Two nurses who look after the babies at the most risk at the beginning of their lives have created a fundraising event for their ward, raising more than $130,000 over three years.
Nurses Melanie-Bree Watts and Prue Hurt of John Hunter Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit founded an annual fundraising ball to improve parents' and babies experiences of the ward. Newborns usually come through its doors because they are extremely premature, have a low birth weight, jaundice or high blood sugar.
"Already we've had 1,800 babies this year. If we can make our unit even better and have funds to help develop staff, and equipment it makes things better for families," Ms Watts said.
Prue Hurt, who has been working in the ward for 15 years, came up with the idea of hosting an annual event after the success of infrequent fundraisers held for the unit in the past.
"Everyone always enjoyed them so I just thought we should do it again," Ms Hurt said. "It's fun!"
She approached Ms Watts to help organise the "NICU Babies Beach Ball", which took place in 2017 at the Merewether Surfhouse and raised $30,000.
"It was such a huge success," said Ms Watts, "A lot of people were disappointed they missed out and we sought of ran on the excitement of that the following year."
In 2018, the ball took place at NEX with 320 guests and a fundraising total of $35,000. This year, two parents Robyn Taveira and Courtney Jenkinson, whose babies were treated by NICU's staff, volunteered to help organise the event on September 28.
The 2019 NICU Babies Ball had 444 guests, mainly staff, parents and business leaders, and made a total of $69,000. The ball has contributed to the unit's renovation as well as a few other special projects.
"The first year we put money towards making jewellery for parents who had lost a baby, so they could have their fingerprints on a necklace," Ms Hurt said. "Some of the money this year is going to getting more equipment to test premature babies' development."
Ms Watts said money from this year's event would also go towards getting more breastfeeding pillows and breast milk pumps to loan out to parents.
Apart from improving the ward, the ball has also given parents of babies who were treated in the NICU a chance to reconnect with staff.
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"We have a lot of our staff at the ball so I think parents like seeing us outside of the hospital," Ms Watts said.
"On the night this year, I had so many parents who were just so grateful for what we had done and were showing us photos of how their bubs had grown. It's pretty special," she said.
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