TERRE HAUTE —
Getting bigger by the day, babies by the dozen were gathered as a reminder of when they were tiny.
The annual Volleyball for the Small match between Terre Haute North and South Vigo high schools was prefaced by a reunion dinner inside the Patriots’ cafeteria Thursday. About 80 parents gathered for a fundraising meal as they recalled their experiences in Union Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Sarah and Jeff Clutter had their son Reed at the table. Now 71⁄2 months old, the NICU alumnus is working on his seventh tooth, Sarah said.
“Perfect. He’s perfect. He’s started to crawl and get into everything,” she said.
Reed was born with an air pocket in his chest cavity, a minor condition which warranted an extra week in the unit designed for premature babies and those with complications. For the two Terre Haute residents who live nearby, the extra week in the hospital wasn’t financially burdensome, but Jeff said it would be for those with longer stays and drives.
“This is something we’ll be doing every year to help those families,” Sarah said of the annual event.
Launched in 2009, Volleyball for the Small features a pride match as fundraiser between cross-town rivals North and South. Organized by then South senior Larina Coutinho, money raised from the event goes to the Union Hospital Foundation on behalf of the NICU. The foundation in turn helps offset costs incurred by patients and their families.
Larina’s father, Dr. Russell Coutinho, serves as director of the NICU, and her mother Kathleen is an OB/GYN at Union. This year, her sister Marissa continued the tradition spiking balls for the Braves.
“It’s nice to see the girls come together for a good cause,” their father said of the unit.
Union Hospital’s NICU averages about 300 patients a year, he said. According to information provided by the Union Hospital Foundation, 17 patients were staying in the unit this week, including four sets of twins all born within three days of each other. Since January, 238 patients have been admitted to the unit.
Joel Harbaugh, executive director of the Union Hospital Foundation, credited the annual volleyball match with teaching youth about giving to charity.
“And the little ones in the room certainly inspire them,” he said.
About 1,000 friends and family members filled the Patriots’ gym Thursday. Among them were Stephen and Christina Butts, as well as their 21⁄2-year-old daughter Aubrey.
“It was a hard road,” Christina said, explaining Aubrey’s 96-day stay in the NICU. “We’re blessed in this community to have a NICU like this.”
Aubrey was born after only 26 weeks gestation, entering the world at 1 pound, 1 ounce.
“But once she started gaining, she started gaining,” Christina said, adding she now returns to the unit to counsel other parents there who form something of a family through their experiences.
The couple set on the side of North, the district in which they live and from whence Stephen was graduated in 1993. But Christina pointed out she graduated from South in 1995.
Peter and Leah Coppinger brought their 18-month-old twins, Kellan and Lydia, to watch. Born 26 weeks into gestation, the two weighed in at 1 pound, 11 ounces and 1 pound, 10 ounces.
“They spent about 100 days in the NICU,” Peter said. “A long time.”
Union Hospital’s 15-bed NICU is the largest in a 70-mile radius and is staffed 24 hours a day. More than $40,000 has been raised on its behalf through Volleyball for the Small in the past three years.
Brittani Chamberlain was returning to the court later that evening amid the night’s matches. The Patriot junior wore her dark blue jersey with “Volleyball for the Small” emblazoned across. Her team had just won its game and was returning for another round.
“It was really stressful but we kept it up and were able to win,” she said, agreeing the annual rivalry produces a charitable good. “I feel like we help out a lot.”
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual North-South volleyball match brings back NICU patients
TERRE HAUTE —
Getting bigger by the day, babies by the dozen were gathered as a reminder of when they were tiny.
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