Featured on the cover, front row from left: Billie Devoto with Colleen McKillip, Suzanne Hough, McGraw Milhaven and Claire Devoto Back row, from left: CEO Melinda Ohlemiller, Gloria Wind, nurse Susan Slaznik, Jennifer Lyons, Fran Marks, Barbara Druhe, nurse Harriet Frazier and auction chair Emily Gardiner with Courtney Gardiner.

When Nurses for Newborns Foundation was founded in 1991, its goal was to help at-risk children in the St. Louis area by providing a medical and emotional safety net for new moms in need. Nineteen years later, despite serving more than 4,000 clients a year, a great need remains, which is why the organization is hard at work planning its 12th annual dinner auction, ‘A Night for Newborns,’ April 18 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac.

    And although the need has remained constant, Nurses for Newborns development director Claire Devoto says the client base has changed. “The face of the poor is different than it was when we started. We see so many working poor families—moms just struggling to make it,” she says. “Our families aren’t limited to certain neighborhoods. We have clients who are college graduates, with huge debts to pay. Moms who need help leave the hospital and go home to every zip code in St. Louis.”

    Nurses for Newborns sends experienced nurses into the homes of new moms in hopes of preventing infant mortality, child abuse and neglect. Moms receive education, health care advice and positive parenting tips from their assigned nurse. “Most women have babies and take them home, supported by a huge support network of family and friends willing and ready to help them get started off on the right foot,” Devoto says. “Other moms are alone, or go home to an unhealthy environment and need our help.”

    Nurses for Newborns recognizes that there are a host of new moms out there unprepared for parenthood, including teens and moms who are mentally or physically challenged. There are also unhealthy infants and families in financial need that benefit from the organization’s services. In addition to medical advice, NFNF helps connect clients with social service agencies and maintains a donation bank with clothes, toys, car seats, diapers and other necessities.

        But providing these services comes at a cost—a steep one. Which is why NFNF is so reliant on the success of fundraisers such as ‘A Night for Newborns.’ “It’s an amazing event for a cause our supporters are passionate about,” says Amy Graham, communications and design coordinator for Nurses for Newborns. This year’s event will honor local radio personality McGraw Milhaven. “He is one of our most ardent supporters,” says Graham. “His passion for our work has brought so much attention to our organization. He has helped tirelessly raise tens of thousands of dollars for our cause,” she says. As a thank you, NFNF has created the ‘McGraw Milhaven Humanitarian Award,’ a namesake honor that will be given away each year, with Milhaven himself the first recipient.

    Anyone involved in event planning will tell you it takes an army of volunteers, committee members, chairpersons and sponsors to pull off a successful evening, and Nurses for Newborns gets help in droves. “Emily Gardner is chairing it for the first time, and she has brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the planning,” says Graham. “But we couldn’t do it without the help of all of those involved.” Guests can look forward to live music, wonderful food and, of course, unique auction items. Highlights this year include a party for 50 in the home of a generous physician at St. John’s Mercy medical center, with special guests Natalie and Jamal Mayers, former St. Louis Blues player and current member of the Calgary Flames. Other unique dining and entertainment opportunities, sports packages and trips round out the impressive auction list.

    Graham says the organization captures the heart of everyone who becomes involved with it. “We help the moms, but ultimately it is the babies who we serve. These children deserve the same chance as any other baby in St. Louis,” she says.

    Graham believes all parents can relate to the NFNF mission. “Maybe the babies we serve were born into a different circumstance than others lying next to them in the nursery, but they deserve the same opportunities and love and nutrition as their peers,” she says. “Every woman wants what’s best for her baby, but some of us are blessed with more resources because of our background or where we live. In that first moment of life, when they are handed that baby, I believe every mom wants the same thing. And that’s what we are about. Trying to provide moms with the help they need.” 

On the Cover: The Nurses for Newborns Foundation 12th annual dinner auction, ‘A Night for Newborns,’ takes place April 18 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac.  If you would like to purchase tickets, full tables or be an auction sponsor, call Claire Devoto at 544-3433 x. 316 or visit nfnf.org.

cover design by Dawn Stremlau | photo by Jason Mueller