Micro Preemies Give Back to the NICU Where Life Started as They Approach Graduation Weekend

May 24, 2019
L-R: Luke and Gabe DeYoung, Rhonda Reed, Director of NICU and Neonatal Transport at SDMC, Jackson Kelley

AUSTIN, Texas, May 23, 2019 – As graduation season nears, Hand to Hold went back to where it all started: St. David’s Medical Center (SDMC). Born two days apart, Jackson Kelley and twins Luke and Gabe DeYoung spent months in the SDMC Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

In August of 2000, Jackson Kelley was born at 24 weeks gestation and Luke and Gabe at 27 weeks gestation, all three considered micro preemies. The boys spent nearly 100 days (or more) fighting in the NICU. On Thursday, all three boys walked the NICU and handed out messages of encouragement to current NICU families.

For Jackson, Luke and Gabe, it is an opportunity to give back during a monumental milestone. Eighteen years ago, it was a celebration and graduation from the SDMC NICU. This week, the families celebrate the boys’ graduation from high school. 

Hand to Hold was founded by Jackson’s mom, Kelli Kelley, inspired by her experiences in the NICU and in the weeks, months and years after. For Kelley, the NICU was a lonely place that felt isolating and overwhelming. Today, Hand to Hold provides peer mentors for families in the NICU and family support specialists in partner hospitals (like SDMC) that are NICU parents themselves. The organization also hosts podcasts on many NICU-related topics.

For the Kelley and DeYoung families today was a day to celebrate so many milestones, not only for the three boys, but for all NICU families.

More information: See our Hand to Hold Graduates Media Kit

See more photos from the event.


Krystle Gervais
Marketing Director, Hand to Hold

hand to hold off ot great places nicu graduate campaign

Show us your NICU grads who are off to great places! Share pictures, stories, and more on social media using #H2HNICUgrad and tag us on Facebook and Instagram.

We challenge you to fundraise in honor of all NICU grads. Help us raise $10,000 because we all know that the challenges don’t end after leaving the NICU. Details at handtohold.org/nicugrads.