All Fired Up to help NICU families

2014-05-16 13:38:29 by Nell Wertz - Patient Family, as posted on the blog.

NICU Footprints The process of brushing paint on each of their 10 tiny toes is so delicate the babies usually sleep right through it.

The first time I heard the acronym "NICU" was in 2006, as the owner of All Fired Up Akron, a paint-your-own pottery and glass fusing studio. I was approached by the March of Dimes to create an event to help families with babies in Akron Children's NICU to create memories and keepsakes of their precious babies. I jumped at the chance to help parents in need.

As a present on that Christmas Eve, we brought 80 small pictures frames that parents, volunteers and I painted for every baby in the NICU, along with a photograph.

Over the years we started adding larger ornaments that we could put a tiny, precious footprint onto. Each visit more parents wanted a footprint keepsake of their own, until we were doing at least a dozen footprints every Christmas.

NICU Footprints The precious footprint of Baby Stormy is the focal point of this pottery.

Parents approach me years later to express how grateful they are to have those memories on their Christmas tree each year.

What I never expected was to have my very own NICU experience.

In October of 2010, I gave birth to my twins, Kasen and Kohyn, at only 27 weeks. We spent the next 4 months in the NICU at Akron Children's Hospital learning the ups and downs of having a preemie. I often tell parents how funny it was that the staff thought I was in the wrong room, taking footprints on other babies.

Nell with her healthy twins Kasen and Kohyn. Nell with her healthy twins Kasen and Kohyn.

But my experience taught me so much about the NICU experience, and how precious those little feet are. Thanks to Akron Children's Hospital, I have 2 healthy 3 year olds.

After my own experience I couldn't wait to help out more than once a year. We began holding our painting events in July and December, creating over 500 ornament frames to date.

This year we've added a "Footprint Keepsake" event on the second Wednesday of every month. It's the highlight of my month to be able to help each family and talk to them. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that I made a difference in a family's experience while allowing my business to help the community.

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