MOMS Club Gilbert North members

MOMS Club Gilbert North members and their babies who showed up at Cardon Children’s Medical Center with gift bags were, from left: Jessica Griesi and Anthony, Jessica Cates and Riley, Diane Ray and Sullivan, Hillary Nelson and Glendon, Jathy Alsop and Julian, and Nicole Magrogan and Sloane. 

For the first 69 days of his life, Riley Cate’s home was inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.

So, when the Gilbert toddler turned 2 years old last week, Jessica Cate and MOMS Club Gilbert North celebrated by donating 70 welcome bags filled with useful items for families whose babies are admitted at Banner Health’s NICU. 

“We wanted to commemorate his time there by passing on a positive message,” said Cate, who joined MOMS Club Gilbert North last April and serves as the marketing vice president. “It’s to help the parents who are admitted right now.

“They are coming in and it’s a whole new world and really overwhelming, getting a lot of information thrown your way that doesn’t make sense when you don’t have a medical background. This lets parents know there is another community of parents who have been there and we are here to be supportive and provide encouragement.”

The NICU sees over 600 admissions annually.

“We are so grateful to be able to share this generous gift throughout the year with families that have babies treated in the NICU,” said Barbara Edwards, Banner nursing director of Women and Infant Services. 

“This gift will be a gesture of caring and kindness for the families of our tiniest and newest members of the East Valley community,” Edwards added.

MOMS Club Gilbert North is a relatively new local chapter of the nonprofit MOMS Club International, which has three other clubs in Gilbert 

The support club for stay-at-home mothers has over 2,000 chapters in the United States alone.

Club Gilbert North has about 15 members who meet regularly for children playdates and undertake various community projects throughout the year.   

“I wanted to give back to NICU because of my personal experience,” Cate said. “There’s another mom who likes to work with local senior homes. 

“Everyone in the club is welcome to throw out ideas and if there is any kind of passion project or tie-in it’s always great because it’s coming from a personal place,” Cate added.

The bags includes items such as unscented lotion, hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes, Chapstick, a baby book, hair ties, a notebook and pen, snacks, resource cards directing families where they can reach out to for help and support  and other goodies.

Parents can use the notebook and pen to take notes on updates the doctors give during rounds, to document milestones and to record questions they have throughout the day, according to the club.  

The club funded the items through donations and fundraisers. 

It’s been a journey to bring Riley to where he is today, his mom said.

“He’s doing great,” Cate said. “He just started walking recently and he’s working on his talking.”

She added Riley was closest to his adjusted age, which is a premature baby’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months he or she was born early. 

Riley was born at 29 weeks, weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces.

“Riley was in the critical-care side for several weeks of his life, which means curtained off from other babies,” Cate said. “There’s lot of alarms going off and doctors coming through, kind of a chaotic environment.”

She said it was unsettling with alarms going off frequently in the NICU until she learned what each alarm meant.

“It’s overwhelming to your senses and as a new parent you are scared,” said Cate, who could not hold her son for the first eight days of his life until he was stabilized. “Your child is very sick and it’s hard to wrap your mind around it.”

When Riley finally came home, he weighed just over 5 pounds.

 Cate said she’s planning another donation to the NICU for April 12, the date Riley left the hospital. The club is currently fundraising to buy stainless-steel tumblers for moms.

“The hospital offers tiny Styrofoam cups and it’s difficult to drink enough water throughout the day,” Cate said. “You have to go down the hall (for the water) with tiny cups.”

The club has the goal of donating 70-75 tumblers.