WESTON, Conn. -- Marisela Esposito knows the physical and emotional anguish associated with premature births. Now the Weston resident and Board of Directors President of a Darien-based nonprofit, The Tiny Miracles Foundation, wants to continue to help families going through their own heartache and expand the reach of the organization.
Esposito became involved with Tiny Miracles six years ago as a parent support mentor and has been a member of the Board of Directors for four years. She took over as President of the Board of Directors in January.
- Who : Marisela Esposito, Weston
- What : President of the Board of Directors for The Tiny Miracles Foundation of Darien
- Learn more: On The Tiny Miracles Foundation website (click here )
The cause has particular resonance with Esposito, who lost twin daughters at 21 weeks into her pregnancy in 2001. Her 14-year-old son, Dante, was born at 25.3 weeks in 2003 Norwalk Hospital weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces and spent his first three months in the neonatal intensive care unit with a short stay at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital. At 19 months old, Dante spent three weeks at Yale's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in an induced coma, for the majority of that time, due to a virus and breathing complications due to preemie lungs. A strong fighter since birth, today Dante is 5-feet, 8-inches and plays competitive travel baseball and hockey and recreational golf.
“It’s such an isolating process to be a ‘preemie’ parent,’’ Esposito said. “This is my way of giving back for the blessings of my son, to comfort other families and give them hope. It’s a healing process for myself and for the majority of mentors who feel that healing by helping others.”
The Tiny Miracles Foundation helps families of infants born prematurely in Fairfield County. The volunteer-based organization provides emotional support, practical assistance, supplies and information to parents of children born prematurely.
The Tiny Miracles Foundation is currently partnered with five Fairfield County hospitals -- Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Danbury and, most recently, St. Vincent’s Medical Center. It also provides services to Fairfield County families whose preemies are at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital and Esposito is hoping to bring on a sixth hospital in the near future. Support from the local community is sought for support in helping to expand their mission and programs.
Esposito said the Tiny Miracles support helps ease the isolation that parents of “preemies” frequently feel. The organization’s programs consist of volunteer mentors who visit the partner hospitals on a weekly basis, resource rooms filled with books and nutritional snacks, “tiny treasures” which include welcome and homecare supply bags, a comprehensive list of resources and supplies, blankets for preemies and financial assistance for families with children in the neonatal intensive care units at their partner hospitals.
The fleece blankets are made by students at Middlesex Middle School in Darien in a club led by science teacher Kelley Depiano. The blankets are a tool for nurses to keep the incubators dark and quiet, which helps the brain development of the babies who are experiencing sight and sound too early. The blankets are also a visual guide for parents who arrive in a crowded room of incubators so that they can locate their baby more quickly.
The Tiny Miracles supply bags include a “bonding doll” that helps pick up the scent of the baby and the mother. “It helps the mom and baby bond,’’ Esposito said. “Most parents are not able to hold their preemies for days or sometimes weeks.” Because of her son’s very fragile state at birth, Esposito held her son for the first time when he was four days old for a short time.
Esposito, a Cuban immigrant, grew up in New York City and worked for several companies in editorial, procurement and administrative roles in New York and Connecticut. She has been active in Weston schools and youth sports programs.
According to statistics from the March of Dimes, nine percent of babies in Fairfield County are born prematurely. Hartford County, with 10.1 percent, is the only one in Connecticut with a higher incidence of premature births. Connecticut ranks 31st in the country, according to the March of Dimes, and preterm births among blacks is a staggering 12.2 percent in the state.
Esposito feels her experience, energy and passion led her to become President of the organization’s Board of Directors, and she’s now trying to expand the organization’s reach. Having walked the walk of a premature parent, she knows the important role the Tiny Miracles provides.
“If Tiny Miracles had been around during my pregnancies, they would have made such a huge impact and provided much-needed comfort knowing somebody who has walked through the same journey and who understands the emotions and PTSD of a preemie parent,’’ Esposito said. “This is my journey now and it’s very rewarding. It warms my heart knowing I’m helping preemie families along what could be a lonely and long NICU roller-coaster ride.”
The Tiny Miracles Foundation is celebrating its 12th year anniversary and holding its largest fundraiser on Saturday, April 29 at The Inn at Longshore in Westport. For more on The Tiny Miracles Foundation, click here to visit its website.