LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club its its 12th Annual Food and Wine Tasting at the Westminster Hotel on Nov. 2 for the benefit of the Saint Barnabas Medical Care Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

More than 400 guests enjoyed samples from dozens of the Livingston Area’s restaurants as they honored Saint Barnabas NICU survivors Aria Grace Calvosa and Jordyn Heyderman, who were directly effected by the Livingston Sunrise Rotary’s devotion to supporting the NICU. Moneys raised by the fundraiser enables the staff of the NICU to purchase the most advanced equipment available that help SBMC obtain outstanding clinical outcomes for its babies.

Aria and Jordyn, whose families both attended and spoke at the event, were born at only one pound 11 ounces and 690 grams respectively and were held at the NICU for 85 and 99 days before being successfully released. Both happy and healthy today, Aria and Jordyn’s families thanked the doctors, nurses, support staff and Surise Rotary members who they now consider family.

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“Anyone who’s ever had an experience in the NICU understands that not only do they create families, but they become part of your family in the time that you’re there,” said Greg Calvosa. “Every doctor, every nurse and every person with whom we had interaction, helped us realize our dream of having a family. That was never lost on us and likely not lost on any other family who’s been at Saint Barnabas.”

Calvosa gave two definitions of the word family that he felt applied to his own situation: a person or people treating each other with “certain loyalty or intimacy” and “a group united by significant shared characteristics.” Calvosa said these two definitions describe what the NICU team does best, which is to create families.

“Every night when I rock Aria to sleep, I realize how eternally grateful I am to all those people that we’ve interacted with at the NICU,” said Greg Calvosa. “That’s why I’m here tonight, asking you to help all the other children who are in the NICU today and all the families that will come through there in the future.”

Patrick Ahearn, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of SBMC, thanked the attendees for their continued support and was enthusiastic and optimistic about the care unit’s future.

“I don’t think there’s any better reflection of what we do than the families that you saw the results from,” said Ahearn. “It’s very near and dear to my heart and to the families. Your support is what helps us to do great things and you will be thrilled with the new NICUs that will be coming in 2017.”

Fundraiser guests also enjoyed a basket raffle, silent auction and a 50-50 that went for $850 in the end of the night. Longtime Livingston resident Pat Ippolito was the big winner of the night, receiving a diamond necklace donated by Livingston’s George Press.

“The food keeps getting better and more diversified and it's truly moving to see premature babies turn into perfectly healthy, joyful and happy babies,” said Livingston Sunrise Rotary President Damien Caillault. “That’s what keeps us going and constantly trying to improve the event.”

Sunrise Rotary Monte Ehrenkranz, who is also the president of the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was thrilled with the outcome as he thanked all of the guests who made the event possible.

“To save one life, that’s all you could ask for,” said Ehrenkranz. “We hope that everybody here continues to support us in the future so that we could continue to support Saint Barnabas NICU.”