Happy Thanksgiving 2018. Today is a day of feasting, family, friends, and making new fond memories. For many, it’s all about food. Passionate home chefs show off the best of their cooking skills. Passionate eaters show off their ability to put it all away.
For some, it’s a spiritual time as they reflect on goodness and count their blessings. The patriotic, philosophical, and political minded look to history to justify the day’s significance. To the lonely and the heartbroken this and any holiday that’s all about gathering is just another reminder of their sorrows. Their state is an opportunity for a miracle.
Extending love to someone that’s hurting can enrich your own joy this holiday season. At the Gift of Life, we extend love to the family of preemies in the NICU. It’s difficult not being able to bring your newborn home for the holidays. It can be heart wrenching to spend Thanksgiving in the NICU, hoping but not certain that your beautiful brand new baby will survive.
Such an experience tests faith, character, and family bonds. To these parents we offer love, encouragement, and support. They find hope in founders Rosie and Marcus’ testimony about their son Kaleb, who now thrives but was given less than a 10% chance of survival at birth.
With all the Christmas rush of gifts, parties, dinners and last minute shopping, it is a wonder that we can all remain sane trying to get everything organized. But for some people, none of this excitement will be fulfilled because they are dealing with something that has taken a much larger priority. Parents that have babies born premature in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) don’t get an opportunity to celebrate Christmas as you or I would because their baby is struggling to survive in the NICU.
Imagine that the greatest joy of celebrating your baby’s first Christmas and you have to celebrate it in the NICU. This is why the Christmas Bear delivery to NICU’s in Central Florida started. The Gift of Life delivers Christmas bears that are knitted by the senior citizens of The Good Samaritan Village every year so that we can bring a little cheer to each and every parent and let them know that someone is thinking about them as their baby is recuperating. The Gift of Life also provided knitted Santa hats for the babies to wear on Christmas Day.
Getting the bears and hats ready:
This year The Gift of Life was able to donate over 150 bears to the NICU at Florida Hospital, a few parents at Winnie Palmer, parents staying at Ronald McDonald House with babies in the Winnie Palmer NICU, and to a few NICU parents in the state of Washington, Virginia, New Jersey, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Ohio. We were also able to donate this year over 600 Care packages to families in the NICU’s and those staying at Ronald McDonald Houses and individual families asking for support across the country. We can only do this through the donations of our sponsors and donations that come in to help with the packages and postage to send out the care packages. We were also able to donate this year over 600 Care packages to families in the NICU’s and those staying at Ronald McDonald Houses and individual families asking for support across the country.
Words from a preemie parent:
My son Emerson is a current patient at Florida hospital in the NICU. We received your teddy bear and it brightened our day.
Thank you so much for your kindness during this difficult time.
Delivering Bears and Hats to the Florida Hospital NICU
Delivering Hats and Bears to Parents at Winnie Palmer NICU
Delivering Hats and Bears to Ronald McDonald House for parents of preemies who are at Winnie Palmer NICU.
Watch as we deliver to Florida Hospital NICU the Love Bears this year. Celebrity singer Jody McBrayer, dedicated this special song to our families when he sang at our Charity Christmas gala this past year.
A big thank you to our volunteers Keitra Robinson, Jackie Pettit, Marcus Moore and Child Life Specialist Summer Bernath and our digital storyteller Bruce Reynolds.
A big thank you to Jody McBrayer for coming t our annual Gift of Life Charity Gala and dedcating this song to the babies.
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What will you do to celebrate World Prematurity Day 2016? Even a small gesture can make a big impact on the preemie community. We at The Gift of Life invite you to join us in observing this very important but lesser-known holiday.
Raising awareness for preterm birth helps bring support to preemies and their families. It can also assist in increasing the chances that more babies will be born full-term. Premature birth doesn’t always occur because of something the mother did; there’s no single cause that can serve as the reason behind every case. But when a child is born prematurely, his or her family will need all the help, support, and encouragement they can get.
What is the purpose of World Prematurity Day?
The purpose of World Prematurity Day is to raise awareness for the cause of prematurity and the preemie community. Approximately 1 in 10 babies born in the U.S come by way of preterm birth. This high preemie birth rate ranks the U.S 131st out of 184 nations and makes us as a nation tied with Somalia when it comes to our babies being born too soon.
