It can be an overwhelming journey for families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Many parents are so focused on their infant’s care, they forget to document the first precious moments of their lives..
Two and a-half year-old Ellis is a vibrant, energetic girl. You would never know looking at her now that she was a premature baby weighing only three-pounds at birth, spending 30 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Like many families with babies in NICU, Montana Turpin, Ellis’s mother, says you would never expect the first month if your child’s life to be spent in the hospital. “We couldn’t go anywhere to have our pictures made, obviously, and we were there for Christmas.”
That was until an unexpected group came into the hospital to capture memories of baby Ellis.
Evan’s Project is a non-profit organization that provides photos for families with critically ill infants in the Neonatal Care Unit.
Stephanie Freeman is the founder of Evan’s Project, and a friend to Evan’s mother.
Evan was born with a heart condition and passed away March 16th, 2009, just six days after he was born.
The only picture of him was taken by a nurse in the NICU.
It became Stephanie’s mission to keep Evan’s memory alive for her friend. “She (Evan’s mother) talked about how sometimes she felt like she was forgetting his features, his face, fingers, toes and all those little things.”
Freeman teamed up with The Ronald McDonald House and professional photographers to make sure other families could hold on to those special memories. Pictures of Evan’s Project line the halls of The Ronald McDonald House at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith.
“The first kiss and the first time they get to hold them.. Those are so, so precious. To be able to capture that and document it for them is something you’ll never forget,” Freeman said.
Photographers donating their talent to Evan’s Project have taken pictures of more than 2,500 NICU babies. 30 of whom have lost their lives.
Evan’s Project has spread across the nation and has even reached other countries. Freeman says, “It’s really exciting to me that Evan’s memory gets to expand and extend that far.”