Article: Sending warmth to new arrivals in the NICU

Sending warmth to new arrivals in the NICU

Jennifer Brush's class of 2nd-graders

Churchville Elementary School teacher Jennifer Brush’s second-graders had already cleaned all the tables and work surfaces in the room. Now they lined up for hand sanitizer. These serious crafters were preparing to make comforting, relatively germ-free baby blankets for newborns, to be donated to the University of Rochester Golisano Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Brush and her husband Tim have been involved in supporting the NICU and the Pediatric Social Work Department since 1999, in memory of their late daughter, Taylor. Their fundraising has helped many local families who cope with caring for premature and seriously ill infants. When fellow Churchville Elementary teacher Amy Ciszak’s son Wesley was born prematurely in May of 2018, the two families helped raise over $9,300 for the NICU in his honor. (Wesley, who spent 119 days in the NICU before going home, just celebrated his first birthday.) The two teachers coordinated this blanket project, with help from Ciszak’s mother, Nancy Palermo, and student teacher Brooke Hare, to give their students a way to learn about community service by connecting emotionally to vulnerable children and their families. They were also able to practice their writing and motor skills and learn a bit about healthcare.

Before beginning, the class took some time to discuss how difficult it is to have a baby in the hospital. They talked about how even small gifts, given in love, can make a big difference for people. Then they began working together in teams, creating the no-sew blankets. Afterwards, they each wrote short personal notes of encouragement and caring to the families who would receive the blankets.

“One of the most important things we can do here is to help children develop values and grow strong character,” said Brush. “These kids sincerely want to help. We’re very proud of their efforts.”

The Gosnell Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital is a highly specialized, nationally recognized center providing the highest level of care available for sick or premature newborns, including advanced treatment for respiratory failure, heart disease and neurologic injury. Every year more than 1,200 newborns are cared for in the NICU.

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