LIVINGSTON, NJ — On Monday, the Livingston Sunrise Rotary’s signature annual Food and Wine Tasting event attracted hundreds once again. The event, now in its 13th year, was held at the Westminster Hotel in Livingston and continually benefits the Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
According to four-year member and 13th president of the Livingston Sunrise Rotary Scott Maynard, the event itself, which allows guests to taste cuisine from more than 30 local restaurants and participate in raffle giveaways from Livingston businesses and beyond, “is spectacular.” But what’s more “spectacular,” he said, is having the opportunity to give back to SBMC.
“We had the opportunity of going to Saint Barnabas hospital, going into the NICU and seeing babies that you can hold in your hand,” he said. “That is unbelievable–it brings everything to fruition of what we are trying to do.”
Former NICU and Miss New Jersey Pre-Teen Nyla Edwards, born seven weeks early at only 3 pounds 9 ounces, was on hand with her mother and father to talk about the NICU and the “amazing care” the staff at SBMC treated both of them with at the time.
“I was told that I was in the NICU, which saved my life, and I wouldn’t be here standing before you today to tell you about my amazing accomplishment,” said Nyla, who also told her story about the pageant. “I’ve learned that good things come to those who work hard and have big dreams–and I have big dreams. A premature birth won’t stop me from achieving my goals. I want to use my gifts to enrich my life and the lives of those around me.”
Nyla will compete nationally against 39 girls for the American Miss Pre-Teen title. She is also on a mission to make a difference in her neighbors’ lives by donating coats and dollars during her upcoming coat drive in support of One Warm Coat, a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need and raises awareness of the vital need for them.
Rotary member Monte Ehrenkranz, thanking the Edwards family for attending and sharing their inspirational story, said the event keeps getting better every year.
“That’s why we are here,” he said. “We’re here to support Saint Barnabas and the Neo Intensive Care Unit.”
Stephen Zieniewicz, president of Saint Barnabas Medical Center, announced that SBMC is currently undergoing a fairly significant transformation, including moving the NICU to the new Cooperman Family Pavilion which is due to open in August. The NICU is expanding from where it is now, in a 7,000 square-foot facility, to a 35,000 square-foot space.
“The spirit, the enthusiasm and the support of all of you in this room—the vendors the restaurants and everyone that has participated this event is phenomenal, so thank you,” said Zieniewicz.
“The physicians that we have and the nursing staff, to take care of our smallest patients (who are in the most fragile part of their life) so they have a successful early childhood, and go on to be very successful citizens in our communities is really why we are here tonight.”
Lou LaSalle, vice president of external affairs announced that as of the 12th year of this event, more than $213,000 went back to the NICU. Dr. Shyan Sun, MD and Dr. Soon Kim, MD thanked the Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club members for once again choosing the NICU as the recipient of their proceeds.
“Over 13 years, we have collected a significant amount of funds that we’ve used to purchase quite a few pieces of high-tech equipment to save the babies’ lives,” said Sun, who added that a recent purchase included a cooling machine, which cools the baby’s brain during delivery and prevents damage. “On behalf of all the babies that have been saved from this technology, I want to say thank you to all of you for making it possible.”
Ehrenkranz concluded his remarks by thanking guests, restaurants and attendees who participated on their “own time and their own dime” to support this cause.