HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - This weekend will mark the 10th annual Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa. The two events benefit the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. Chris and Amy George set up the fund after one of their twins died shortly after birth in June of 2005. I recently sat down with them in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children to talk about what their daughter’s fund has been able to do for sick babies the past 10 years.
Chris is extremely proud of what Melissa’s fund has accomplished, saying “We wanted to do something to give back to the community and what it’s turned into is something beyond our wildest dreams.” The Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund has raised $2.2 million since that first fundraising event.
“It’s not what the Georges have done,” Chris said, “It’s what the community has done through Melissa’s Fund. It started with a little girl.” A little girl who came into the world 14 weeks early and fought with every breath she took to live. Choking back tears Chris told me, “A lot of us will go through our lives not knowing what our purpose is on this earth. The two and a half hours she spent here, her purpose has unfolded in front of us in these last 10 years and the amount of babies and families that have been touched by her just warms our hearts.”
A plaque hangs on the wall of the station in the NICU where doctors and nurses took care of Melissa and her twin sister Ann Catherine. With tears in her eyes, Amy said, “When I walk in this unit, it should make me sad but it doesn’t because every time I walk in here, I feel her spirit. I do, every single time.”
Chris finds personal peace here. It’s where Amy feels closer to her twins. “I am so grateful for the doctors and the nurses who took care of her, who tried to help her, who did help her, who loved on us during those long 68 days that Ann Catherine was here,” Amy continued. “They counseled us, they loved us, they supported us and encouraged us.”
Dr. Meyer Dworsky is one of those. He’s a neonatologist who sees every day the difference the beds and equipment bought by Melissa’s Fund makes in the lives of babies who come into the NICU. Dr. Dworsky told me, “The smallest most fragile babies are the ones that really need it and the ones for whom it really is life-saving.” And while donations to Melissa’s Fund continue to grow, so does the number of babies who benefit from that life-saving equipment. Dr. Dworsky added, “We had the most we’ve ever had in the past year. We had 1,085.”
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It’s hard to walk into the unit and not see item after item purchased by donations to the Melissa George Fund. “It’s here. Babies are using it,” Amy said with a smile on her face. “We don’t put that money in a bank account and just let it grow. I think that people know that. And so they feel good about giving their money to something that they know is making a difference.
Chris and Amy say every dollar raised goes into the NICU. If you spend $2,000 at the Miracle Bash or Melissa George Night with the Huntsville Havoc, “$2,000 is going in this unit to give a baby a chance to go home with mom and dad and that’s something pretty special,” Chris added.
During a recent conversation with Ann Catherine and their younger daughter Lily Baker who asked if their sister had lived if there would be a Melissa George fund or a Swim for Melissa. She thought about it a second and simply said no. Amy could no longer hold back the tears telling me, “We know it wouldn’t have happened if she had lived. Do I wish she was here? Absolutely. Do I wish she was going into 5th grade and had just turned 10 years old? With all my heart. But Chris and I know and we have accepted that that is not what God intended for her life. He intended something different. So if we can’t have her here with us, the fact that we’ve been able to do this, I’m just so grateful for it. I’m so grateful that He has allowed us to be just a small part of His work.”
Amy and Chris love meeting people who stop them to tell them about their little NICU miracle. “It is just such a reminder to us that her life meant something,” said Amy. “Ten years later, it still means something, not just to us but to a whole lot of people.”