Helping Families Reach New Heights
Everyone hopes for a healthy birth, safe for mother and child. But some babies need specialized care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This type of care is an increasingly common occurrence: of the 3,000 babies born each year at the UCSD Medical Center, approximately 780 will spend time being treated in the hospital’s NICU. Even more troubling is the specter of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) which is defined as the unexplained death of children less than 1 year of age. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2013 about 1,500 infants died of SIDS in the United States.
It is amidst the confusion, grief, and emotional turmoil surrounding NICU care and SIDS that the founders, parents and volunteers of Isabella’s Giraffe Club have decided to focus their charity work.
Inspired by their daughter Isabella, Angela Amoroso and Drew Skinner launched Isabella’s Giraffe Club in 2004. According to Angela, the organization was able to grow in its early days because of the support the family received.
“Those around us embraced the idea and got to work… donated their time and developed the logo,” Angela explains. “Isabella’s godfather created the web pages that attached to the studio’s website and worked with the hospital to be able to take online donations that would be directly donated to the NICU. It was divine inspiration in action. We were able to formally announce Isabella’s Giraffe Club with a full-page ad in the program for our Nutcracker production.” (In addition to being founders of Isabella’s Giraffe Club, Angela Amoroso and Dean Skinner are the executive director-founder and chief executive officer of the Scripps Performing Arts Academy, respectively.)
Since its inception, Isabella’s Giraffe Club has been involved in numerous projects and fundraising efforts. These projects and fundraising efforts include: assisting in the establishment of the UCSD Medical Center Infant Special Care Center Concierge Program, providing t-shirts for its Little (NICU) Grad Picnic, sending ‘preemie packs’ to assist in the care of premature babies transferred in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and helping raise over $470,000 for the UCSD Medical Center Infant Special Care Center. A portion of the funds has been used to purchase a state-of-the-art General Electric ‘Giraffe’ Incubator. But the most important aspect of their mission is their ongoing emotional and educational support of parents with infants in any Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and their assistance of families facing the loss of a child due to SIDS.
When Angela was asked to provide just one story to help explain the core of Isabella Giraffe Club’s work, she relayed the following:
“A family with modest means had driven from Illinois to San Diego for a summer holiday. Mom was 26 weeks pregnant here in SD when her waters broke and the baby came super early. Dad had taken the train back to Illinois and Grandma and the 3-year-old sister remained with Mom and Baby at the (UCSD Medical Center) Banister House.
“After almost 4 months, the baby was ready to fly home but the family had no resources. At one of our monthly support dinners, Grandma asked me for help. Our funds were already allocated for the year. So I wrote an email and sent it out to our ‘Giraffe people.’
In 30 minutes, the outpouring of love that we received on behalf of this Baby was overwhelming! We had two roundtrip tickets for Mom and Dad on Southwest Airlines, $400 to pay for the oxygen tank to accompany the baby on the plane, a ‘Baby Shower in a Box’ with all the necessary items, and gift cards for the baby and his sibling.”
Describing her experience with Isabella’s Giraffe Club, board member Mary Chaparro wrote, “It has been an amazing experience to see the many ways Angela and Drew help and serve others through their foundation… as well as provided a springboard for other families to channel their grief into wonderful philanthropic ventures.”
In the months to come, Isabella’s Giraffe Club will continue their ongoing education and support efforts, including their monthly dinners for parents with children in the NICU at the UCSD Banister House. Additionally, Isabella’s Giraffe Club is working to raise funds and complete “Sienna’s PlayGarden” in partnership with the City of San Diego & the Rancho Penasquitos Recreation Council. In loving memory of their daughter, Sienna, the Palkovic Family is spearheading this Community Project to revitalize Rolling Hills Park with the goal of creating a nature-themed playground that is fun, safe and memorable for all who come out to play.
To learn more about Isabella’s Giraffe Club or to get additional information on how you can support their mission please visit IsabellasGiraffeClub.org or call 858.449.6554.