Each year, more than 3,300 babies are born prematurely in Connecticut.
On Sunday, hundreds turned out to support them and their families in the 11th annual Babies Heart Run in Groton.
The goal of the run is to raise money for parents who have babies that are in neonatal or pediatric intensive care units who do not qualify for assistance. The annual Babies Heart Run was started in 2009 by Jay and Nina Bills in Groton.
Their baby, Isabella, was born with a heart condition known as SVT on February 3, 2009.
Eleven years later and Nina Bills is still in the business of helping others. Every year, she dedicates one full day to raising funds for newborns inside the neonatal or pediatric intensive care units.
“There is this population of people that are kind of in the middle that don’t qualify for extra assistance because of their income and stuff like that,” said Nina Bills. “We look forward to helping these families who sometimes don’t have the support they need to make it through the difficult time."
Not long after she was born, the doctor decided that Bella needed the close care of specialists and pediatric cardiologists.
However, Bella is now medication free. Jay and Nina Bills have organized the ride to help out people who have found themselves in a similar situation.
The non-profit gives back by sending packages to other families in NICUs across Connecticut. People can nominate the families anonymously. The packages consist of gas cards, preemie size onesies and sleep sacks.
Families who receive those care packages pay it forward with their time.
Sandra Chapman-Pisarz is one of those volunteers who is a recipient of the care package.
“It made such a difference especially being so overwhelmed with everything,” said Chapman-Pisarz. “You never expect a new born baby to be in the NICU.”
Sandra’s first child was admitted to the NICU and says it’s the support from Nina and Babies Heart Run that made the post-pregnancy less stressful.
“It meant the world to have the physical and emotional support,” said Chapman-Pisarz. “It was wonderful.
Sandra says it’s even more rewarding when other families who like her have benefited from the care pacakges come back to help others.
“Being a part of it from the beginning, I’ve seen so many wonderful people,” said Chapman-Pisarz. “I’ve met them, people that we’ve helped through both the NICU and the PICU, it’s just been amazing.”
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