Group caters Thanksgiving dinner to families in NICU

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- This Thanksgiving has been made special for a very deserving group of parents.

Fifty families are spending the holiday in the NICU ward at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. A group called The Circle of Hope NICU Foundation provides support, hope and a Thanksgiving feast complete with all the trimmings to parents whose children are patients in NICU.

Members of Circle of Hope know what it's like to be there. They are all parents of children who were previously patients in the NICU.

Katie Gonzalez's son Matthew was born at just 24 weeks, weighing 1 pound, 5 ounces and spent the first 121 days of his life in the NICU.

"He's now 2 1/2, almost 3. He's fully into his terrible twos -- running, yelling, talking back," she said. "All of the things we are so appreciative of."

Stories like Katie's give hope to other families. Vital and Romanie Louis have a son, Victor, who has been in the hospital for 111 days. Victor was born after 23 weeks and weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces.

"With us not having as much hope, is he going to make it or not going to make it it was very scare," Vital Louis said. "The chances of a baby living born at 23 weeks was less than 10 percent."

Parents like Katie Gonzalez give hope to families like the Louises.

"We are very hopeful and very thankful that they are taking the time out of their day to talk to us and let us know, 'Hey, we've been there and we know exactly what it's like and everything is going to be okay,'" Vital said.

Five years ago, Adam Lieberger founded Circle of Hope after his son spent 10 days in the NICU. He makes the turkeys on his backyard grill, and the smell of the barbecued birds fill the hallways of the NICU. Other parents bring traditional Thanksgiving food, like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. It makes for a little comfort during a very stressful time.

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