The Brightside: Wyatt’s Warriors
SALISBURY, Md. – When babies are born into the NICU, it can take a toll on new parents. But one mom’s organization aims to make that just a little bit easier while also honoring her own son.
“I started Wyatt’s Warriors in honor of my son Wyatt, who passed away from a congenital heart defect,” Jennifer Shipe said. Her son Wyatt passed away when he was less than two months old in 2015. What was supposed to be the welcoming of a beautiful baby boy turned into a lengthy hospital stay, ending in tragedy for the Shipe family.
“I think having two healthy babies before, I was in denial I guess, or just really naïve, that you didn’t just have a baby and celebrate it, and then get to go home with them, it opened up my eyes to a whole other world,” Shipe said.
That whole new world was the world of moms and parents who were in hospitals with sick children just like Shipe’s family. After Wyatt passed, Shipe says she needed to find a way to not only help other moms in similar situations, but to honor her baby boy as well. And so she thought back to what helped her through the toughest moment of her life – one simple care package she got in the hospital.
“I got a package from someone that I really didn’t know, I had gone to high school with her husband, and she had seen on Facebook what I was going through, and she had been through something similar, her son had open heart surgery as well,” she explained.
Knowing how much that care package meant to her, Shipe wanted to give that same comfort to other parents. And so Wyatt’s Warriors was created, Shipe’s way of creating care packages stuffed with things parents may need if their babies are in the NICU or hospital. She says she tries to include things that some new moms and dads may not think of if something unexpected happens with their baby.
“One of the things is snap pajamas, and you don’t really think about it, but you can’t dress your kids in all the cutesy things you brought to the hospital that you thought you were going to take them home in, because there’s a lot of cords, different things that need to go in and out,” Shipe explained.
Shipe doesn’t work alone, she has a whole army of moms and volunteers who work with her to collect donated supplies and money, stuff the care packages, and find moms in need. One of those moms who helps is Tracy Lewis, who actually sent Shipe that original care package when Wyatt was in the hospital. Lewis says for her, including some happy things in the care package means the most.
“Little toys just so you can remember that the baby is a baby first, before all of the diagnoses,” she said.
Both Lewis and Shipe had babies in the NICU and know how stressful it can be. They say when new parents receive the Wyatt’s Warriors Care Packages, they just want those parents to feel a small sense of comfort and peace.
“I hope that they know that they’re not alone, and that other moms have had to experience the same thing, and they’ve come out the other end okay,” Shipe said.
“I hope that they find a little bit of peace, I hope that they are able to find a support system of moms or people that have walked their path and been in their shoes,” Lewis added.
As for Shipe, she says not only is it about giving parents that sense of comfort, but it’s also about keeping her baby Wyatt alive in some way.
“It keeps him alive in my mind, people know about Wyatt, my kids know about their brother, we talk about him all the time,” she said.
You can find more information on Wyatt’s Warriors by visiting their Facebook page.