Hand to Hold is a new non-profit doing something few have done here before, offering parents of preemies other parents of preemies to connect with. It's a simple idea with a profound possible effect.
My mentor is a woman named Stephanie with a tiny miracle of her own who has now grown into a charming and handsome little boy. They've encountered many of the same hardships as we have and are living proof that you can make it through. It's funny because although Stephanie and I have still not had the chance to meet face to face I know she's there for me in a way my oldest and truest friends simply can't be.
Of course those old friends are cherished and invaluable in helping us to normalize after the trauma of a premature birth and the ensuing emotional roller coast ride that is the NICU. They remind us who we were before and help us find our way back to that center, in whatever way that we can.
November is National Prematurity Awareness Month and many organizations across the country are doing hard, valuable and never-ending work to help more babies be born at term and healthy. And to help the parents of the children who aren't to cope and to navigate the world of having our tiniest, most fragile and helpless people depend entirely on us.
My wonderful friend Mary and I are looking forward to putting together our first fundraiser to raise money for Bryce's March for Babies team, team BAM!. Funds raised will help further the groundbreaking research that the March of Dimes continues to do and has done since FDR founded it in 1938 to find a vaccination for Polio. You'll be hearing much more about that in the coming months.
And then there's the Graham's Foundation, who sends out NICU care packages to parents whose babies are in the NICU. We received one completely by surprise while Bryce was in the NICU. It had some activity books, hand sanitizer, snacks, a Target gift card. More importantly though it contained a personal letter from the founders who had walked in our footsteps and taken the time to prove to us that we weren't alone in a world that felt so distant.
So in honor of National Prematurity Awareness Month Hand to Hold is hosting a Preemie Power Photo Contest. The idea is that we can help raise awareness about prematurity, the number one killer of infants in the U.S., by celebrating the astounding stories of some of our local preemies, our "preemie superheros." We've entered Bryce and coined him "The Amazing Bryce-anator!" His super powers include his inexplicable ability to overcome adversity and his use of slobber as a weapon against the evil tickle monsters of the world!
Please take a moment to vote for Bryce. You can vote up to once per day until November 10th when local celebrity judges will choose the final winners in three different age categories. We'll find out if they agree that Bryce is the super hero we think he is at the Preemie Power Family Celebration on Nov. 14 at Covenant Presbyterian Church on 3003 Northland Dr. in Austin. We can hardly wait!