Family’s experience at UVM Children’s Hospital inspires musical gift
Elodie Joy Adler is just three years old, but she understands the basics of her premature birth: “You wanted me to stay in your belly, but I didn’t want to stay in your belly,” she tells her mother, Jaime Williams. Williams was celebrating her 40th birthday at a surprise party thrown by her partner, Benjy Adler, when her water broke too soon. Elodie was born more than six weeks early, weighing only 4.5 pounds. She could breathe on her own, but she couldn’t stay awake long enough to eat, and needed several weeks at the UVM Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before she was strong enough to go home.
Williams and Adler remember that time in the NICU with gratitude for the excellent care they received as well as an expanded empathy for the families they saw tending to newborns who were much sicker than Elodie. “It’s not a place you’d want to end up, but it was also a beautiful experience. I learned a lot and had my eyes opened,” Williams says. “Something about watching all of these vulnerable parents and infants made me want to do something to help.”
Supporting the NICU through song
Williams created Big Tiny Love, a music compilation featuring some of Vermont’s most popular artists and bands, to support a planned renovation of the NICU that will provide more room and privacy for the 650 babies and families who are cared for each year. “The doctors and nurses work in tight spaces and make the very best with what they have, but their work would go even further with more space and resources,” Williams explains.
Adler, co-owner of the Skinny Pancake, encouraged Williams to pursue the project, and contributed $300 restaurant gift cards to thank the musicians who agreed to donate their time and talents. Well-known musicians like Mark Daly and Francesca Blanchard signed on to record a lovely line-up of 14 original children’s songs and covers of classics.
Chris Dorman, who performs as Mr. Chris and hosts the children’s TV show “Mr. Chris and Friends” on Vermont PBS, immediately agreed to write the title track, a soothing melody with affecting lyrics. Dorman and his twin sister were born 10 weeks early in 1982 and their survival was only possible because of recent innovations in health care, he says. “I’m excited to be part of any effort that supports developments in helping little ones,” adds Dorman, who also performs another original song on the album with Kat Wright called “I Hear Something Beautiful,” originally commissioned by Let’s Grow Kids.
The CD, released in November 2018, is available to download for $10 at www.bigtinylove.com. Sales are picking up, Williams says, adding that she raised $5,357.24 at the second-annual Big Tiny Love music festival held July 28 at Waterfront Park.
Jackie Woodwell, events supervisor for UVM Medical Center Foundation, says both the funds and awareness generated by Big Tiny Love are a “super-impactful” combination for the UVM Children’s Hospital and the NICU. She adds: “It’s always inspiring when our patients and families give back to ensure that we can sustain the high level of care we provide, but also to make it better.”
This story was reported by Kim Asch, with the UVM Health Network.
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