Kamloops woman organizes project to help premature babies and their families over the holidays | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops woman organizes project to help premature babies and their families over the holidays

Melinda Stittle and her one-year-old daughter Orianna. With the help of the community, Stittle organized a project that donated 30 gift bags and three baskets to families and staff spending the holidays in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Milk and Honey Photography
December 03, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - After giving birth to her daughter prematurely, a Kamloops woman decided to start her own project to support families having to spend the holidays with their newborn infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at Royal Inland Hospital.

Melinda Stittle gave birth to her daughter six weeks early last December. Her daughter, Orianna, who is now a healthy one-year-old baby suffered from several health complications when she was born. Stittle describes her time in the neonatal intensive care unit as a traumatizing experience that was made easier by the staff and other families going through the same thing.

“There’s a lot of worry that goes around in the neonatal intensive care unit no matter how supported you are,” Stittle says. "I remember thinking when I was there how intense of an experience it was with family and friends supporting me but imagine how difficult it would be for those families who don’t have all that extra stuff.”

When Stittle was there with her daughter last year, she remembers there was a family who handed out ornaments that said ‘preemie power’.

“It just really stuck with us,” she says, adding it gave her the idea to find a similar way to support families with premature newborns.

Stittle posted to social media to see if other families would be interested in donating items to create multiple ‘gift bags of comfort’ for families spending the holidays in the hospital. She says she received an overwhelming response of people wishing to donate items.

“We ended up having 71 families and 15 local businesses donate to the bags which was huge,” she says. “We made these huge big bags with hundreds and hundreds of dollars of bought and homemade items and gift cards.”

The bags are filled with items for the babies, but also items for the families spending their time in the unit as well, Stittle says.

“We wanted to make sure there were gift cards for food places close to the hospital, vouchers for the wildlife park, the art gallery... just so there are things the families can look forward to doing once their child is healthy.”

Some families who donated also wrote letters of support, including Stittle.

“My family also wrote letters of support and it’s been really healing to be able to give back,” she says.

Stittle says they delivered 30 gift bags and three baskets to families and hospital staff on Saturday, Dec. 1. She hopes to continue the project in the future for more holidays including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Canada Day and Easter.

“We just want to add that human component and empathy piece to a fairly sterile environment and difficult experience,” she says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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