When Amy Novakovski remembers back to her son’s days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), she struggles for words. “It’s just heart wrenching to see your baby in there and to see other families in there,” she explains. “But the staff went out of their way to make it not so terrifying. Knowing we were in such great hands, I don’t even think there is a way to describe that experience.”

Novakovski had given birth to twins at 37 weeks. Her daughter Camden was fine, but her son Dutch wasn’t breathing at first and was cared for in the NICU at Royal University Hospital for a few days.

“The nurses went above and beyond. I remember one of the nurses taking time to help me bath Dutch for the first time. It was something I hadn’t been able to do with him and was so important to me,” says Novakovski.

The cheque presentation at the NICU in May 2012.

The cheque presentation at the NICU in May 2012.

This experience made Novakovski determined to give something back. The opportunity came last year when she was asked by Karey Gerber, a mother whose child had been in NICU as well, to donate to Gerber’s collection of blankets for NICU families.

“Angels on earth is how Karey described NICU staff and I totally agreed,” says Novakovski. The two started talking about how they could help other families and the NICU Steak Fundraiser night was born. In four weeks, the pair pulled together an event and raised $8,845.

“At first we thought, ‘What if we can’t even sell 50 tickets?’ We were so nervous,” laughs Novakovski. “Then, it just blew up. We had 190 people. It was just phenomenal.”

“The NICU is so important to parents, grandparents, families – we just thought what better time than to hold this around Mother’s Day,” she says. Last year, NICU staff attended the fundraiser where they were thanked for the work they do each day.

“This is just fabulous,” says Rhonda Furber, Saskatoon Health Region’s NICU Manager. She explains the money is placed in the unit’s account with Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. “It’s not often fundraising happens for a specific unit in the hospital. When families come into NICU, we know they are stressed and scared. It means a lot to the staff that care for these little babies and their families to know they are making a difference.”

Last year’s donation helped purchase smaller pieces of equipment important to the care of the babies and will continue to benefit babies inthe new Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

The NICU in the maternal and children’s hospital, which will be built next to Royal University Hospital, will have all private rooms and dedicated space for parents to stay with their baby. Some patient rooms will be large enough to keep twins or triplets together.

Novakovski is excited about the new hospital. And until then, she and her friend are focused on how they can help today.

“We just want people to know that the staff and physicians in NICU do so much for families. It’s amazing when you hear how many people have been touched by this unit,” she says. “So, if there is something that we can do to increase awareness and provide for equipment and some of those special extras so families can experience what we experienced, it’s worth the effort.”

2nd Annual NICU Steak fundraiser
Saturday, May 10 at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre.

There are 280 tickets available and the evening will include supper,
silent auction and raffle prizes.
Donations to the silent auction or volunteers are welcome. Connect via Facebook “2nd Annual NICU Fundraiser” or email thenovaz@sasktel.net.