We're just like you.
We're moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends...but we're all here for the same purpose, the same goal.
My name is Jennifer Morris. I was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I am married, work full time, and have 3 wonderful boys, ages 9, 6 and 3. I'm an alumni of Conemaugh Valley High School (98'), St. Vincent College (02') and Ohio University (07'). Just 2 weeks prior to graduating with my MBA in 2007, I gave birth to my oldest son. My story begins with him.
In May of 2007, 25 1/2 weeks into my pregnancy, I became pre-eclampsic. My condition worsened to the point that both myself and my son were in medical danger. I had an emergency cesarean section. My baby was born 14 1/2 weeks premature weighing 2 lbs. 2 oz. His eyelids were still fused shut and his skin was so transparent you could almost see through it. The NICU doctors and nurses told us they would do everything possible for my son, but that he had a 50/50 survival rate. As a new mother I felt as though I had just been hit with a wrecking ball. I experienced every emotion imaginable from elation to dejection. I couldn’t believe this was happening. And to make matters worse, I was living 4 hours away from my family and support system. I definitely was not prepared. I had yet to have a baby shower. I had no clothing, a car seat or diapers.
The first 76 days of my son’s life were spent inside of an incubator in the NICU. Prayers for his healing and strength stretched from coast to coast. I firmly believe that without the prayers, the technology, the advancements in medicine and the doctors and NICU nurses who cared for my son, he would not be the happy and healthy child he is today.
This life changing event confirmed for me a real need. I questioned how many other parents and families with a premature baby were facing these same issues? I wanted to help. Since I had received assistance indirectly from the March of Dimes, I decided to give back. In 2013, to show support for premature babies everywhere, I put together a family walk team termed ‘No More NICU’ to participate in our local March of Dimes March for Babies walk. In April 2013, our family walk team sponsored a basket party fundraiser and the proceeds were donated to the March of Dimes during the March for Babies walk. Although I felt a sense of accomplishment, I wanted to do so much more.
I thought back to May 2007. I realized I was not alone in that NICU experience. Every year in the United States half a million babies are born prematurely. Many must spend their beginning hours, days and/or months in the NICU. This is a tremendous hardship and takes its toll on the family both physically and emotionally. Like me, these families had no time to prepare for their baby’s early arrival. They lack the necessary clothing, diapers, car seats and other nursery items necessary for a premature baby. And in much the same way, may not have family or friend support nearby and ultimately must go it alone. I decided a more direct approach was needed.
And this is where the ‘Tiny Steps of Hope’ Initiative began.