Hanging outside of a private patient room within the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a sign that acknowledges a substantial contribution made by elementaryaged students from Gilman Lower School in Baltimore. While the sign simply reads, “Generously Funded by Gilman Lower School,” it holds a much deeper message.
Children in kindergarten through fifth grade raised more than $27,000 for the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji NICU through Gilman’s annual Read-A-Thon, an outreach event that pairs reading and philanthropy. During a three-week period, each student keeps track of the number of minutes or hours they read, and sponsors make donations based on their time. Every year, the school chooses a local charity that benefits children.
“The Read-A-Thon gives these kids a kind of perspective that things aren’t easy for everyone. It gives them an appreciation for their health, an appreciation for the lives they have right now, and an empathy for other people,” explains Erica Hudson, a second grade teacher at Gilman who coordinates the Read-A-Thon. “At a young age, they realize, ‘I’m fortunate in a lot of different ways and I want to work hard to give something back.’”
Learning about the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji NICU left an impression on the children, Erica explains.
As infants, some of them were cared for in a NICU while others knew of family members who received treatment there. “The students were just astounded about how small a baby can actually be born,” she said. “It really left an impact on them as far as the amount of machinery and materials the babies need to survive. They asked a thousand questions.”
The majority of Gilman’s elementary aged students participated in the Read-A-Thon, raising funds to support the renovation of a patient room. The upgraded, state-of-the-art room is one of 52 individual rooms in the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji NICU that offers parents and infants more privacy and comfort.
Fourth grader Jackson Heether had the opportunity to attend the NICU’s ribbon cutting and see the exact room that he and his classmates supported.
“I was super excited and the place was amazing. They did a great job with the building so the doctors and nurses can do their jobs really well,” Jackson said.
Second grader Liam Higgins enjoyed participating in the Read-A-Thon and learning about the NICU. “You think it’s just reading and you’re just raising money, but when you think about it you’re raising money for a good cause, so it’s a really good thing,” he says.
The boys took great pride in the Read-A-Thon that benefitted the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji NICU, Erica explains. Many times during class, they asked for extra minutes to read and were eager to learn more about how the NICU cares for infants.
“Seeing Gilman’s name on the room was the real prize for them. They are so proud of that,” Erica says. “One of the boys commented that years from now, the sign is still going to be there. He said, ‘How cool is that? I’ll be able to say I went to that school and helped these babies.’”
The Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is funded in part by philanthropy. Continued innovation in research and patient care are key factors in sustaining its level of excellence.
For more information or to donate, please click here.