Bonita Springs Middle School, Bonita Springs, FL
Project: Operation NICU
The NJHS chapter began this process by brainstorming ways to make a difference in their community. Their original plan was to focus on children in the cancer ward at The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, however the outreach director at the hospital said there were already several groups active with this group of patients. The members were asked instead if they would be willing to focus on babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This idea was immediately accepted by the members, due both to the general need and the fact that it hit close to home for the members and their adviser, Barbara Scarnato.
Ms. Scarnato gave birth to a daughter who was born prematurely and spent the first 99 days of her life in the NICU. She understood what the parents and families of 'preemies' go through. The chapter decided to make fleece blankets and knit caps to keep the babies warm. Because of their size, preemies often burn extra calories trying to stay warm. Parents and family often cannot hold their baby for some time after birth because of their size, so the members decided to donate stuffed animals to parents. This provided an emotional comfort when they were unable to hold their own child.
The members planned to deliver the blankets by Christmas Eve, so they began 25 long hours of knitting. They met after school, 3 hours a day for a week. They chose colorful patterns and bright colors, aimed at helping stimulate the babies' brain activity. They enlisted the help of a community knitting group to help knit the caps and were able to produce 60 caps in a week. They made individual Christmas cards for the 60 babies in NICU and together with the blankets, caps and stuffed animals, provided warmth and comfort to 60 NICU babies and their families.
Due to privacy and health concerns, the members were not able to visit the NICU, but the items were delivered by Ms. Scarnato, whose daughter was cared for by many of the nurses there. The nurses, doctors, and families were extremely grateful for this effort.
Congratulations to Bonita Springs Middle School NJHS for a successful and heart-warming project!