skin. Though every year of life, every birthday is a blessing, sometimes it’s that first one that can feel like the greatest gift of all.
At least to the parents that is.
And Marcus Moore is a proud dad who knows this a bit all too well. His son Kaleb was born a preemie and given seemingly-hopeless odds to survive.
But survive he did! What a blessing! What a miracle! And that Kaleb…what a personality! What a guy! We absolutely love and are inspired, motivated by just how much he absolutely loves life!
And life is a gift….
So today is Marcus Moore’s birthday and what gift shall we give him? For what does he ask?
We’re a family and that has become our tradition. Our bond is not by blood but by the common valuing of life and deeply ingrained care for the smallest of us all and those who love them (aka the preemies and their families).
See, preemies are “the forgotten children” during times of tradition. Visit the hospital around Christmas and you’ll likely find tons of gifts and donations flowing to the children there – as long as they’re not on the NICU side that is.
But their families didn’t forget them. Neither do we. Nor do we forget their families. Spending any holiday in the NICU worrying over the life of your preemie is often one of the loneliest (and scariest) places to be.
Today, on Marcus Moore’s birthday, won’t you share in the love? Won’t you join in on the celebration? How about giving yourself a gift on his birthday, one that cheers his heart as well?
Buy yourself a ticket to the gala. And if you really want to celebrate, buy a table of 10 and fill it with your friends.
You see, each donation and every ticket sale allows us to do that much more for the preemies in the NICU. It allows us to fulfill our mission of providing them with hope, encouragement, love and support. It helps Marcus Moore, a founder, achieve what has long been his deep struggle and deepest heart’s desire to do.
And what better birthday present could there be than that?
Happy Birthday Marcus! From your team, friends, and family: The Gift of Life.
What’s the best way to get the most enjoyment from the Christmas season? For some, it’s all about the presents. For others, it’s about spending time with loved ones. And if you’re anything like me, then it will be (at least slightly) about the break from routine pressures. But do any of these things capture the true pinnacle holiday enjoyment?
It does my heart well to send loved ones special greetings. And I can’t say I don’t take pleasure in getting a gift of two (or three). And having those precious extra moments to reflect mean the world to me, but my focus during Christmas and New Years isn’t to slack off but to capture opportunity. Of a truth, it’s a tradition for The Gift of Life team.
Because getting the most enjoyment out of the holiday season means to get down to it’s true meaning. It’s more than get-togethers and gifts. It’s more than well wishing. The holidays are about doing as much as you can to fill as much of the world with love as you can.
It’s about letting that love from others flow through you (especially if you’re prone to be a grump). It’s about being a source of love for those who need to be filled up. It’s about allowing yourself, even if you have to expend precious energy, to serve as an integral part of the outpouring and overflow.
The holiday season is always a busy time at The Gift of Life. This year is no different. In fact, it may prove one of the busiest Christmas and New Year seasons we’ve seen yet. Though many get overwhelmed this time of year, we find the rush is inspiring as we look forward to achieving great things in 2020.
Our annual Christmas teddy bear and preemie hat delivery to the NICU was a grand success. As for me, it was my first visit there. Now though for me, as mentioned, I tend to go into isolation and reflection mode around this time of year, I don’t think any greater insight could’ve been bestowed upon me than that which I found right there in the NICU.
Of all people, it was the receptionist that did it, as she was checking my ID and taking my picture for the visitor badge. We had just brought in all the gift bags and sat them around the large Christmas tree. The receptionist was in near tears.
“You see that rack behind me?” she said, “oh it’s always full with toy donations for the children… Nothing for the preemies, though. Rarely does anything ever goes to that side.”
“So what we do is needed?” I asked, shocked.
Normally, when I tell people about The Gift of Life and who I am in the organization and what we do they don’t cry.
Many don’t show any emotional response at all because they can’t relate. When someone’s life has been touched by premature birth, I can often tell before they speak up because of their response to our mission.
She didn’t tell me, but I’ll bet the receptionist has seen countless preemies and their families and come to know their stories. She’s one of us; a person with a heart for the tiniest of us all and those that love them.
Have you ever held a baby that could fit in the palm of your hand? Have you ever seen one up close – tubes and tape and all? I was given one of their diapers as a souvenir.
And while we were there we were able to introduce ourselves to a few of the preemie parents. All of them were exhausted. All welcomed our visit.
Like the receptionist and other hospital staff, like the much-needed smiles we inspired on the preemie parents’ faces that day, I’m thankful for The Gift of Life.
I’m thankful for the blessing of the opportunity and ability to extend love in a much needed area, to a group that often goes overlooked, especially during the holidays.