The impact of being born a preemie doesn’t stop its effects once a baby becomes a young child. As the March of Dimes reports, “Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide”.
With more awareness comes more support and prevention. For preemies and their families, World Prematurity Day also serves to acknowledge their challenges and their triumphs.
Celebrate World Prematurity Day on Twitter and Facebook by posting your related comments and stories, promoting the preemie support nonprofit organization of your choice, and/or just connecting with others, reading their stories, and voicing your support. You can use the hashtags #givethemtomorrow and #worldprematurityday.
On Your Own:
Can’t decide what to wear today? Well, World Prematurity Day is for wearing purple. This is the color of prematurity and by wearing it on this day you demonstrate to others your support for our cause. Don’t have a purple shirt to wear? Consider preparing for next year’s celebration by purchasing a purple t-shirt or Gift of Life polo from our online store.
You can also decorate your home and/or office in purple. Perhaps you may like to put a purple ribbon on your car. Purple is to World Prematurity Day what green is to St. Patrick’s Day.
In honor of World Prematurity day, please share your story or sentiments in the comments section below. Also, please consider making a donation to the Gift of Life as a way to help make a difference in the preemie community on this very special day.
World Prematurity Day 2016 – What will you do for it?
Happy National Teddy Bear Day! For The Gift of Life, this is a very important holiday, and we’ll tell you why.
While many see this day as a time to remember their soft and cuddly childhood friend, the day gives us one more opportunity to reflect on why we serve and how our service impacts others.
Are Teddy Bears Really So Important?
Just about everyone has a sweet memory of a favorite toy from their childhood. Some grown-ups are fortunate enough to hold on to that toy and share the fun of it with the generations that follow. The toy could be a doll, truck, yo-yo, or even a teddy bear.
Not many toys earn the honor of having a holiday designated just for them. The teddy bear is clearly an exception.
But National Teddy Bear Day isn’t just about how much people of all ages have come to be fans of this toy. To understand the importance of this day, we have to dive deeper into the matter and take a look at where the idea of teddy bears come from – let’s take a quick walk through the history of the teddy bear.
The History of Teddy Bears and Teddy Bear Day
It’s probably not common knowledge, but all teddy bears are named after Former President Theodore Roosevelt.
People who grew up in the 19th century missed out on the joys of teddy bear ownership. These toys didn’t exist back then.
In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt decided to go hunting in Mississippi. During the trip, Roosevelt had an opportunity to “bag” a bear cub, but he didn’t do it. He refused to shoot the cute little cub, sparing it.
Later on, Clifton Berryman created a cartoon about the event and his work was published in the Washington Post. When a store owner in New York named Morris Michtom saw the cartoon, it inspired him to create a brand new toy – the teddy bear!
This political cartoon by Clifford Berryman was published in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It depicts President Theodore Roosevelt’s bear hunting in Mississippi and refusal to shoot a cub. This is the cartoon that inspired the creation of the ‘Teddy’ Bear.
What Teddy Bears Mean at The Gift of Life
Perhaps you’ve noticed that The Gift of Life’s logo is a purple teddy bear. There are many reasons why this fluffy childhood toy was chosen to represent our organization.
For starters, we visit the NICUs in Orlando each year around Christmas time and hand out little teddy bears, which we call love bears, to the families that are there – that’s just one of the things we do to help the families of preemie know that someone does care about what they’re going through.
But in light of National Teddy Bear Day (indeed, for the sake of it) let’s bring some even deeper meaning forward, taking a lesson from Roosevelt – as I’m quite sure he would want us to. The baby cub was spared, so teddy bears came into existence. The teddy bear, therefore, is symbolic of respect and hope for life, which is what we at The Gift of Life are all about.
The cub was a baby. It was a baby bear, so Roosevelt refused to shoot it, even though he was there to hunt. From this, we can conclude that Theodore Roosevelt was for preserving the life of the young- even fighting to protect it.
Every day, in neonatal intensive care units worldwide, there are preemies fighting for their lives. They have the assistance of the medical team and the prayers of those who care about them. Although these babies were born too soon for full development, love makes a difference in their lives however long life may be for them.
In the words of our founder, Rosie Moore, “Our Gift of Life Bear Project is utilized to give parents and children support as they go home when the real challenge of medical appointments starts to happen. It is a reminder that they received The Gift of Life and they can make it through anything with a little faith. They were born premature, but they are making it going home…..”
