*note from the author: Over the course of many years, I have managed to fill my voice recorder up with fun quotes and fascinating stories. A good number of these recordings have yet to see the light of day. There are just too many fun, interesting, and uplifting stories to not share. So, after much thought and feedback from readers, I’ve decided to do a weekly quote dump for the next 14 Thursdays. I hope you enjoy some of these conversations as much as I did.
For about a year, I’ve been sitting on an interview I did with Pam Frasco about her foundation “Project Preemie”. I struggled to find a way to tell the story of how the foundation came to be without losing her voice. The truth is, I can’t tell the story any better than Pam Frasco can tell the story. Many writers can be heard saying “sometimes the story writes itself.” In the case of Frasco and the foundation she helped start, it is absolutely true.
A few things have changed since I interviewed Frasco in April of 2019. Frasco has transitioned from VP of Marketing and Communications for the Monsters to Business Operations Advisor. Also, “Project Preemie” is now “Project NICU” and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Elaine Shircliff: I really wanted to get in your own words what it was like for you and your kids and why you decided to do Project Preemie
Pam Frasco: It really started after Sonny (Frasco’s son) was born early. Obviously, I was in the hospital looking for anyway to help and I found the March of Dimes. So, we’ve been big supporters of March of Dimes for years. Our family has fundraised over $50,000 for them. It’s wonderful. We’ve met so many good families through that organization. The more families I talked to the more I realized they had similar experiences to mine that were very isolating and you didn’t have a lot of support. We have a big family. So, a ton of friends and family around us but we still felt super alone during the process.
A year ago in December, I wanted to start doing a care package. I put a Facebook post out that I was going to do care packages for the moms and had a ridiculous amount of responses. It was awesome. At that time I was able to do 200 care packages to all five NICUS all on my own. And after that, I was like ‘ I just feel the need to do more’. We were so lucky and so blessed with how healthy our kids are. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is for a lot of NICU families. This is kind of a way of giving back.
Fast forward a little bit, April 22nd 2019 marks a year that Project Preemie has been public. We took it just a step further and decided to submit for a non profit. We focus on peer to peer support, care packages in the NICU, and recognizing the nursing staff and the doctors because they have been so wonderful. I have a really great core group of NICU parents that shape Project Preemie and blog for us and suggest activities and things to do. It’s been wonderful. It’s been very fast and there is a lot going on amongst all of this. But it’s been super rewarding. I know that we are just kind of scratching the surface of what we can do.
The March of Dimes and all the hospitals have been really supportive as well because the sad part is there are just so many families and not one organization can support all of them. By everyone helping, it’s helping the whole community.
Was it lonely because not a lot of people could come into the NICU? Did you get a chance to get to know the other people around you?
I was at Fairview at the time and it’s not really encouraged to go talk to other parents. So, I didn’t know anything about the NICU before my experience. I didn’t know anyone who had a preemie. I didn’t know anything.
My family and friends didn’t know anyone either. So, they didn’t know how to help support me. They didn’t understand once we got out of the hospital why we couldn’t come to Easter Brunch because of the germs and things like that. That was hard. It was an education process for our friends and family because they wanted to help but they didn’t know how.
Also, for us, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. It wasn’t a normal, in my eyes, birth. So, that’s kind of like PTSD. Months afterwards when you’re so focused on your baby being healthy you realize the emotional toll it takes.
Where would you like to see this in the next year or five years?
I want to focus on Cleveland. I think we are so lucky to have such great medical care here. There’s five NICUs. So, it’s been a challenge to support all of them so far. But we’ve been doing it. So, once we get that down, I would love to see chapters all over the country of other NICU parents to give them their own tools to help them support their own hospitals. Really, it’s just creating this community of people talking, sharing stories, supporting each other, and helping them get through really tough times.
You can read more about Project NICU and how to support the foundation here.