Kiwanis Pledges NICU Room in Honor of One of Their Own

As Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals sponsors, Rochester-area Kiwanis Clubs have always been supporters of Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center. But recently, the 18 Kiwanis Clubs of the Genesee Division have stepped up in an incredible and very personal way. They have pledged to raise $100,000 to name a room in honor of “Amazing Grace,” daughter of Irondequoit Kiwanis President Vinnie Esposito and 13WHAM Anchor Jennifer Johnson.

Grace, a 2012 Golisano Children’s Hospital Miracle Kid, was born Sept. 19, 2011, with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in the diaphragm that separates the organs of the belly from the chest. To say it was a “very bad” defect would be an incredible understatement.

Grace had virtually no diaphragm on the left side. As she formed, it allowed her intestines, stomach and part of her liver to move up and push her heart out of place. It also left very little room for her lungs to form and grow. In fact, only 20 percent of a single lung was functional. Grace had only a one in five chance of living. But Grace, her family and her providers at Golisano Children’s Hospital fought hard and she is now aptly dubbed “Amazing Grace” for her miraculous survival and recovery.

The Kiwanis Clubs are channeling that strength as they pull out all the stops to be as creative as possible in raising the funds to build a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) room in the new $145-million Golisano Children’s Hospital. The new hospital will be 245,000 square feet and includes a greatly expanded Gosnell NICU – with private rooms – on the third floor.

Jennifer and Vinnie have become some of the hospital’s biggest advocates and are carrying that forward into their new role as co-chairs of the Kiwanis campaign. The campaign was announced at an October event at the Seneca Park Zoo when Vinnie was installed as the president of the Irondequoit Kiwanis Club and when Grace celebrated her first birthday. That event, alone, raised almost $4,000. The 13WHAM Spectacle of Lights at Camp Eastman was a winter festival in Irondequoit that raised another $20,000.

“It was enormously successful for a first-time event,” Vinnie said. “We learned a lot and so many people told us they really appreciated who the new beneficiary of the event was, Golisano Children’s Hospital.”

Along with additional Kiwanis gifts, Vinnie said the clubs raised a quarter of the $100,000 goal in just four months! The impressive total was announced at the Genesee Division meeting in January, which was hosted at the University of Rochester Medical Center by the Genesee Division Lieutenant Governor, Frank Romeo. Vinnie said Frank wanted to host the event at the Medical Center to underscore the Division’s fundraising efforts for Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“This whole campaign was really his idea,” Vinnie said. “In many ways it’s a real coalescence of a lot of factors that made this possible and exciting.”

To donate to the Kiwanis campaign, visit www.givetokids.urmc.edu/kiwanis.

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