by Kelli Kelley, mother of two preemies & founder/executive director of Hand to Hold
Julie Howard, preemie mom and founder of “It’s A Preemie Thing” is definitely not what I envisioned when I thought of an officer in the US Army. Maybe her beautiful blond hair, sparkling blue eyes and infectious smile disarmed enemies? Or maybe her amazing sense of humor had them rolling on the ground begging for mercy? I really don’t know, but regardless she deserves our gratitude for her service to our country. And as parents of preemies, we also owe her for bringing a little laughter into the NICU – a place typically void of humor.
How She Got Started
It’s a Preemie Thing launched on Labor Day, 2010 when Julie’s son, Spencer, was only 9 months old, and she was serving as a full-time Army Officer. A fellow preemie mom asked Julie to help her come up with a funny saying to put on the onesie her daughter would wear home after a long NICU stay. The precious baby would be leaving the hospital with a feeding tube, oxygen and several monitors. Julie’s suggestion, “O2…it’s not just for old people,” helped her friend embrace the needed equipment and celebrate their family’s major accomplishment – NICU graduation! Her business resulted from this a-ha moment when she realized it filled “the need for some humor in our lives.”
Not only does It’s a Preemie Thing sell fun onesies/t-shirts and scrubs, they also connect parents with organizations like Hand to Hold. “Nobody is in this alone, we just have to make sure they know that,” said Julie.
Julie’s son was born at 29 weeks, 11 weeks early. At 10 months old, he was diagnosed with a rare brain malformation, Rhombencephalosynapsis (RS), and she resigned her commission to stay at home full time. And yes, you may see Spencer, as well as the entire University of Washington RS research team sporting shirts that say “Can you Rhombencephalosynapsis?” on the front and “Didn’t think so” on the back!
For the Love of Preemies Giveaway
On Valentine’s day this year, It’s A Preemie Thing will launch their 2nd Annual “For the Love of Preemies” giveaway, open only to families with preemies! There are amazing gifts from some fantastic vendors, and photographers across the nation will donate their time and talent to ensure preemie families can have professional pictures made, since sometimes the large medical bills get in the way.
Name the Next Tshirt!
Have a cute slogan you would like It’s a Preemie Thing to consider? You could win prizes and help Hand to Hold earn funding fromonesie/ t-shirt sales. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!