Some families will celebrate Mother’s Day at home, perhaps playing around on the lawn and making a nice meal for their beloved matriarch. Some might travel to visit grandmothers. Others might even celebrate moms’ special day with a gorgeous afternoon at the ballpark.
Some mothers and new or expanding families, however, will be spending their Mother’s Day this year in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Amy Scott was lucky enough that neither of her two boys required time in the NICU, but she remembers her time in the hospital. In fact, as she walked around the Doerr Family NICU at Columbia St. Mary’s Thursday afternoon, gathering 100 blue tote bags – filled with items of comfort and necessity, like lotions, journals and even quarters for the hospital vending machine – to hand out to mothers in the unit, she even recognized one of the nurses at work.
"She probably doesn’t remember me," Scott noted, "but I remember her."
It can be an intense, lonely time for mothers in the NICU. That’s a part of the reason why Scott and her friend Erin Nevicosi – a mother of two boys herself with a girl currently on the way – created the Grateful Hearts Giving Network. The fledgling charity organization was founded to give people a chance to give back to those in times of need – in this case, those in the NICU – by donating and assembling useful items into gift bags.
"We both have healthy children – a lot of us have healthy children – but it could be any of us having a baby in the NICU," Nevicosi said. "When you’re traveling back and forth, and you’re spending hours upon hours in here, it’s tough. So we put together items to let these families know that other moms are empathizing with them."
The idea for the group came to Scott back around Christmas time in 2012 thanks to a simple Facebook post from Nevicosi, asking what friends and family were doing to give back to others during the holiday season.
"People give to charities around the holidays, but I was just curious, like, should I do more than just write a check," Nevicosi said. "Social media really brought us together. We had known each other for years through social media, and then I posted that thing about charity and (Amy) just took it and ran."
"It was the Facebook post that she wrote, asking what we’re all doing, and I just started thinking about it," Scott said. "I was just giving checks, to St. Jude or the food bank or whatever. But I thought if I could get a bunch of friends together, we could make an even bigger impact than just writing a $100 check. I couldn’t have done this alone, but with everybody together, we could really do something awesome."
"Something awesome" wound up being the Grateful Hearts Giving Network, created by Scott and Nevicosi. For their first event, they gathered 20 friends and family who helped assemble about 20 bags totaling nearly $2,000 for the NICU mothers. The following year's party was even more successful.
This past weekend’s delivery, however, was their greatest success in their young nonprofit’s existence so far. Earlier in the month, Nevicosi and Scott held a kick-off event party which gathered up more than 50 donors and 100 bags of donated items, which they then delivered to the Columbia St. Mary’s NICU Thursday afternoon. The group’s goals, though, are still growing.
"We are so overwhelmed by the donations that we’ve gotten and the response that we hope to make it even bigger in the future: by geographical area and scope," Scott said. "We just hope that a lot of people will want to get involved."
While the Grateful Hearts Giving Network’s current focus is on supporting NICU families, Scott and Nevicosi hope to expand it to similar units across the state, as well as other people in need. The lynchpin of their plan is their upcoming website, which will serve as a communal place for others to take the Grateful Hearts brand and put it into further action.
"The ultimate goal is for people to take this idea, our brand, and use it for their own parties and purposes, benefiting their own hospitals," Nevicosi said.
"We’d love to have our website eventually be just filled with other people having these parties with our bags, connecting with each other, sharing their gratitude and giving it back," Scott added.
Nevicosi predicted that the site will be up in a couple of months, fall by the latest. For the time being, however, the nonprofit uses its Facebook page to set up future bag collection parties and keep those interested involved.
It’s a growing organization, but for now, Scott and Nevicosi are happy right now bringing a little extra Mother’s Day cheer to moms in need.
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