This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The 16th annual Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa were scheduled for this weekend but are being canceled because of rising covid-19 rates in the area. The two events help fund the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund which supports programs purchases equipment for the regional NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children.

The regional neonatal intensive care unit cares for about 63 babies a day. Almost 1,100 babies came through the NICU in 2020. Lauren Askins is one of the nurses who take care of them and their families. “Sometimes we have them over a hundred days, and it breaks my heart,” she told me, “Although I love my job but getting them home is the ultimate goal.”

Lauren works with the infant driven feeding program, which your donations will help this year. “We just used a set schedule of feeding, fed the child every three hours,” Lauren said, “Now, we’re listening more to the child and their hunger drive.”

The program helps figure out a baby’s feeding needs so they get the nutrition they need when they need it. “In the end, they even get to go home sooner, which is our ultimate goal,” Lauren added.

Donations this year will also help buy a life like doll of a 27-week- old animatronics baby. it was designed by neonatal doctors and nurses and software engineers to simulate different scenarios NICU staff might encounter. “Instead of just putting them where you know we used to traditionally learn from a book and then we put you out into the unit and say here’s your first baby that’s really sick. This will be able to allow us simulate babies that are sick” NICU nurse Evan Eppling told me.

The training will give the NICU small baby team the confidence it needs to deal with stressful situation if a baby needs immediate medical attention. “We can set up different scenarios, cardiac issues, breathing issues and it can change and you may have to give medicine, things like that,” Evan added.

Melissa’s fund has purchased numerous Giraffe Omnibeds in the past. But some of them need to be updated and replaced. E.J. Watts was born June 21st, 14 and a half weeks early. His parents know he’s in good hands. Earl Watts, E.J.’s dad told me, “Everything from the equipment to the people that work with us every day. You know, they put your mind at ease that anything that goes wrong, they can handle it. I mean, like a well-oiled machine, the way all the nursing staff and the doctors and everybody works together to reassure you they’re doing everything possible they can to take care of your baby.”

Earl and his wife Wendy are seeing first-hand the results of what Melissa’s fund is doing for babies and their families. Fighting back tears, Wendy said, “It’s humbling that somebody would take the time and effort to do all of that for somebody else’s family. It’s very humbling and we appreciate it greatly.”

Thanks to your donations and support the past 15 years, Melissa’s fund has raised more than 4.2 million dollars for the NICU. While the in-person events are not being held, you can still bid on Miracle Bash auction items. The auction ends Monday morning at 9 o’clock. Winning bidders will be notified and can pick up their items next week at the Huntsville Hospital Foundation office. Registered swimmers will still be able to pick up their prize packages at the Huntsville Hospital Foundation at 801 Clinton Avenue, Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.