MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The second annual Morgan’s FunDay, a fundraiser for the Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund, was held at the Mahopac Golf and Beach Club last month to raise awareness and money for research in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

NEC is a disease that develops when the tissue in the inner lining of the small or large intestine becomes damaged and begins to die and causes the intestine to become inflamed. In severe cases, a hole may form in the wall of the intestine and bacteria can cause widespread infection. This is considered a medical emergency. The disease can develop in any newborn within two weeks after birth. However, it’s most common in premature infants, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases. 

At Morgan’s FunDay, the Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund honored Dr. Boriana Parvez, a neonatologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, and director of development at the New York Milk Bank, with the Lily Pedro Award for Excellence.

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Morgan’s FunDay was organized and hosted by Jennifer Degl, a Mahopac resident and teacher, and author of “From Hope to Joy: A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds,” with help from the Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund, whose mission is to promote public awareness about NEC and the potentially devastating effects it can have on preemies and their families, and to advance research to prevent, diagnose, treat, and ultimately, cure it. 

“As a mother of a surviving micro preemie and a member of the Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund’s Board of Directors, I feel that I must do what I can to help future premature babies and their families find as the success we did,” Degl said. “This year we were honored to present the Lily Pedro Award for Excellence to Dr. Boriana Parvez for the outstanding work she has done in creating the New York Milk Bank, a donor milk program for New York State mothers. This program is important because of the effects that breast milk has on reducing cases of NEC in premature babies."

Established in 2016, the Lily Pedro Award for Excellence award recognizes individuals or organizations who exemplify the mission, vision, and ideals of the Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund. It is named in memory of Lily Marie Pedro, infant daughter of Katherine and Frank Pedro, who lost her battle with NEC in 2012.

The Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund (Morgan’s Fund) is an all-volunteer, public charity dedicated to promoting public awareness about NEC. Named after Morgan, it celebrates his survival, courage and strength.

Morgan and his twin brother were born at 28 weeks, one day gestation—nearly three months early—each weighing less than 2.5 pounds. At four days old, Morgan developed NEC and lost approximately 20 percent of his small intestine. Morgan not only survived but also has thrived since his bout with NEC. This is his family’s way of paying it forward.