It was the experience of the isolation and need in the NICU that inspired Rosie and Marcus Moore to found our organization. And, however ironically fitting, Christmas season around here kicks off with Rosie’s birthday.
As Rosie most-notably always says, “Remember to dream because dreams do come true”.
And I say, “One person can make a difference” (though I think she said it first). Rosie proves every day what one person can do.
Since founding The Gift of Life, Rosie has become an author, speaker, mentor (especially to me), beauty queen, pageant coach, doula, and nurse consultant. She was already a mother, wedding planner, and passionate tap dancer. I, like many, am proud to call her friend.
And I have to confess we had a spectacular time celebrating her birthday this year.
How will You Transform Lives in 2020?
You can expect a lot of great things to be going on at The Gift of Life this year. Our goal is to raise the funds we need to both continue and expand our outreach operations. To this end, we’ve got a lot of great events planned for the soon-upon-us year. The biggest being our Black Tie Gala that’s set to take place at the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort.
You’re going to be there, right?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Gift of Life’s team
While the world prepares for a beautiful moment with their baby on their first Christmas, many parents celebrate in a different way. On this day 155 babies in the NICU in two hospitals are celebrating their first Christmas in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because they were born too early. It is a difficult time when as a parent you are told that your baby will not be going home with you for Christmas. This is why The Gift of Life started this tradition of delivering cookies when founders Rosie and Marcus had their baby in the NICU. Through the years they started deliveiring hats and love bears that were made by the senior citizens at the Good Samaritan Village. This year they had two additional outside volunteers in the community that made bears. Thanks to these two ladies and the seniors from Good Samaritan Villahge, 155 babies in two hospitals received love bears and red hats for Christmas.
Founders Rosie and Marcus Moore along with miracle Kaleb and board member Anitra Manning delivered the hats and bears one by one to all the babies at FL Hospital with child life specialist Summer.
Winnie Palmer Hospital received their hats and bears in the volunteer office on the same day to distribute to their babies in the NICU.
Many people debate over what has become of the true meaning of Christmas. To the parents who have to spend this holiday in the NICU with their preemies, the joy of the season is something that might be missed. Hectic Christmas shopping and the tradition of giving presents are the aspects of this holiday that cause some to claim that this celebration of peace, harmony, and love has fallen victim to commercialism. The noise of the debates over whether the day has lost its true meaning in the heart of American society is rendered meaningless of itself to families who have to spend 2015 Christmas in the NICU. As neonatologist Dr. Steven Abrams of Texas Children’s Hospital observed, “Parents of a baby in the NICU are already under enough pressure that Christmas shopping isn’t at the top of their to-do list”.
In neonatal intensive care units across the nation, non-profit organizations such as The Gift of Life pay a visit of support around the holidays, handing out gifts, providing entertainment, and giving emotional, educational, and financial support to the families of the babies there. The Gift of Life is based in Orlando and provides services and support to those in Florida Hospital NICU. Since 2012, we’ve been delivering love bears and preemie hats to hundreds of families. This year we also provided bears and thermal tote bags to the moms at Ronald McDonald House by Winnie Palmer. The thermal bags allow the mothers to safely transport their fresh breastmilk to the NICU.
What was it Like to Visit the NICU for Christmas?
In an ideal world, perhaps the neonatal intensive care units of every hospital would be an empty, boring place to be – all babies born would come perfectly healthy and when they’re due. This is the third year that Rosie Moore and The Gift of Life team returned to the Florida Hospital NICU around holiday time in order to hand out gifts to the families there. This particular NICU happens to be the same one where Kaleb, Rosie’s son was once a patient.
Unlike the utopic version, the NICU was full and extremely busy – not only were there a lot of preemies, but a lot of medical staff and many concerned parents. Despite the hecticness, some of the workers remembered Kaleb from his stay there 6 years ago. Although Kaleb had to wait outside the NICU because only adults were allowed in, pictures of how happy he is helped to brighten up their day. Kaleb’s story may be a miracle, but it is the same success story every preemie parent hopes for – some of them get their miracle, but too many don’t.
The Spreading of Joy, Love, and Hope
Desires tend to pique around Christmas; some hope to receive elaborate gifts. For the parents of preemies in the NICU the greatest present they could have is their child’s wellbeing – the second best is the support of people who truly care. Hopeful thought dwindle for some of those whose preemie is in a worse state than most – then there are those parents who have trouble seeing the bright side right from the start. Whether the adults in the NICU choose to take an optimistic or pessimistic outlook, it helps when they get to see firsthand the success of someone who has been where they are.
