One thing that ties most of the Blogunteer posts together is a story of a passion that drove someone to start an organization. Today I write about three women whose stories had a common bond that brought them together to form one organization.
Stephanie Olivarez gave birth to her daughter, Shelby Grace in July 2006. Shelby was born with a life threatening birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). Shelby fought for her life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and has endured several surgeries since she was only nine days old. Shelby has three older sisters that have served as an asset to her recovery.
Corin Nava gave birth to her son Gabriel in November 2006. Gabriel presented serious complications immediately after his birth and was whisked to the NICU. Corin was told that her son had the devastating birth defect CDH. In January 2007, Gabriel lost his fight to CDH. Corin went on to have three more children, one of which needed NICU care.
Kate Crawford gave birth to her daughter Shannon in January 2007 with CDH and was later diagnosed with Hypoplastuc Left Heart Syndrome. The combination had a 1% chance survival rate and she died in her mother’s arms at just two days old. Kate went on to have three other children who were all premature and spent weeks in the NICU.
These three mothers came together through an online support group where they found comfort and support. They knew there was something they wanted to do to help families so they started filling gift bags with items they needed or wished they had during their stay in the hospital. Project Sweet Peas was born.
The organization’s headquarters is in Pennsylvania, but there are divisions and affiliates in 18 states and Canada. Their mission is to provide comfort to families who have critically ill children in the intensive care unit or families who experience the unfortunate loss of a child by providing care packages and memory boxes.
The strain felt by families during a stay in the NICU result in a great deal of sadness, depression, and most of all, stress. Often families find themselves in the NICU unprepared; without the basic necessities or any simple comforts of home. The parents are consumed by a focus on the health and survival of their newborn. In some cases, the hospital staff can provide some comfort, but that is not always the case since their focus is providing the best medical care to the baby.
One source of sadness is the inability for the parents to hold or bond with their new baby. Anything that promotes closeness, touch, and other positive interactions promotes attachment with serves to keep the infant close to its mother and improve the child’s chances of survival.
Project Sweet Peas works with hospitals to provide families with the basic necessities and comfort items through care packages. These customized kits could contain toiletries, gift cards for food, or gas to help cover the costs of frequent trips between home and hospital. In addition, notebooks, journals, and resources to help families keep track of progress and stay informed are provided. Books and toys can be included to help entertain siblings. Blankets, hats, booties, decorations for the baby’s bed, scrapbook materials, hand and foot molds or print kits, and disposable cameras could also be provided to help parents build precious memories. When needed, bereavement memory boxes are provided to help families collect treasured mementos to remember their baby who passed away. Since their founding in 2009, over 4,000 care packages have been delivered.
How can you help?
- Project Sweet Peas allows parents to start divisions of their organization in honor or memory of their own children. Each division has been touched by a child who spent time in the intensive care unit or has passed away. You can find all the divisions along with the story behind their creation here.
- You can donate handmade items such as booties, hats and blankets to a local project. Learn more and find patterns here.
- You can find fundraisers and events hosted by the various divisions of Project Sweet Peas on their website.
- Tax deductible monetary donations can be made via PayPal on their website.
- You can share the variety of resources for NICU families, find stories from other NICU families, or send a care package/memory package to a family via the Project Sweet Peas website.