Hall family helps other parents of preemies

Graham’s Foundation has made a difference in 35,000 lives

The Hall family from left, Jennifer, Reece, and Nick. Reece and her twin Graham were born prematurely. Graham died 45 days later.
The Hall family from left, Jennifer, Reece, and Nick. Reece and her twin Graham were born prematurely. Graham died 45 days later.

Since Nick and Jennifer Hall turned the loss of their infant son into a benefit for other parents of prematurely born babies three years ago, they have touched the lives of 35,000 families throughout the United States and Canada. On Sunday at the Wildwood Park Ward Pavilion, they will celebrate yet another Parents of Preemies Day.

Every year in America, one in eight babies is born prematurely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while these parents face a future of uncertainty and fear, the Waterville couple established Graham’s Foundation in memory of their son to help other parents persevere through that time.

“It keeps us busy, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like we’re making a difference,” Mr. Hall said last week during a telephone interview.

The Halls’ twins, Graham and his sister Reece, were born 15 weeks prematurely, on Thanksgiving Day in 2006. Graham died 45 days later, and while Reece was hospitalized for the first four months of her life, she now is a 7-year-old kindergartener.

“She’s endured. She’s doing well,” Mr. Hall said about his daughter who was 1 pound, 9 ounces at birth. “She’s a happy child and loves life and loves us. The things that matter most we feel incredibly grateful for.”

Part of that gratitude is seeing other parents and their children born prior to full term, at about 40 weeks, triumph through the early days, weeks, and months that follow. Visitors to the Halls’ website, grahamsfoundation.org, can find stories about other couples with premature babies. Some 22 million viewers have seen a video chronicling the first year of one such baby boy named Ward Miller, born more than three months premature. He lives with his parents Benjamin and Lyndsey Miller in the Columbus area. The family will be here for Parents of Preemies Day this weekend.

The Halls established their nonprofit organization in 2009. The majority of its funding comes from events, donations, and sponsors from outside northwest Ohio, said Mr. Hall, a global sales director for a consulting firm.

The contributions help to pay for care packages that are sent to parents of preemies. Among what’s inside is a blanket that parents are urged to sleep next to at home and then take to the hospital for staff to swaddle their baby in. Mr. Hall said that lets the child smell the parents’ scent.

The packages also contain information about the journey of parenting preemies, including bonding, coping skills, self-care, and the importance of knowing that the parents are their babies’ advocate.

“There is helpful information that is useful for parents who have not been there, and there’s overall encouragement for them to find support and to know that they are not going through this alone,” Mr. Hall said.

The third annual Parents of Preemies Day on Sunday begins at 11 a.m. in the Wildwood Park Ward Pavilion. In addition to activities for children, four families with prematurely born children will talk about their experiences. A photographer will be on hand, and 15 exhibitors will display their products.

Contact Rose Russell at rrussell@theblade.com 419-724-6178.