One Mother's NICU Story Part 3: The Power of Giving
by Kelly Gallagher
When you are part of a team or unit, there is often a feeling of deep comfort and sense of relief that accompanies the realization that the weight of what you are trying to accomplish doesn’t rely solely on your shoulders. I am an elementary school teacher and have been involved in several committee and grade level teams. My life is filled with an amazing team of neighbors and friends who cover for each other and ensure that our kids are taken care of. From grade school basketball all the way up to college soccer, I’ve played on almost every sports team imaginable. These teams swept track meets, won nail-biting games at the buzzer and sat in freezing cold temperatures while huddling together for warmth in multi-game tournaments. All of these teams have shaped who I am as a person and reminded me that trophies don’t always account for placing 2nd and good guys don’t always finish first. When I sit back and lay these team cards out on the table and total up all the wins in my career, nothing comes close to the team I have standing behind The Superhero Project.
Hundreds of people, some I have known a lifetime and others who I have yet to physically meet, have come together to make the bond between families and their infants stronger. In a year of fundraising and almost three combined events, we have raised over $20,000 for critically ill babies in the NICU and their families. The sheer mention of this generous magnitude usually brings me to tears. This is a testament to the power of giving, the strength in numbers and the awe-inspiring notion that one person really can make a difference. Often, I put a simple post on Facebook requesting an item or favor. Within minutes, messages pour into my inbox fulfilling the request and donating additional items. To realize that people understand the passion behind my purpose has ignited me to network and deliver the message of hope to so many new families who are caring for a sick infant.
“…When you have a premature baby,
you cling to anything you can to create an identify for your child…”
Do you how good it feels to give back? My goal for creating an environment that allowed family-based care to take the forefront has been accomplished. The camera installation will prove nothing short of ultimate comfort for the families who have babies in the NICU. Our baskets will continue to provide small necessities and inspire moms to take a few moments to take care of themselves during the hustle and bustle of their busy lives.
As we get close to delivering our 100th basket and the Angel Eye cameras installation nearing completion in the Holy Redeemer NICU, I cannot help but reflect on the hundreds of people who have allowed this all to happen. If you have come to one of my events, you know how important I believe it is to acknowledge every penny that is donated. Did you know hundreds of those dollars have come from Holy Redeemer nurses themselves? The relationships that were built with these women over the course of several weeks in the summer of 2014 are solidified by the attendance of so many of them at my events. As they leave, many thank me for a fun night. How could I ever repay them for the gift of life in my sons?
Learning and growing from the curve balls we are dealt allows us to seize opportunities that once felt like obstacles. I think when something as significant as having your critically ill child lay in front of you happens; you are awarded an opportunity that puts many things perfectly into perspective. This experience has presented me a new gift to share and a passion for service that continuously burns in my heart. It has made me reflect on my journey, where I have been in life, and where I hope to go. In the end, we all have to find our place in this lifetime and allow our gifts to lead us to where we are supposed to go.
Where is it that I hope this project takes me? To be honest, I really do not know the answer. I know that every dollar, every basket and every thank you from a NICU mom is a reminder that what has been started is nothing short of amazing. Last week, I found my two small children on the floor huddling in the corner of their bedroom. They were counting change from their piggy banks and piling it into neat, organized piles. When asked what they were doing, they simply and innocently replied, “We want to give back. We are going to donate this money to the poor.” As my heart began to swell, I knew that the bigger picture was slowly sinking in.
As I move forward, my goal of partnering with other non-profits to inspire and innovate the NICU is beginning to take shape. When you have a premature baby, you cling to anything you can to create an identify for your child. For my sons and I, this identity came through hats and blankets. Crocheted and knitted hats have become a big part of my campaign. I have received almost 100 knitted hats so far and will continue to seek help in this initiative. Project Linus has graciously offered to provide blankets for families of our tiniest patients. Both will give families a feeling of comfort when wrapped in these items handmade with love.
Most people know I am someone that will rarely sit still. Once my camera project got the ok, I began searching for my next big idea. The Superhero Project, in conjunction with Denise Paul from Holy Redeemer and Kristin from A Day with Chase, will design a room on the maternity floor that is dedicated to families who are experiencing loss shortly after birth. This room will have the amenities and comforts of a nursery much like the one designed at home that these babies will never get to go to. A comfy over-sized chair, gentle washing station, a beautiful shelf filled with books, a camera with flash drives and other small sentiments will be readily available to ensure that every moment counts. These are some early ideas, but there is something else that will make this room entirely unique.
The Cuddle Cot is a small, almost invisible cooling device that is placed into a bassinet. This allows a baby who has passed more time to stay in the room with the family until everyone is ready to say goodbye. After speaking with several friends who have gone through this, the Cuddle Cot was not only a welcoming idea but rather a gift that could provide more time with their baby. Coincidentally, this special room will be called The Gift of Time.
Everyone in this world has a gift. Often, our gifts come to us at different periods of our lives and remain unopened until just the right time. My advice to each one of you is to find your gift and remain open and willing to accepting it. Use it to seek a better understanding of yourself and others. The Superhero Project has been my gift to many parents and families over the course of the last year. Yet somewhere deep inside, I know it was God’s gift to me as well. Just a little present I finally opened up.
To find out more about The Superhero Project, check us out on the web at www.superheroprojectinc.org, on Facebook and on the cover of the Spring edition of LifeLinks magazine. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Kelly Gallagher is a Philadelphia native and holds a master’s degree in Special Education. Recently named the recipient of a KYW women's achievement award, she is passoniate about giving back to families who have babies in the NICU.
She is a blogger, wife, dynamic philanthropist and has been a full time elementary school teacher for the past 16 years. She is also the mother of four beautiful children - Addyson, Ryan, Connor and Curran. Kelly founded The Superhero Project Inc in late 2015. This 501c3 organization supports premature babies and their families and started shortly after the premature birth of her twin sons, Connor and Curran, in 2014
Kelly organizes photo sessions, speaks to families and provides them with emotional support needed in a time of crisis. She has donated over $50,000 to hospitals in the Philadelphia area to install Angel Eye Cameras bedside so families can see and interact with their baby 24/7 via a remote and secure feed.
Kelly has allowed her experience in the NICU to transform the role of the family unit and help bridge the gap between home and hospital. She continues to be inspired by the many families who don't start their journey to motherhood easily and motivated to help other moms who need support.