In the Media

Lodi News-Sentinel

The Wold and Pennington families were featured together in the Lodi News-Sentinel on April 18, 2017. You can read the write-up by Danielle Vaughn at this page or find the article online here.

For years, Ben and Aimee Pennington and Jeremy and Wendy Wold had known each other through mutual friends. The two couples never imagined they would have the same traumatic experience that would ultimately bring them closer together.

Both couples are parents to a set of twins, who all spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit following their premature births. Now the two couples are passionate about assisting other families experiencing the “NICU journey.”

About a year ago, the Penningtons and Wolds established a nonprofit called Handprints of Hope to assist NICU families with gift cards for gas, food and hotels.

“It’s been on my heart and my friend’s heart. Her twins were in the NICU the same time my twins were,” Aimee said. “We kind of knew right away we would always want to have something and be able to give back to NICU families because it is such a trying time to have just one baby, let alone two babies, in the NICU.”

The focus of the nonprofit is helping NICU families in the Central Valley area. They hope to connect families who currently have babies in the NICU with families who have been in the NICU before, in an effort to build relationships. Their hope is to show parents that they are not alone and give them a sense of support.

In the future, they also hope to provide assistance with medical bills.

The Pennington twins, Calvin and Sophia, were born March 13, 2014 at the Modesto Kaiser Hospital at 311⁄2 weeks. Calvin was born with a low birth weight and had to wear a CPAP mask. He also needed an umbilical line.

Both twins had episodes where they would stop breathing, and the NICU nurses had to stimulate them to get them breathing again. Both infants were on caffeine to help their brains remember to breathe, Aimee Pennington recalled. Sophia remained in NICU for seven weeks, while Calvin was there for six.

“In the very beginning it was traumatic, I guess. I was a little stressed out about it, to see them have to try to treat him to make sure he could start breathing on his own,” Aimee said. “The overall experience of being there for seven weeks and actually living in the hospital itself was tough for me.”

Ben went through a depression during that period, he said, and coped by keeping a journal. He continued to write in the journal until he didn’t have the energy to write in it anymore, he said.

“There was a lot of days I didn’t get to journal especially towards the end. It was more about surviving and resting and getting out of the hospital as much as possible,” he said.

According to Ben, the services Handprints of Hope wants to offer NICU families will make their experiences easier than the Penningtons’ time at the hospital.

“We were living in the hospital, 45 minutes away from home, not really wanting to be away from our kids,” he said. “Our church had actually given us a pretty good amount of money that they pulled together for us, and that just lifted a huge burden of not having to worry bout cooking. You have this huge burden lifted off of your shoulders of worrying about food, and you get to focus in on spending bonding time with you kids.”

Today, Calvin and Sophia are healthy 3-year-olds. According to Aimee, they have caught up to other children their age, for the most part. However, they are tinier the other kids their age, she said.

Jeremy and Wendy Wold’s twins Sarah and Hannah were born 13 weeks early on Dec. 24, 2013 at Roseville Kaiser Hospital.

Both girls experienced trouble breathing. However, Sarah had more severe breathing issues. Even after she came home from the hospital, she was on oxygen for a full year. Sarah also had three surgeries — two for heart and one for her hernias and gall bladder removal. Hannah suffered from jaundice.

Hannah was in the NICU two months, and Sarah remained in the NICU for more than five months.

“Most NICU families, when they have a premature birth, it’s unexpected. They don’t have the time to know that’s going to happen,” Wendy Wold said. “We were fortunate. We found out when I was 16 weeks pregnant that I was having a lot of complications and we were told to expect premature birth. We kind of had the advantage of knowing ahead of time.”

However, the knowledge did not make the situation easier.

Having the girls in the NICU was really hard, Wendy said. From the beginning, they were sure Hannah was going to pull through — but Sarah’s prognosis was grim.

“We were told to expect to bring only one baby home,” she said.

Like Calvin and Sophia, Sarah and Hannah are now 3 and have managed to catch up to the rest of the kids their age.

The Penningtons and the Wolds are now planning a golf tournament to raise money for Handprints of Hope — the new nonprofit’s first fundraising event.

The tournament is set for Sept. 23 at Lockeford Springs. The cost $125 and includes 18 holes of golf, a lunch and a dinner. Raffle and prizes will be given to tournament winners.

For more information about Handprints for Hope, email info@handprintsofhope.org, or visit www.handprintsofhope.org.