How You Can Help Us Celebrate National Teddy Bear Day
The way to celebrate National Teddy Bear Day on Twitter is through the hashtag #NationalTeddyBearDay. We’d really appreciate it if, you’d care to mention The Gift of Life in your tweets. Your social media mentions can help us gain more support and awareness.
National Teddy Bear Day comes just one day before our annual galas. Consider making plans to join us next year at our 4th annual black tie gala and celebrate with us.
Another great way to help The Gift of Life celebrate National Teddy Bear Day is by supporting our organization. Whether you opt to volunteer with us or just want to donate funds. Your gift matters and it does make a positive impact on the lives of preemie infants and their families.
As we approach Mother’s Day and you start to think about what a mother is, what your mother did for you and how you can make someone’s mother day special, this letter came to my mind shared by a fellow NICU ( Neonatal Intesnive Care Unit) mother to another. After going through this experience myself, I know how both mothers feel.
Dear New NICU Mom,
I recognized you the other day. You came out of the NICU, your husband right behind you. You walked slowly, like maybe you had a c-section last week, but you didn’t still look pregnant. You were both crying softly. You looked exhausted. I knew that look.
My baby and I had to meet someone in a NICU waiting area at our city’s children’s hospital for a research study. You saw us sitting there in the waiting area. You looked at me. I smiled a sad smile at you and you returned it.
What I wanted to say, what I tried to say in that sad smile, was this:
I know how it feels.
I was you eight months ago.
I have cried those quiet, uncontrollable tears – on a good day by NICU standards – as I put my tiny son back in his incubator after a kangaroo care session, carefully juggling wires and tubes, nestled him in, put a fleece blanket over the box to keep the light out. Watched the monitor to make sure the numbers indicated that he was comfortable before I left. I, too, hesitated before I smoothed the last corner down, peeked through the plexiglass and choked up as I whispered – goodnight, my baby, I love you, I will see you soon.
I have walked that slow, heart-wrenching walk, away from my sweet tiny baby. Pain in my abdomen, where a baby should still be, halting my steps. Crying, not sure if I’m embarrassed for a stranger in the hospital to see my tears, or if maybe crying in a hospital is what people expect, or if I don’t even care.
I am so sorry I am here with my healthy infant, confronting you right here as you leave your baby behind for now.
My gargantuan baby (to you anyway, I know) weighs 15 pounds and 10 ounces today. Five times his birth weight exactly. He is healthy and normal for his adjusted age. No more oxygen, no more wires, no medications. He didn’t even go to the doctor at all in April. I know he looks like a freak of nature to you. Sometimes even I can’t believe this is the same baby who could curl up into a little ball under my cupped hands. That I watched with delight and thanksgiving as his stick-like limbs got chunkier and his little belly became roly-poly and his eyes went from murky blue-gray to clear blue and his ears grew cartilage that makes them stick out.
Your little baby is perfect. How big is your baby? I want to ask. Actual and adjusted age? How is she doing today? Were you able to hold her?
When I smile at you, holding this giant baby, I want to tell you that I hope with all my heart that your baby will be fine too. That the fear slows down as time passes. And if your baby does need oxygen, wheelchairs, braces, monitors, tubes, I want to tell you that a gift of the NICU is that now I can look past the medical devices. If that is what your child needs, when I see you in public in a year or two, I will see your beautiful child, not his equipment.
New NICU mom, in the glance we shared, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been there. This healthy baby on my lap has been where your baby is. We know how much it hurts. It’s okay that you’re crying, NICU mom. Your journey is hard. Sometimes you have to cry. Let me share your burden for a moment. I know how to carry it.
A recent NICU mom
This letter just brings tears to your eyes. This is what The Gift of Life is trying to do for NICU moms and dads. On September 10, 2016, The Gift of Life is hosting an event called Christmas in the City to benefit The Gift of Life, a non profit organization offering hope, encouragement and support to parents of premature babies and neonatal intensive care units. Your attendance and donation to this event will help many parents going through this pain and stress receive this message of hope.
Please visit our event website to purchase your ticket today and if you cannot attend, please consider a donation to the event, every little bit helps.
