Beth and Phil Maclin don’t really think it’s a coincidence that the day after their son was born — three months earlier than they expected — was the very first World Prematurity Awareness Day in 2003.
The local couple, who lived in Homewood at the time, were just preparing for their first child together when Beth very unexpectedly went into labor. They were given a grim outcome for the days ahead — in fact, they were told that their son would probably not survive his first 12 hours.
Today, he is a happy, healthy 12-year-old. He plays football, baseball and basketball and works hard to maintain straight A’s in school — a far cry from the prognosis he received at birth.
While the entire family was overcoming many obstacles during their three-month stay at the University of Chicago, the Maclins found there were many resources for their preemie, but very few for them as parents.
During their son’s stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the doctors and residents gave the babies nicknames rather than calling them by their actual names. In their son’s case, the doctors identified him by the tiny bear affixed to his isolate, which had been a gift from his great aunt.
They called him “Little Bear.”
The name stuck, and the Maclins eventually adopted the name for the foundation they founded to support parents who found themselves in a similar situation.
In 2007, the Flossmoor-based Little Bear Foundation was born.
Today, the Maclins, along with numerous “Little Bear Ambassadors,” support families of premature babies locally and across the country.
As they are preparing to celebrate World Prematurity Awareness Day on Nov. 17, they are traveling to local NICUs to deliver their NICU Survival Kits, which contain necessities and goodies for new preemie parents in those first few days and weeks in the NICU.
The bags are filled with donations from corporations and individuals who believe in their cause. The Foundation also connects new preemie parents with “veterans,” who have lived through a similar experience and can be a resource to support parents going through the harrowing experience of having a baby in the NICU.
Just last week, members of The Little Bear Foundation spoke with families at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago at their monthly Family Night for new preemie parents.
The Maclins said they are thrilled to be able to provide the support that they wished for when their own Little Bear was born.
To find out how you can volunteer with The Little Bear Foundation or donate to this cause, visit their website at www.thelittlebearfoundation.org