MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Jennifer Degl, a teacher at Mahopac High School and author of “From Hope to Joy: A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds,” a book about her daughter’s premature birth and the subsequent challenges, has put together a way to thank the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital for the work they do with preemies, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last week I sent a message to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Shrub Oak—where my boys go to school—and Hudson Valley Christian Academy in Mahopac—where my daughter goes to school—and asked for prepackaged snack donations and for the kids to make personalized cards for the NICU nurses at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center,” she said. “I arranged a drop-off time in the parking lots of both schools, and we collected some beautiful cards and a lot of snacks for the nurses.”

Degl dropped everything off outside the hospital lobby last week and waited safely in her car while a few nurses came out to grab the donations.

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In a text to Degl, the nurses wrote, “The staff is so excited. It has really lifted our day! The cards and the snacks (a fabulous blend of healthy and sugary) are such a boost!”

“It’s wonderful how two different small schools came together in partnership to do something wonderful because I asked,” Degl said. “The nurses are working around the clock to keep babies alive and they are exposing themselves to parents who are testing positive, and they are risking their own health to save lives. This place is very special to me as my daughter spent 121 days thereafter her premature birth at 23 weeks’ gestation weighing only 1 pound, 4 ounces.”

Degl said that unfortunately, the NICU parent mentor program (Maria’s Hope) she started at the hospital has had to pause for a few days after its one-year anniversary because volunteers are no longer allowed in the hospital.

“But I have hopes that this will change soon, and we will be able to support parents again—as long as it’s safe,” she said.

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