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Friends in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls create ‘welcome bags’ for families in the NICU

NICU welcome bag examples
NICU welcome bag examples(weau)
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:57 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Rebecca Poquette of Eau Claire and Cassie Smiskey of Chippewa Falls have been friends for 14 years. Five years ago, they started on a new journey together, building and donating welcome bags for families in the neonatal intensive care unit at the St.Paul Children’s Hospital.

“When you’re in the hospital and you’re in the moment, until you’ve been there you don’t really understand what it’s like,” Smiskey said.

Spending time in the NICU is something Poquette knows plenty about. Her third daughter spent 76 days in the St. Paul Children’s NICU after being born 12 weeks early. Ellajean was later diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange syndrome.

DdLS is a rare genetic disorder that affects around one in 10,000 live births.

“The only word I can use to describe the NICU experience is a rollercoaster ... especially when you first arrive everything is a whirlwind and you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what to bring if you have time to even pack,” said Poquette.

To help families going through some of the most challenging days, the friends initially had a goal of packing and delivering 40 welcome bags full of books, and snacks among other essentials.

By the end of this May, with donations coming in from around the community, they hope to raise enough to donate 150 bags.

“We do a thermal as a bag so that if moms pump they can bring that milk home when they come home ... then we also try to fill those gaps when you fly out of the house in an emergency you don’t think about hair ties, a journal, tooth brush,” said Smiskey.

“You can’t always touch your baby, they are in an incubator, so with books you can at least read to your baby”

Five years in and Smiskey and Poquette hope the project continues to grow each year.

The Chippewa Store in Chippewa Falls is collecting monetary donations for the NICU welcome bags. They have also started an Amazon ‘wish list’. Click here to see how to get involved.

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