Jackie and Ashytyn joined in on The Gift of Life’s 2015 Christmas mission to the NICU and Ronald McDonald House, along with Miracle Kaleb. Their presence is significant to the families we serve because Ashytyn, now 18 years old, was also born prematurely – Jackie is her mom. This mother and daughter have their own miracle story to tell, and they have made it a point to always give back to the preemie community during all of The Gift of Life’s projects and events. Hats, bears, and emotional support were given out by this spectacularly inspirational team to the moms in the three NICU’s at Florida Hospital.
The value of a gift is not just in its price, the intensity of the craving for it, or in its practical use, but in the thought behind it. Those with babies in the NICU require much more in the way of physical resources than just a teddy bear or knit hat for their preemie, but the meaning behind these simple presents is so powerful and real that they often become prized possessions. The parents spending 2015 Christmas in the NICU were elated by the visit from The Gift of Life’s team – they were glad to find out that there was someone who had gone through the same experience, and who cared enough about them and their babies to be on their side.
Moving Forward by Doing What Matters
The mere presence of Ashytyn, the chance to look upon her beauty and health and realize that she was once a preemie in the NICU, touched the preemie parents right at that emotionally hurting spot in their hearts and provided comfort. Their reaction of joy to The Gift of Life’s visit was inspiring and motivating to our team – it was live proof that our work matters and makes a difference. We want to do more; our vision is to have a place where we can hold weekly support groups for these parents – it is a much needed service in Orlando and the surrounding areas. The parents of preemies must be empowered through knowledge and support, as this can have a direct impact on their babies’ wellbeing.
For now, we are pleased to continue providing services to Florida Hospital NICU and Ronald McDonald House during the Christmas season, but we are only able to achieve this through the generous contributions of the volunteers and financial givers who support The Gift of Life. The demand for our services grows with each passing year. For example, this year was the first time we had the privilege of being contacted for services by families in Indiana and Georgia – we served them with gifts of thermal bags, hats, and bears, as well as emotional support. also Currently, we are seeking more volunteer knitters to knit the preemie hats and love bears that we give out. We also require more financial supporters who can help us fund the maintaining and expansion of our organization.
Be a Part of Our Christmas in 2016: Connect with The Gift of Life
A stay in the NICU can be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. When the parents are finally able to bring their preemies home from the hospital, we support them by providing a care package. We also like to help them celebrate their baby’s release from the NICU by giving parents gift cards they can use for a celebratory dinner. Our ultimate goal is to reach out to every preemie parent in the state of Florida, but that requires a lot of resources. If you are not already, please consider becoming one of our supporters by making a donation of any amount.
Hospitals interested in getting involved with The Gift of Life can feel free to contact us for more information. Business owners who want to become corporate sponsors should download our Corporate Sponsorship form. Preemie parents who want to connect with us and receive support can join our Facebook group. Even if you do not have the financial resources to assist in supporting us, you can donate your time by becoming a Gift of Life volunteer.
Every life is a miracle. Every parent who has a preemie in the NICU should be shown that there is someone who cares. Love and encouragement are the best gifts that can be given. The Gift of Life is an Orlando-based nonprofit organization founded and operated by preemie parents who want to give back – won’t you join us?
It’s #GivingTuesday – a day to give to your charity of choice and to share stories about how the charity helped you or a loved one! Will you join by making a contribution to help our families of premature babies receive hope, encouragement and support while they are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?
Since The Gift of Life was founded in 2012, we have delivered over 400 Knit Bears made by senior citizens to our local hospital during the Christmas season to spread cheer during the Christmas season. We have shipped bears out-of-state to other families as they hear about what we do, this can only be done through supporters like you.
Thank you for choosing to support our families. Your donations will help families like the Lonas Family who received a Christmas Bear :
“The next few weeks were the hardest times I have ever experienced. I felt helpless and heartbroken. I was told the NICU stay would be a roller coaster of events and emotions and that’s exactly what it was. We went through 2 types of ventilators, 3 intubations, infections, medications, complications and happy milestones. Every ounce counted and I was ready to see him pack on the pounds and thrive for life. It was a long road but that’s exactly what Jameson did. He has taught me all about strength and faith and a lot about having patience. We are truly blessed with how well Jameson did and still continues to do as a micro preemie. The odds were stacked against him and he pushed through. After 143 days in the hospital we brought our sweet boy home on December 23rd. Just in time for Christmas. The best Christmas present ever. He came home with his teddy bear from The Gift of Life, made with love by the seniors citizens at Good Samaritan Village.”
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