The Tiny Miracles Foundation, in partnership with Darien's Middlesex Middle School, successfully rolled out its sixth annual Blankets for Preemies project. The effort was launched at the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, which donated space for three days for more than 100 volunteers from various towns in Fairfield County to cut thousands of yards of fleece. This pre-cutting was the first phase of a multi-step process that ultimately yielded 800 blankets, twice as many as TTMF made last year. Pre-cutters included local Girl Scout troops, students, parents of preemies, and others who wanted to help.
The Darien High School Community Council, led by McKinley Stauffer, a DHS senior, helped make the actual blankets from the pre-cut fleece. All DHS students were invited over the course of a school day to pop into the "Chill" room during their free periods to complete 80 blankets. DHS students weren't the only ones helping to make the blankets; several different organizations contributed their efforts, including Darien Girl Scout and Brownie troops (including troops 50017, 50019, 50071, 50027 and 50605); the Newtown/Southbury branch of Roots and Shoots, which is a Jane Goodall Institute program; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of New Canaan, as an activity day for the children.
The students at Middlesex Middle School then completed the majority of blankets. The sixth grade Orange and red teams at MMS, under the leadership of science teacher and preemie mother, Kelly DePiano, can be credited with finishing more than 600 blankets. DePiano founded the Blankets For Preemies project at MMS in honor of her friend's son, Sean James Maloney, who passed away in 2007 due to complications from prematurity. Depiano partnered her efforts with The Tiny Miracles Foundation, and together they raise money, make and distribute the blankets. This year, the Blankets for Preemies project grew to involve two days and two sixth grade teams. The kids also spent time in school learning about premature birth and how the blankets help preterm babies and their parents.
Leelee Klein, president of TTMF and a mother of preemie twins who are now sixth-graders, was the keynote speaker during the educational portion of the program. She told her audience the blankets are much more than just a gift.
"These blankets are often the first positive gesture families receive after the shock of their baby being born prematurely, and they tend to carry a tremendous significance to these families," Klein said. In addition, the blankets also improve infant development, promote bonding, and serve several other important functions, including:
- Helping regulate babies' sleep patterns by providing a dark, quiet environment;
- Enhancing preemies' neurological development by shielding them from excess light and noise in the NICU;
- Providing protection, warmth and privacy during vital Kangaroo skin-to-skin contact therapy;
- Brightening the NICU by adding color and cheer to the clinical decor;
- Helping parents identify their baby's isolette in a crowded NICU by their own unique blanket;
- Giving families a functional keepsake gift to use in the NICU and at hom.
"In fact, the Keepsake Fleece Isolette Cover Blankets are so popular with preemie families and NICU nurses that Tiny Miracles is asked to deliver almost 1,000 blankets per year -- more than any other supply we offer," she said.
The blankets will be distributed throughout the year to premature babies and their families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford and Danbury Hospitals as part of the Tiny Treasures Welcome Package that The Tiny Miracles Foundation gives to new parents with preterm babies born in our local NICUs. The Tiny Treasures Supply Program is one of the many services that The Tiny Miracles Foundation provides to support and assist families with premature babies in Fairfield County. To learn more about the Tiny Miracles Foundation and helping preterm babies and their families in our community, visit www.ttmf.org.