The Loss of a Preemie is never easy. A parent is a parent no matter how long their child lives; the love is there. When a child is born prematurely, the confidence moms and dads commonly have concerning the expanse of time they will get to have with their offspring is denied. Although no parent knows for a fact the exact number of days or years a son or daughter will live, problems with a baby’s health can shorten all estimations.
As Bianca Seidman of CBS News reported, 1 in 9 of all babies are born prematurely, which has translated into approximately 450,000 preemies being born in the U.S. yearly, yet pre-term birth is the cause of as much as a third of infant deaths.
While it is happening that the survival rates for preemies is improving, however gradually, too many parents are being left to cope with the loss of a preemie. Even years after being born, children born prematurely are more susceptible to perishing from health issues than those born full-term. Many preemies only get to live for a few short hours – the grief is often just as devastating to their parents as to the parents coping with the loss of a child who lived for many years.
What Helps Parents Cope with the Loss of a Preemie?
Light still shines in any dark place – you just have to want to see it; the death of a baby is never easy, but some parents transform the sadness of the loss into a celebration of love and life. Consider, for example, April’s story:
Sharon, Mike, and Their Preemie Son: A Love to Remember
“My husband and I found out that I was pregnant with our son in March of 2015. For the first trimester and part of the second trimester, everything looked great with our son and my pregnancy was going smoothly.
Around 18-20 weeks mark, we were excited to find out that we were having a boy. Unfortunately, we also learned that our sweet boy was not growing as he should. The shock and hard news came that our son had irregular multicystic kidneys and he most likely wouldn’t make it to birth. Quickly our joy over having a first baby, a son, went to confusion and grief.
However, as the months progressed, my husband and I decided that it was best to continue on with our pregnancy with the hope of hearing, holding, and seeing our little boy. One of the effects of our son’s kidney problems was that he was not able to create any amniotic fluid. The lack of amniotic fluid prevented him from being able to properly develop. This hindered his ability to live outside of the womb.
At around 29-30 weeks in the pregnancy, my body went into labor and my son was born prematurely. We had been told by different high risk doctors that there was a good chance that our son would be stillborn. However, we had been praying that God would help him survive the birth and allow us time to hear him and hold him.
God definitely heard that prayer. Our son was able to maintain a very strong heartbeat throughout the long labor. After three hours of pushing, we heard the sweet cries of our baby boy. Unfortunately, his lungs were underdeveloped and he rejected all treatment to save his life. We did, however, get to spend almost two special hours of bliss, holding and loving on our son, before he passed away into Heaven.
Even though we only had a few hours with him, I am blessed that God helped my son to make it through the pregnancy and deeply appreciate the time that I had. I love our little boy and my husband and I think of him often. Despite the loss, I am still blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to have my son and spend a little time holding him.”
I look forward to the day when we can all be together again. My sweet baby I miss you lots and will always love you.
Sharon and Mike have a story that is filled with both love and pain. At The Gift of Life, we are thankful that they are open in sharing their story and experience with us. Although there is much sorrow here, there is also much joy. Here are just a few of the points we’ve found in their testimony that can be helpful for other preemie parents:
Grief to Joy: Lessons from Sharon and Mike’s Story
A foundation of real love:
From the moment Sharon found out she was expecting, she and her husband filled with love for their baby. Of course, at that time everything was going smoothly with the pregnancy. They could not foresee the coming troubles, but when the adverse health started setting in, Sharon and Mike’s love never turned around.
Hoping on despite confusion and grief:
The sorrow didn’t wait until the passing of their son; for them, it came with the news that something was wrong with their son. Despite how dim the outlook was, Sharon and Mike continued to press on through the pregnancy, hoping that at least they would get the chance to have some experience of their new born son – their hopes were realized when he survived the birth and they got to see and hold him, and hear him cry.
Showing grace and giving back:
Sharon and Mike could have let the pain of the loss spin their lives out of control, letting depression, guilt, regret, and sadness rule over them, but it didn’t happen that way. Instead, they are now connected with The Gift of Life. They openly share their experience so that others can learn from it, and that those going through the same thing can know that they are not alone. Moreover, Sharon’s employer has organized and an event – The 2016 Creative Inspiration Journey School’s Journey Showcase & Extravaganza. The event will take place on April 2, 2016 in Winter Springs, Florida. In honor of Sharon and Mike’s son, a generous 10% of the proceeds will go to support The Gift of Life. We welcome you to attend.