Going the Extra Mile for a Friend in the NICU

December 13, 2013

Roche FamilyWhen a friend is hurting emotionally or physically, our first instinct is to help. But a NICU experience is often very isolating and it is hard for those who have never had a NICU experience to truly understand how they can best provide support.

We all have our own unique and creative talents. While one friend may be able to rally the troops, set up a meal calendar and start a blog, others might feel more comfortable mowing the lawn or babysitting older siblings. Still others might prefer to lace up their running shoes, strap on a biking helmet or hit the water to raise money on behalf of their favorite NICU family!

That is just what Kenny Wottrich, a childhood friend of new NICU dad Adam Roche did when he heard of the impact Hand to Hold had in the life of Adam and his wife Jacquelyn following the preterm birth of their son Evan. Born on May 24, 2013, Evan weighed just one pound and nine ounces. When Jacquelyn was first hospitalized she and Adam were overwhelmed by the negative prognosis and grim statistics their baby faced. Hand to Hold Helping Hand Mentors provided support, encouragement and stories of hope. “Hand to Hold was a turning point,” said Adam. “It helped us see and focus on the success stories.”

Evan in the NICU“Once I knew about the impact Hand to Hold had for Adam and Jacquelyn, that was pretty much all I needed to get the ball rolling,” said Kenny about his decision to form a team to participate in the Tri Pearl triathlon in San Antonio, Texas, on behalf of baby Evan and his family!”

Kenny is not alone. Each year, eager athletes competed in thousands of walks, runs, cycling events, and triathlons to benefit their favorite charities. Last year, the top 30 fundraising races, walks, and other athletic events took in $1.69- billion, an increase of almost 2.5 percent over 2010, according to the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council’s sixth annual study.

“I wanted to raise money for the organization that brought a huge sense of comfort to my friends, and I also wanted to share Evan’s story,” said Kenny. “Through the Team Hand to Hold website, I was able to set up a personal fundraising page and share updates about Evan and track our fundraising goals.”

Kenny and his team (including new NICU dad Adam, Adam’s brother and father) participated in a Super Sprint Tri, which consists of a 400 meter swim, 12 mile bike ride and run. “It was my first triathlon,” said Kenny. “I had to train severely for this!” During his training, he had a great motivator – Evan! “Our biggest motivation was Evan. He was a fighter! I kept thinking, if Evan can do it, we can do it.”

Kenny and Team Hand to HoldKenny and his team proudly wore the Hand to Hold logo on their racing jerseys. In the last stretch of the race he heard the push he needed from the announcer, “Here comes Kenny Wottrich with team Hand to Hold!

Evan spent 108 days in the NICU. Hand to Hold continued as a source of comfort and support and Jacquelyn and Adam used Hand to Hold’s Facebook page and resource directory to select a pediatrician and doctors.

“Our entire summer was spent in that hospital,” said Jacquelyn. “Competing in the race was a great outlet for Adam and a great way to give back to Hand to Hold.

Thank goodness for friends who anticipate our needs and go the extra mile to lend a hand! If you are interested in joining Team Hand to Hold please visit www.teamhandtohold.org. Teams are forming now to participate in the Austin Marathon, Half Marathon and Paramount 5K on Sunday, February 16, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Or, select your favorite race across the country or host your own event such as a bowl-a-thon or ice skating party. Hand to Hold will assist you in designing your team fundraising page so you can pay it forward for new NICU families.

by Jessica Burrola, Hand to Hold Staff Intern