Hinsdale Assembly ball to celebrate NICU pledge

For more than two decades, 20 percent of babies born at AdventhHealth Hinsdale Hospital have relied on the medical center's neonatal intensive care unit, which year after year offers the tiniest and most fragile patients exemplary care. And despite the Level III NICU's vital importance, the unit never has been renovated.

Hinsdale mother Katie Beuke saw this firsthand. Beuke gave birth to her son Charlie 12 weeks early. He spent his first 98 days in one of the hospital's most critical units.

"I had Charlie at 28 weeks in October of last year," Beuke said. "He was 1 pound, 6 ounces at birth and I could hold him in the palm of my hand. I spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the NICU with Charlie and the nurses became my family."

Charlie was released from the NICU at the end of January and in May, he unfortunately fell ill with RSV - a dangerous respiratory virus. Beuke and husband PJ immediately rushed their infant back to Hinsdale Hospital, but unfortunately given space constraints, there was no room for him to stay. Nurses prepped Charlie to be transferred to Lurie Children's Hospital.

Beuke's story is just one of many. The NICU is small. Patients and their families have little privacy, and space is limited for doctors to deliver life-changing news to parents or for families to gather. The department's facilities and equipment are also outdated.

To help modernize this life-saving unit, the nonprofit Hinsdale Assembly Board has committed to a five-year pledge of $250,000 to the NICU renovation.

Supporting Hinsdale's local hospital is not new to this group of philanthropy-focused women, an arm of the Hinsdale Hospital Foundation. Over the past 60 years, the Assembly has donated more than $3.25 million to Hinsdale Hospital. Simultaneously, the organization instills the importance of charitable work, community and family amongst each Assembly class, which consists of local young men and women entering their senior year of high school.

These debutantes and honor guard, as they are called, participate in numerous community service events ranging from projects at DuPage County Forest Preserve's St. James Farm to HCS Family Services.

This year's class consists of 16 women and 10 men. They will be returning home from college in the coming days to celebrate the culmination of their service efforts at the Hinsdale Assembly Ball, which will take place Friday, Dec. 23, at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center.

"It is so great to see these wonderful classes of young women and men return from college to celebrate their year of service and to reunite and reconnect with family and friends," said Kim Harte, Hinsdale Assembly Board chair. "We are also so excited to raise funds this year to help renovate the NICU, which manages to perform miracles on a daily basis in a very outdated facility."

Sydney Akers, a 2022 Hinsdale Central High School graduate and current freshman at Indiana University, said being a debutante is so much more than just participating in a ball.

"The Assembly has genuinely made community service so much fun," Akers said. "The work we did at the St. James Farm was probably my favorite. It was so fun working with all the girls and our dads to work toward helping the community. I think my favorite part of it, though, is that we have been raising money for the NICU throughout the whole year."

As for Charlie, who once called the NICU home, he has gone from weighing 1.6 pounds to 16 pounds and is thriving, thanks in part to NICU doctors and nurses.

"The doctors and nurses are the most amazing people I have ever met," Beuke added. "No one is as selfless as they are. I want to make sure the NICU has all the money they need."

To make a tax deductible donation or to become a sponsor of the Hinsdale Assembly's NICU fundraising campaign, please visit http://www.hinsdaleassembly.org/payments.

- Alexis Braden of Hinsdale is the paper's society columnist.

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