A group of Pasco elementary school children stood in the Birth Center at Kadlec Regional Medical Center on Wednesday and watched with rapt attention as nurse Jondel Roy held up a disposable diaper about the size of a playing card.
"This is our tiniest diaper," said Roy, who works in Kadlec's neonatal intensive care unit.
Then she explained to the children what the NICU does: "We take care of those tiny, little babies."
On Wednesday, the children did their own part to help take care of premature and sick infants by delivering handmade blankets to the unit.
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About 16 children participated in theproject as members of the Torch clubs at Maya Angelou and Ruth Livingston elementary schools. Torch clubs are an offshoot of the Boys & Girls Club that allows fourth- and fifth-graders to learn about leadership and community service.
Bob Lopez, the club care coordinator for the two clubs, said the groups had a Valentine's Day cookiegram bake sale to raise money for materials, then they made the soft fleece blankets.
They raised $100 and made 20 blankets, he said.
It was their third project this school year. They also collected toiletries for homeless people staying at the Union Gospel Mission in Pasco, and collected 86 pounds of food for Second Harvest during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Lopez said.
Every month, they sit down and brainstorm an idea for a community project they can do.
In February, one of the children suggested making blankets for the NICU babies, and the other children in the club agreed.
Kandace Kimball, 10, who lives in Richland but attends Ruth Livingston in Pasco, said the blanket project was her favorite yet.
"I think this is maybe the funnest one because we got to make blankets and now we're going to see the babies," she said.
Roy and Melanie O'Brien, Kadlec's Birth Center manager, walked the children through the NICU in small groups, reminding them to be very quiet because the sick babies don't like a lot ofnoise.
After they toured the unit, the children gathered around Roy and piled pink, purple and blue blankets into her arms.
"Load her up!" O'Brien said.
With Roy juggling an armful of rolled blankets, Lopez shooed the children out of the hospital and onto vans to take them back home.
"They're great kids," he said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org