A big part of Audrey & Bear is our non-profit charity group Swaddle4Swaddle. We donate baby blankets to babies currently in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) all over the United States. To date, Audrey & Bear has donated more than 8,000 swaddle blankets to sick or premature babies. These babies experience premature birth, birth defects, respiratory distress, low birth weight and much more. This can be a very trying time for parents of preemies or sick infants. It is the NICU nurses that care for babies in the NICU and the support of family and friends that make the difference. We are overwhelmed by the fact that we are able to play a part in the lives of these sweet families. And to think - it all began with just one message. That one, single message would change the path of my life and my company forever.
The Message that Changed it All
I had just started selling my swaddle blankets when, not long after, I received a message from a mom who’d just had her baby girl early at 29 weeks, much earlier than her scheduled due date. The mom had finally been given the “ok” from her daughter’s NICU to bring in items for her baby girl. Items of comfort that would help brighten and personalize her darling girl’s isolette in the NICU. She discovered our shop on Etsy and decided on a few of our Audrey & Bear personalized swaddle blankets to help bring love and life to her daughter’s space. In her message, she asked if I would give her a discount. She explained that her baby would likely be in the NICU for quite some time, bills were already mounting, and she’d hoped to save a bit here and there where she could.
Her story touched my heart, and I SOBBED!
I hadn’t had my shop doors open long enough to be able to afford to send her the blankets free of charge, so instead, I offered to sell the blankets for what it cost me to make them. I created them and packaged them with every bit of love and care possible, knowing the special purpose they would serve.
Did you know 500,000 babies are admitted to the NICU each year in the United States???
Weeks would follow and I couldn’t stop thinking of that tiny baby girl. I felt a calling. A calling to do more. Then one night, I had a dream. It felt so real – I dreamt of walking into a NICU and seeing my blankets draped over all of the isolettes in the room. I woke from that dream, emotionally charged, with an idea in mind. I’d known for some time that I wanted to use my company as an instrument for doing good in the world. And I truly felt like this was it. My calling.
And after a bit of brainstorming with my husband, Daniel, we came up with a plan. For every swaddle blanket I would sell in my shop, I could donate one to a baby in the NICU. It was a lofty plan, but anyone who knows my husband, knows that if I tell him I want to do something, he will come up with a way to help me do it. Regardless of how crazy or far-fetched it may seem initially.
Of course, the ability to make and donate an extra blanket only became truly possible when a wild adventure led us to become our own manufacturer and we started printing on our own fabric. Everything does happen for a reason. :)
In the weeks to follow, Daniel reached out to several nonprofit organizations and NICU support groups across the US. We created partnerships with two amazing charitable organizations – Project Sweet Peas and Miracle Babies. We arranged to send them the donated swaddle blankets, and they would distribute them to NICU babies across the country.
Almost immediately, NICU nurses began to message and share of the happiness the blankets brought to the families in an otherwise stressful time. They also shared that the fabric’s stretch allowed for a swaddle that resembled the mother’s womb which helped with the NICU babies’ developmental care and decreases Moro reflex. It was then that I knew this is how I wanted to use my company to bless others – and swaddle4swaddle was born.
It was estimated that 10,270 were diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2017.
Months went by and I received another message. This time, from the aunt of a darling, baby girl with cancer. She explained she had formed a team to rally around this sweet girl to support her and her parents during this difficult time. She asked if I would create a blanket just for her niece. I gladly did. But the thought of the blanket going to a baby fighting cancer was heartbreaking. How someone so tiny could be struggling with something so difficult? It was enough to send me sobbing once more.
After doing some research and learning of the sad and staggering number of children that are diagnosed with pediatric cancer each year, we decided to expand our mission for swaddle4swaddle to do what we could to bring smiles to these families as well. We found an organization to help us distribute the blankets to pediatric cancer centers across the US – the Daniel T. Liss Memorial Fund – and set to work creating blankets to send them as well.
Since then, we’ve received countless encouraging messages from the parents of NICU graduates and pediatric cancer survivors. They explain that it was an exceptionally trying time and that every smile, every laugh, and every act of goodwill was appreciated and didn’t go unnoticed.
Each year 10-15% of babies born in the United States are admitted to the NICU.
The impact swaddle4swaddle was having on NICU families was greater than we could have ever hoped for. As months passed, more and more companies contacted us to find out how they could partner with us to contribute to this cause. NICU nurses were learning of swaddle4swaddle and began to reach out asking how they, too, could receive swaddle blankets for the babies in their units. It was then that we sensed how much greater an impact swaddle4swaddle can, and should, have. As a result, we converted swaddle4swaddle to its own standalone 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Countless babies have benefited since. And I am so grateful. To YOU!
That’s the exceptional beauty of swaddle4swaddle – it isn’t just us that brings joy to these families. It’s YOU! With your support, and with your swaddle order, you enter a community of giving and make THIS POSSIBLE!!! YOU are helping with babies’ developmental care!!! And YOU bringing smiles to families when they are needed the most! Without you, swaddle4swaddle wouldn’t be possible. THANK YOU!!!
"Finnley Haven" photo credit: Rachel Cavanaugh
"Charlotte" and "Cooper" photo credit: Pamella Burton