The Third Annual Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU Thanksgiving Dinner will help raise awareness of preterm births during November National Prematurity Awareness Month. Founded by Overland Park Regional’s NICU parents, this event will feed more than 100 families with babies currently in the NICU.

Each year approximately one in 10 of babies in the U.S. are born too early, according to the March of Dimes, and in 2016, the preterm birthrate increased for the second year, rising 2 percent from 2015 to 9.8 percent. When babies are born with critical healthcare needs, the compassionate staff of the Overland Park Regional Medical Center Level III NIC—which cares for more critically ill babies than any other NICU in a 13-country region— jumps into action, Because of the life-changing experience, many parents of NICU graduates have a new perspective on gratitude.

Former NICU families—also known as NICU Family Graduates—will host, provide side dishes and serve Thanksgiving dinner to families keeping vigil over their babies currently in the NICU, including Laura and Brent Murff whose daughter, Layla, spent more than 100 days in both Centerpoint Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICUs. Lamar Hunt Jr., owner of the Kansas City Mavericks, is familiar with the NICU, too—his grandson, Michael, is an Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU graduate. 

The Kansas City Mavericks is sponsoring the event, along with Plowboys BBQ and The Circle of Hope Foundation. Other donations include Shatto milk and ice cream; Donutology signature donuts; Tippin’s pies; and cupcakes by Kansas City celebrity baker JC Gregg.

“During this time of giving thanks, Brent and I are eternally grateful for the NICU teams at both Centerpoint Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center,” says Laura Murff. “We were already parents to two-year-old twins so knew life could be hectic, but were in shock when I went into labor at 27 weeks.  During our stay at Centerpoint, we learned that Layla had a hole in her heart. While this was a scary time, we were put at ease knowing she could be quickly transported to Overland Park Regional Medical Center for high-risk heart care treatment.”

The Murff’s tiny newborn was transferred from the Centerpoint Medical Center NICU to the Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU by Midwest Neonatal Transport, a mobile NICU headquartered at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Following four weeks of heart care, Layla was transferred back to Centerpoint.

“Nurses and social workers from both hospitals showed so much compassion for us,” Murff says. “The physicians comforted us during a trying time and put us at ease. The NICU Thanksgiving event will allow me to share with current NICU families that there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel.” 

“On behalf of the Kansas City Mavericks team and staff, I’m pleased we can provide comfort to these families during the holiday season,” says Hunt. “Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s NICU team was there for our family and we are honored to recognize their tireless efforts.”

“Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s NICU has the region’s best and brightest physicians, nurses and staff,” says Katie Gonzalez, Circle of Hope Foundation founding member.  “They nurture and nourish fragile, sick babies as if they are their own—something I witnessed firsthand as a NICU graduate mom. This Thanksgiving dinner is one way that families can give hope to families experiencing the stress of having a baby in the NICU. It’s a very heartwarming, emotional event and we’re proud that our NICU parent organization can participate and give back.”

HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s leading healthcare provider, has four NICUS to take care of preemies and other high-risk babies, including Overland Park Regional Medical Center Level III NICU; Centerpoint Medical Center Level III NICU; Research Medical Center Level III NICU; and Menorah Medical Center Level II NICU. As many as 175 specialists, including neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and allied health professionals provide around-the-clock, life-saving care for the most vulnerable of babies. For more information, visit https://hcamidwest.com/service/neonatal-care