FAYETTE COUNTY, Ga. — After spending several months in the NICU with her grandson, a determined grandmother has taken it upon herself to help premature babies and their families one blanket at a time.
Stacy Nichols, the founder of Project Snuggle, was inspired to make a difference after her own grandson's premature birth. She knew the challenges that premature infants and their families faced, and she decided to bring comfort to their lives during the difficult journey.
For 133 days, Fio, Stacy's grandson, sat in the NICU, and Nichols and her husband were by his side for all but one of those days. According to March of Dimes, for many families, this is what the beginning of their baby's life looks like; in Georgia, the organization said that one in nine babies are born prematurely.
"Even just touching his skin at that age is painful for a preemie," she said. "So, for the longest time, we couldn't even touch him. We couldn't hold him. All we could do was just sit next to him."
But amidst the beeping monitors, tangled cords and intricate medical equipment, Nichols noticed a constant source of comfort – handmade blankets. These blankets not only shield the isolette from harsh lights but also provide premature babies with the sensation of being in the womb.
"And I noticed when the families were leaving, they were allowed to take that special blanket with them," she said.
So Nichols asked who made the special blankets and learned that nurses and volunteers crafted them. And when Fio graduated from the NICU and took home his blanket, Nichols said she told her husband, "I want to help them with this."
Thus, Project Snuggle was born. Nichols rallied her family and church members and even enlisted the help of students from Starr's Mills High School, where she works as a counseling secretary.
Together, they crafted "no-sew" blankets that mimic the comfort of the NICU blankets. These cozy creations are cleaned and delivered to local hospitals through the NICU Parent Club.
"When it comes to who makes the blankets, the response has been overwhelming," she said. "And the first day, I just cried because I felt so blessed that my grandson's hardship could lead to such good."
Beyond the NICU, Fio has flourished, growing into a thriving toddler who loves to play, sing songs and enjoy life's simple pleasures.
"He inspires me and gives me hope," she said.
Anyone wanting to get involved can contact Nichols at Project Snuggle through her email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She said that making the blanket only takes about an hour.