(Seguin) -- After two and a half years, Levi continues to beat the odds -- odds placed on his little body after gracing this world at only 23 weeks. Although Levi Kleen, today, is a stronger, healthier and loveable little guy, the memories of basically living in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for four months are still very clear and real for his parents Brett and Vicky Kleen
The last couple of years has no doubt been busy -- full of therapies and doctors visits but now Vicky says she is ready to be a source of support for the many other parents whose children now fill the rooms and incubators that her little family once occupied.
Vicky, a consultant for Thirty-One Gifts direct sales, has chosen to take the perks and discounts of her online business by sharing thoughtful gifts with others through her NICU Love Packages. She says through the effort, specialty bags will be filled with goodies and hand delivered during the holiday season to families at North Central and St. Luke's Baptist Hospitals in San Antonio.
"When you're going through a crisis like that, you need to find purpose in it and for me, I just held onto my faith. I knew God had a bigger plan even though it was so rocky. I once heard, 'God doesn't waste pain. Turn your mess into a message.' So I thought this is time. We're stable enough now. Things have gotten back to normal. It's time for me to do something with the pain and with our story, because there's other people like us that need healing. This is healing for us as well to be able to participate. I've wanted to do some things to give back, some goody bags or some gifts, but it's just a lot of people and there's a constant turnover of people in that NICU among others and so you try to plan for a lot but one person typically can't do that. So when I looked at this and one of my 31 friends had posted they were doing something similar for a nursing home -- I thought 'wow,' nursing homes are wonderful, but my passion is the NICU. My passion is the families that are walking through these seasons. What if we did a goody bag for them," said Vicky.
Vicky says her plan is to have a big response for making the $10 donation so that the bags can be shared with even more hospitals in the area.
"For $10, it covers the cost of the bag and almost half that in fillers of just goodies, candies, trinkets, a throw blanket, an ornament -- something that will just comfort them and bring them a little joy. All of a sudden, people started responding and then my NICU friends would share it with their friends and they all knew the story of that child and they'd say, 'I want to give one in honor of so and so or I want to give because I remember what people did for me," said Vicky.
Vicky says for families in crisis, the smallest gifts can go a long way.
"It was up and down, medical issues, crisis, some days it looked like he was going to thrive, some days, we were getting really bad reports. So occasionally, these groups would bring in little baskets or drop offs or snacks and you know I would be in the room with Levi just kind of grieving over the situation and one of the nurses would say 'hey, this organization dropped off a little goody basket, would you like one?It was just little practical things like mints or socks or a bag of cheese and crackers. When you're pumping and you're trying to keep yourself healthy for this sick baby, a little cheese and crackers goes a long way. So it was just a little token that recognized we're here -- there are people that know where we are and the struggle we're having and just that little tangible item or tangible items in this little basket made you feel like somebody cared," said Vicky.
Donations for the NICU Love Packages are being accepted for a limited time. Those wishing to donate $10 for the program are asked to contact Vicky Kleen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Individuals may also private message her via Facebook at Vicky Hunter Kleen