Fun run aims to bring comfort to premature babies and families

DSCN0139-3For Mandy Dobrowolski, it was the little things that brought the most comfort as her 12-weeks premature daughter Paisley spent her first six and a half weeks in the hospital.

Because she was so tiny, Paisley couldn’t wear clothes for the first three weeks of her life. Instead, nurses at the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) swaddled her in blankets.

“The nurses try to pick out the cutest blankets they have,” Dobrowolski said. “It really made a difference seeing her wrapped up in something cute.”

She explained the blankets brought a touch of home to what can feel like a cold, sterile environment.

Now a healthy, thriving 14-month-old, Paisley crawls, pulls herself up, and tries to keep up with big brother Oliver, who is almost three. She had no lasting complications from her early arrival and she’s hitting important milestones.DSCN0133 (3)

“She’s definitely closing the gap developmentally,” Dobrowolski said.

To celebrate Paisley’s good health and to give back to the NICU where the family spent so much time, Dobrowolski is putting on the second annual Running for Covers fun run/walk to be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 16. The event starts at the New Hope Free Methodist Church in Grand Rapids. The entrance fee is the donation of a new or gently used baby blanket or fleece squares, which are used to cover pads in the incubators. All donations will go to the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s NICU.

The date for the race was Paisley’s original due date and the distance of the 2.8-mile event is a nod to her birth weight of two pounds, eight ounces.

Dobrowolski ran throughout both her pregnancies with her doctor’s blessing. She said combining her love of running with a way to get some fun, colorful blankets for the NICU just made sense. Dobrowolski said nurses often buy them with their own money. Last year’s participants donated over 200 blankets along with some baby clothes and hats, Dobrowolski said.

“I think it’s really cool that they think so much of our unit,” said Melissa Denslow, one of Paisley’s nurses in the NICU.

Making their little charges comfortable, along with their families, is important to Denslow and her colleagues. She said last year’s race gave her the chance to see Paisley outside of the hospital, which is one of the greatest parts of her job.

“It’s one of my favorite things,” Denslow said.

If you’ve got some gently-used blankets you can spare, Running for Covers would love to see you at their event.

Photo credit: Julie Bitely

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