‘Under the Stars’ Benefits Neonatal Intensive Care
By Chéye Roberson
To the beat of Cuban salsa music Saturday at the Riverside Yacht Club, Greenwich Hospital’s “Under the Stars” celebrated triumph over adversity, lifelong friendships, and the dedication of a well-trained staff.
“We basically just wanted to try something different, mix it up a little bit and bring something new to Greenwich,” Janet Delos, co-chair of Under the Stars, said of the Cuban theme. The annual fundraiser’s other chair was Jenni Salinas.
Proceeds from the auction and ticket sales went to benefit the Greenwich Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Department, which includes the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Pediatric Specialty Center.
Greenwich Hospital pediatric programs tend to the health and well-being of children from birth through 21 years of age. The staff includes pediatricians, sub-specialists, nutritionists, therapists, psychologists and other experts.
“We’ve been doing this event for about 20 years now,” said Norman Roth, president of Greenwich Hospital. “And what has been done with the unit is that it’s been able to grow from four to 12 beds. We’ve been able to hire a full-time neonatal physician.”
The event overlooking a starry Long Island Sound honored volunteers Maureen O’Connor Bonanno and Dana Rogers for their fundraising efforts over the years—ever since they met almost 20 years ago, while their children were in the NICU.
“They were an integral part of fundraising for the NICU and pediatric department,” said Salinas. “They were at the hospital at the same time and realized there was a funding need. We would like to give them back some of what they gave us.”
Rogers’ oldest son, Ben, was born at Greenwich Hospital. Rogers went into labor on Thanksgiving weekend, although her due date was St. Patrick’s Day. Her son spent 72 days in the NICU. When Rogers came home with Ben from the NICU, she was still a month away from her due date. While she was there, Bonanno’s children were born. All three children are now 19 years old.
“Dana had her son, Ben, six days later I had my twins, Nick and Mia. We became best friends and have remained so ever since,” said Bonanno.
Ben Rogers appreciated learning more about the story and connecting with people who played an integral part in his life.
“It’s really cool to me to learn about what I went through,” Ben said. “Even though I have no memory of it, it’s really cool learning how they impacted me.”
Sue Brown, executive vice president of operations and patient care at Greenwich Hospital, was the nurse manager at the time. She helped take care of Rogers’ and Bonanno’s children.
“She held Ben in her arms,” Rogers said. “There is a lot of the same staff there now. So you can’t really thank them enough. It was amazing, because it was a small community hospital, but to have the ability to take care of them…”
Bonanno said that 20 years ago the NICU was “small and cramped,” but “the care was amazing, stellar.” According to Bonanno, there was a shortage of chairs, and parents would use nurses’ chairs to sit on when they weren’t being used. One of the first things Rogers and Bonanno did to benefit the NICU was add rocking chairs for the moms and dads to sit on.
Brown was also amazed by how much the NICU has grown over the years. “I can’t even tell you the growth of this unit from what we started out with, it’s so spectacular. We were a Level II when we started. And now it’s a Level III-A. We take care of almost every baby, except for those who need to be transferred out for cardiac surgery.”