On a lovely Saturday in May, both our Ronald McDonald Family RoomⓇ in Fort Smith and in Northwest Arkansas held their annual NICU Reunions. This gives families a chance to catch up and celebrate the progress their children have made since being treated by the Neonatal Infant Care Unit. At least 200 families participated in each reunion, which are put on by the NICU nurses.
The reunions, which have been held since before the Family Rooms were opened, are a joy for all who attend. This includes volunteers, RMHCⓇ staff, and Mercy Hospital staff. Nurse and Manager for Women’s and Children’s Mercy NWA Jeri Power said, “My favorite part of the NICU reunion is watching the nurses and families reconnect. Getting to see all of these tiny babies grow up is so fulfilling for us, and they are part of our family.” This is the fifth year for the Northwest Arkansas reunion, which featured a “Superhero” theme this year. Volunteers even helped make capes for the kids to wear. Activities included a bouncy house, face painting by ADPi, a “test your strength” game, bean bag toss, and a duck pond.
The Fort Smith reunion, which is in its ninth year, had three different jump arounds, pony rides, carriage rides, farm animals (perfect for the “Barnyard” theme), face painting, balloon animals, and food donated by McDonald’s. Family Room Program Manager Emma Johnson said her favorite part was “getting to visit with all the past families and their children. It's nice to hear all the great things the children can do. [The reunion] is a way different atmosphere than when they are going through a hard time at the Family Room.”
The reunion serves as more than just a celebration for those who have made it through their difficult experience. It is also a symbol of hope for families still in the NICU. NWA Family Room Program Manager Jacqueline Gibson said, “One of our current families told me how much inspiration he received by looking out the window at all of the healthy happy kids. He told me that it gave him the feeling that everything was going to be okay, and that his son would grow up to be one of those happy, healthy kids running around at next year’s reunion.”
We’re proud to be a part of this long-running Mercy Hospital NICU tradition! Thank you to all the nurses, volunteers, and sponsors who make these reunions so special.