For Norah: Penn Valley couple launches foundation to support families of critically ill children
For more information or to purchase tickets to “Celebrate,” a New Year’s Eve gala and fundraiser for the Norah Foundation, visit http://www.TheNorahFoundation.org.
In November 2015, life took an unexpected turn for Candace and Richard Wilson. Their daughter, Norah Marie Wilson, was born a month early at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. She required immediate surgery and was quickly transported to the neonatal intensive care unit at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Dazed, in shock and trying to navigate an unfamiliar medical environment, the Penn Valley couple was hardly in a frame of mind to focus on the details of everyday life. Fortunately, a network of family and friends stepped in to provide support.
Just 15 days after her birth, Norah died in the arms of her parents. As they climbed in the car and headed home without their beloved daughter, Candace said she was reminded of the fragility of life and how much their family — which includes their 3-year-old son (also named Richard) — had to be grateful for.
“As we left the hospital, I knew we were going home to begin our healing,” she said. “But the other families we’d bonded with were still there in the struggle. We were just one bed out of 65 — we weren’t the only family going through this. I had to find a way to help those families. This experience changed us.”
A private Facebook page, “Team Norah,” was set up to keep friends and family members updated. The Wilsons were moved to discover countless posts offering meals, errands, chores and other favors.
“We told people we didn’t want anything,” said Candace. “Instead, we told everyone to take all this love and direct it outward, so we could all be reminded of the good in the world. Then I told people to report back.”
The response was astounding. Reports of selfless acts came pouring in, such as donating blood, creating “blessing bags” for homeless individuals and donating supplies to local shelters.
“It was an amazing and wonderful response — but I had to figure out how to keep the momentum and goodness going,” said Candace. “I wanted this to bring meaning to Norah’s life.”
At Christmas, the Wilsons donated books and toys to the waiting room at the neonatal intensive care unit, items sorely needed for the siblings of children receiving medical treatment. But one question remained: How could they keep helping? They couldn’t do it alone.
The Norah Foundation was originally established with the goal of raising money to provide hotel vouchers, fuel cards, restaurant gift cards and other needed support for families with a child in neonatal or pediatric intensive care. But additional money raised will go toward new toys and books in waiting rooms around the Sacramento region. In less than five months, the foundation has raised $30,000, but the Wilsons say there is a great deal more to be done.
“In our journey with Norah, we saw some fantastic work done,” said Richard. “But we also saw areas in the hospital system that needed some immediate attention.”
Richard and Candace have been volunteering their time to be the “voice of the patient” at several hospitals in the region. Through sharing their personal story with hospital committees, foundations and councils, their hope is to create a better experience for future families navigating the heartbreaking path of caring for a critically ill child.
Initially established as a support system for the extended Wilson family during the 15 days of Norah’s life, Facebook’s Team Norah has since grown to more than 900 members, with a reach extending as far as Canada, Europe, Africa and South America. Many continue to donate blood and platelets monthly, volunteer at community events, provide meals to families in need and buy holiday gifts for under served families, said Candace.
On New Year’s Eve, The Norah Foundation will host “Celebrate,” a pink tie formal gala from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Foothill Event Center in Grass Valley. The event will include dancing, a DJ, local beer and wines, dessert, a photo booth and a champagne toast. Tickets are now on sale at http://www.TheNorahFoundation.org.
“Our motto is, ‘Spread the Love,’” said Candace. “Our goal is to raise $30,000 for the Sacramento hub of hospitals, which will include Sutter, UC Davis, Mercy San Juan and Kaiser. I envision a day when every family at each hospital gets a packet filled with gift cards, hotel vouchers and a stack of resources. I want these families to feel our personal touch and the sincerity of why we do what we do. It’s been hard to tell our story, but I believe our openness has helped others to heal. We do it for Norah — we feel like she’s counting on us.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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