NICU’s Claire’s Place
The funds CMN receives go to helping Regional Heath Rapid City Hospital's smallest patients, including Claire Mahaffey.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — For the owners of local cookie shop, Mary’s Mountain Cookies, Rob and Julie Mahaffey serve up sweet treats to their customers, but life wasn’t always so sweet for this family. They went through some tough times when their daughter Claire came into the world earlier than expected.
When Julie became pregnant with her fourth child, she thought she knew what she was in for, but a few months down the road complications began — including some hemorrhaging and placenta issues. At 26 weeks, she delivered Claire who was a mere 2 pounds and 4 ounces.
Claire is now a flourishing 11-year-old who loves to read, draw and play board games.
But it was a tough 2 1/2 months for Claire’s family, as they waited for her to get healthy in the NICU. At the time, driving from Custer every day — trying to balance a family life with three children at home and caring for their preemie was no small task. Julie says their time at the hospital was a bittersweet experience.
“It’s absolutely amazing what they can do in there and now that we’ve met so many people that have gone in there, you just feel like it’s a community. It’s amazing; it’s like this connection you have — you hug people and there’s no barrier there, which is completely cool. But we’re one of the lucky families that got to go behind the door and met the doctors and nurses. And it’s amazing.”
When a family friend gave a sizable donation to the NICU, Claire was featured as an example of success — with her picture and story up — welcoming families as they enter the NICU.
Julie says, “We were pretty blessed that when she was five that they renamed it ‘Claire’s Place’ and her picture is up there. I think it was done to let parents, when they’re going to wash her hands and there’s siblings are in there, to look and see ‘oh my gosh this little girl was born at 2.4 pounds and she’s healthy. She’s happy. She’s completely like any other baby born to term.’ So it’s that glimpse of hope when you are in there.”
The Mahaffeys continue to give back to CMN. During the month of May, Mary’s Mountain Cookies are donating 25% of proceeds from chocolate chip cookie sales to the NICU.
Julie says, “For us, to be able to help out and just get that awareness that Rapid City needs to have, not just a NICU, but that can provide the same level of service as the ones that they would have to send your baby to because they don’t have the tools and equipment they need.”