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Mill Creek Junior Leaders donate Valentine treats to NICU babies

Junior Leaders at Mill Creek Elementary School proud show off the "Sweet Treats for Sweet Hearts" boxes for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital. (CONTRIBUTED)
Junior Leaders at Mill Creek Elementary School proud show off the “Sweet Treats for Sweet Hearts” boxes for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Mill Creek Elementary School’s Junior Leaders Club will give “Sweet Treats for Sweet Hearts” to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital.

Open to fifth- and sixth-graders, the 15-member club provides Mill Creek students with leadership options at school and in the community. Junior Leaders are ambassadors for “Read with a Jet” days and complete projects with the NICU and Manna House.

In smaller projects, Junior Leaders stuff toiletry bags that Asbury United Methodist Church distributes, sponsor and kindergarten teacher Tosha Swearingen said. With Junior Leaders, Swearingen discussed the NICU’s purpose and shared a photo album of her son Riley’s NICU stay.

Two Junior Leaders were NICU patients. “Jakob and Scott Sauter were born at 33 weeks gestation. Jakob was three pounds, 11 ounces. Scott was two pounds, nine ounces,” Swearingen said.

For “Sweet Treats for Sweets Hearts,” students distributed fliers and announced their project on Mill Creek’s “Morning Show.” They asked for Valentine cards and chocolate, ‘sweethearts’ and other Valentine candy.

The student body is participating. Numerous classes made handmade cards.

Junior Leaders will wrap, decorate and stuff boxes with collected goodies. On Feb. 13, Heather Green with Huntsville Hospital will collect and place the gifts at babies’ bedsides on Valentine’s Day.

Riley Swearingen is very healthy and will celebrate his third birthday in March. Last spring, Tosa, Cyrus and Riley Swearingen attended Riley’s NICU reunion. They enjoyed the Matrix Gym while reuniting with doctors, nurses and other NICU babies.

“No matter if your baby was in the NICU one day or 100 days, it’s never easy … best described as a roller coaster ride,” she said. “Parents need support and just to know people care.”

The Swearingens felt support from friends, family and random strangers. She will always remember a gift from NICU support specialist Jennifer Bader. On Easter morning, Tosa found a framed photograph of Riley in his Easter shirt, made by Tosa.

“We hope the Valentine boxes will be a nice surprise for each family on Valentine’s Day,” Tosa said.

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