Have social media and Shutterfly displaced the traditional holiday letter? Now that we can update Aunt Martha about Little Johnny’s record setting soccer goals and Little Susie’s tremendous accomplishments in band, gymnastics and field hockey through daily Facebook posts, what is left to share in an old-fashioned holiday letter?
If you are anything like me, you struggle to remember what happened in October, much less recount a year’s worth of memorable moments worth sharing with 150 of your closest friends and relatives. I tend to opt now for the requisite family photo taken at Thanksgiving showcasing our coordinating outfits planned just for our holiday postcard. I am typically racing against the clock to upload the photo onto a coordinated background hastily picked from 1000s of options featuring everything from pastels to poinsettias.
But this year is different. Hand to Hold has experienced a tremendous year of growth worthy of reflection, celebration and yes, a little boasting. So grab a cup of coffee, kick off your boots and take a few minutes out of this hectic season to reflect on how your support has helped Hand to Hold touch the lives tens of thousands of NICU Families across the country in 2017.
Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing this holiday letter from my “new to me” desk in Hand to Hold’s new office. After years of pining for a home of our own, we finally did it! We painted the walls a cheerful pale yellow and acquired gently used office furniture from the University of Texas at Austin to create a professional space in which we can now work more productively and strategically to expand our mission. Our 1500 square foot space in North Austin features our very own podcast studio!
Speaking of podcasts, we launched our first podcast, NICU Now, in February. The audio support series includes more than 15 episodes featuring special guests including Pulitzer Prize winning authors, NICU graduate parents and professionals and has reached more than 14,000 downloads in 42 countries. We will continue to launch new episodes in 2018, including a brand new series, NICU Heroes, specifically geared towards NICU professionals.
In May, we competed in Philanthropitch, a “Shark Tank” style competition designed to help innovative nonprofits scale sustainable models. We walked away with $34,000 in cash prizes and a coveted seat in Mission Capital’s 2017 Mission Accelerator Program, a six-month intensive training with social venture advisors who worked to help us prepare a strategic growth plan to expand Hand to Hold’s Ambassador program throughout the state of Texas. We are excited to announce that our participation in the program has been extended through 2018, allowing us to work closely with a dedicated group of Social Venture Partners throughout the new year to help us scale quickly and successfully.
Kicking off our growth outside of Austin, we began our official partnership with Baylor University Medical Center (BUMC) in Dallas in October. We welcomed two new family support specialists (NICU Graduate Parent Ambassadors) to the Hand to Hold family who are now directly supporting parents in the NICU at BUMC. We are so excited about this partnership and our expansion plan in Dallas.
We celebrated community with author Kristin Schell and country music artist Randy Rogers at Hand to Hold’s Fourth Annual Baby Shower Luncheon in October. Event Chairs Brandon and Melissa Cason, NICU graduate parents from Austin, helped raise a record $216,000 in support of NICU and bereaved families. Mark your calendars now and plan to join us November 2, 2018, for this special annual celebration.
In addition to these amazing accomplishments, we expanded our Milestone Bead Program to multiple hospitals across the country, matched hundreds of NICU parents with peer mentors, presented at national conferences about the need for improved family-centered care and served on national workgroups seeking to improve access to mental health services for NICU families. It has been a busy and meaningful year.
We hope you have had a happy, healthy, productive 2017 and would love to hear from you. Drop by our new office, write or call anytime. Your feedback, ideas and support are always welcome.
Best wishes this holiday season.
Kelli and the Hand to Hold Family