OAW Provides NICU Halloween Mini Sessions

For the first time in the organization’s 10 years, On Angels’ Wings provided free Halloween mini sessions for families in the NICU at both hospitals in its headquarters city of Springfield, Missouri on October 30, 2023.

Twenty-two generous individuals handmade and donated nearly 100 costumes to OAW, which were split between the two hospitals so that no family who wanted to participate was without a costume for their NICU warrior.

Hannah Meece was among those that provided handmade costumes, crocheting unicorn costumes for both hospitals in honor of her twin daughters Emma and Ella, who passed in utero in April of this year (OAW was able to provide pictures and support services for the Meece family). In a beautiful twist of fate, the unicorn costumes were worn by twin girls in the NICU sessions.

“It was a great pleasure to have a part in making the costumes for those sweet babies and their families,” Hannah said. “My family was recently blessed by On Angels’ Wings and to be able to return some help in this way was such a comfort to me. I am so thankful for On Angels Wings and all they do for families who are hurting or in a very difficult situation and time of life. I just pray that in some way those sweet babies and their families were blessed and encouraged if just for a few moments!”

Lauren Azzawi made Baby Yoda and Mushroom costumes. “I’m so beyond ecstatic and grateful for the opportunity I had to create these amazing little costumes for these tiny warriors and their families!” she says.

Donna Wise made fishing and deer costumes for the pictures. “After 30 years of working with these babies and their families, the services On Angels’ Wings provides are dear to my heart,” she said. “I was especially excited to be able support them with my favorite hobby of crocheting. It was so special to see babies wearing something I handcrafted!”

OAW does have qualifications for providing pictures to families with a child in the NICU: milestone sessions are provided for children born 32 weeks gestation or earlier, and any child in the NICU with a medical diagnosis that put them at risk qualifies as well. However, this particular project was available to anyone with a child admitted. It was the organization’s goal to provide a bit of celebration and normalcy in a difficult and often scary season.

Katelyn Scott was among the families able to participate in the Halloween mini sessions. “The photographer was very nice and professional and even got some candid pictures of baby and me,” Katelyn said. “The photo shoot gave us something to look forward to and something to be excited about during a time that is scary and uncertain. Thank you all so much for this small act of kindness that brought so much joy.”

Another parent, Kylen Macarther, said that these pictures helped to make the holiday easier. “This Halloween would have been a sad and dreadful time without you guys being there!” she said. “Being in the NICU for the holidays is not a good feeling when all you want is your family home and together. On Angels’ Wings coming and taking free photos was an amazing experience for us and our family. It gave us something to look forward to and be excited for. It made our babies first halloween the best it could have been under the circumstances. Thank you guys so much! The photographer was so sweet and did an amazing job!”

Four of OAW’s volunteer photographers donated their time and talent for this project to be a success.

“As a Halloween lover, I knew as soon as Michelle asked that I wanted to be involved with capturing these sweet babies in costumes,” said Tiana Aschenbrenner, owner and photographer at Evergreen Horizon Portraits in Springfield. “So often NICU babies are forgotten during holidays while everyone is out celebrating. Everyone deserves to be included in the festivities and being able to help document it meant so much to me. These babies might not have had any first Halloween memories captured if it wasn’t for the costume donations, Michelle’s efforts to put this together, and all the volunteer photographers. I’m so glad I got to be a small part of this awesome experience!”

OAW intends to make the NICU Halloween mini sessions an annual tradition and hopes to be able to eventually offer this in other service areas as well.

This event and the organization’s other 2023 holiday minis sessions (Santa Minis in Springfield and Santa Minis in St. Louis) were sponsored by Phoenix Home Care, which allowed the organization to send thank you gifts to the photographers hat gave their time and the individuals that handmade costumes t to make this happen. Thank you, Phoenix Home Care!

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