Pam Frasco’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) journey began when she experienced the unexpected and traumatic premature births of both of her sons. Through this journey, Pam realized a strong desire to give back to the NICU community that supported her family during that challenging time.
Pam began showing her gratitude to her local NICU medical professionals and families by bringing them care packages and visiting on her son’s anniversaries. After a few years of delivering gifts to the NICU, Pam knew she wanted and needed to do more.
“My husband and I are blessed with a very robust and supportive network, but we still felt alone during our NICU journeys,” said Pam. “I was craving a community that understood all the emotions I experienced, and I wanted to provide that support to other NICU parents.”
Established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in May 2018, Project NICU was born out of Pam’s love, support, and drive to give back to the community that made a lifelong impact on her family. The organization’s primary focus is to provide peer-to-peer support through curated care packages, virtual support groups, events, and mentor programs. Every program is thoughtfully designed by NICU parents and the Project NICU Medical Advisory Board, which includes professionals that work directly with NICU babies.
In August 2021, Pam was awarded a Nation of Neighbors℠ empowerment award and grant to recognize her commitment, vision, and dedication to the NICU community. The grant allowed Project NICU to add a much-needed layer of support by offering direct mental health counseling. Every NICU parent now has access to one free month of counseling through a partnership with BetterHelp. After one month, parents can continue their therapy at a discounted rate or apply for a three-month counseling scholarship.
“NICU parents, particularly mothers, are 40% more likely to develop post-partum depression,” said Pam. “The Nation of Neighbors grant allows us to provide a vital service many NICU parents would never seek without the encouragement and acceptance from their Project NICU family.”
Project NICU’s Ambassador Program currently has 28 ambassadors located in 14 states and serving 22 hospitals throughout the country. Ambassadors bring their personal stories and experiences to the online community, help develop programs, and deliver NICU care packages at their local hospitals. “There is great healing potential in the connection with others combined with the opportunity to give back to their NICU team and current NICU families,” said Pam.
Royal Neighbors member and Project NICU Ambassador Amy Finn was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Ambassador Program. “After coming home from the NICU with our daughter, it was important for me to find a way to give back to our NICU medical professionals and support the families who would walk through those doors after us. The Project NICU Ambassador Program is the perfect way for veteran NICU parents to stay connected to their NICU teams and provide hope and resources to families beginning their NICU journey,” shared Amy. “It has been an incredibly healing experience.”
Family Assistance Fund
Project NICU’s Family Assistance Fund is currently offered in two Cleveland hospitals. “We are already looking for ways to expand this fund into other communities,” said Pam. The program funding comes from donations and Project NICU fundraisers like the annual Night for Babies dinner and auction.
Parents can apply to receive assistance to remove barriers and allow them to spend the maximum time in the NICU with their newborn. The fund covers the cost of gas cards, bus passes, lodging, food, or special bills. “Every parent should have all the resources to focus their attention and energy on bringing their baby home,” added Pam.
“We want every NICU parent to know they are not alone,” shared Pam. “We will continue to link arms with parents and walk with them through their NICU journey.”