When Jessica Guthrie's son Eli was born 10 weeks early, she was shocked and depressed.
"It was like somebody had pulled the floor out from under us," she said, adding that the next five weeks were filled with daily trips to the hospital. "You're kind of just going through it blindly."
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Guthrie and her husband decided that one day when they were back on their feet they would do something to help other parents who face struggles when their child is born.
The Hoffman Estates couple launched Eli's Hope, a faith-based 501(c)(3), in November 2011 to help families who become regulars at a neonatal intensive care unit. The group delivers gift bags to families of babies in neonatal intensive care units and offers them support on a personal level.
Eli's Hope is sponsoring a local Parents of Preemies Day from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, in the auditorium of Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. The event will feature exhibitors from preemie and neonatal intensive care unit support organizations, along with free appetizers, child-friendly activities, a raffle and a lending closet of preemie-sized clothing.
"We need to let people know that they're not alone," Guthrie said of babies born prematurely. "It's more common than people might realize, but its very traumatic."
Guthrie hopes the event will also educate parents about what is available for them, should they be in a situation like she was, and encourage parents who have gone through having a child in a neonatal intensive care unit to get involved in helping others.
"We just want people to know, 'Hey, this is what's out there in the Chicago area,' " she said.