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Family collecting new books for NICU at Marshfield Children’s Hospital

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - On September 17, 2016, Katie and Ryan Victory welcomed their first son into the world. Just 13 inches long, little Elliot Victory weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces. He had been born 15 weeks premature and was what the doctors at Marshfield Children’s called a “micro-preemie.”

As Katie and Ryan explain, the time their son spent in the NICU was nerve-wracking, and they did all they could to let their firstborn know they were there for him.

“When I was sitting there looking at him in an incubator,” Katie explained. “You can’t see past those moments. You can’t picture them running and jumping and playing.”

Fast forward to September 2, 2020, and Elliot is a normal 3-year-old boy. He likes Thomas the Train, Darth Vader, and loves playing with the family dog, Luna.

Now, two weeks away from what will be Elliot’s fourth birthday, the family is once again accepting book and monetary donations to help provide books for Elliot’s Little Library, currently set up at the Marshfield Children’s NICU.

“We didn’t hold him for the first two weeks of his life,” said Katie, explaining how reading to Elliot in the NICU helped her and Ryan form a bond with their son. “The way that we had to do it the first two weeks and the first three months really is letting him hear our voices and know that we’re there.”

Sue Mueller has been a NICU nurse at Marshfield Children’s for 35 years. She says reading is a great remedy for babies spending time in the NICU.

“Premature babies and just babies, in general, need nice, soothing talking to and it helps with their development and it helps bonding with them,” Mueller explained, who says reading can help the parents just as much as the children. “Families come to the NICU, they’re a little bit nervous about just talking to their baby, so reading is just a really nice, simple thing that they can do and the babies can hear their parents’ voices, which they have been hearing in utero.”

Elliot’s Little Library was first started in 2017. Celebrating Elliot’s first birthday, Katie and Ryan donated 24 books to the NICU, with a little message on the back explaining their story and trying to offer parents in similar situations that there was hope.

“For us, it was a way to begin to try and give back,” explained Ryan. “It’s not really reliving anything. It’s celebrating that he’s right here; he’s health nearly four-year-old.”

In 2018, another 24 books were donated.

Then, as Elliot’s third birthday rolled around, the Victory family wanted to do more.

“My goal for his third birthday; ‘What if we got 50 books?’” Katie said. “So, we started Facebook and we invited all of our friends and I was like ‘Oh man. If we could get 50 books, I’d be so excited.’”

The family donated 225 new books 2019, making it possible for any family in the NICU to have a book should they request one, and the cause is only continuing to grow.

For this year’s book drive, the family has collected nearly 500 new books to donate to Marshfield Children’s and are in talks with two other NICUs in central Wisconsin about setting up similar programs. In fact, Ryan admits they’ve even considered starting a non-profit to try and get Elliot’s Little Libraries in NICUs across the state of Wisconsin.

“It’s letting people know that this is something that people go through but also letting people know that it’s something that you can see the end of,” Ryan said. “We have a lot of books, but it’s getting the message out. Our story is one story. It’s a good way for people to see what it might be like, but there are a lot more stories like ours.”

Katie says it’s important that the books donated are new because older books can be difficult to disinfect and can contain germs that can be harmful to the babies in the NICU.

If you or someone you know would like to donate to the cause, you can send books to the Victory’s Amazon Wish List here, or you can donate via PayPal and 100% of the donation will be used to purchase new books.

For more information on Elliot’s Little Library, visit their website here.

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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