Girl Scouts Create “Helpful Hearts Project” for NICU Families

A pair of area Girl Scouts, Jordan Foster and Hannah Strouse, created the “Helpful Hearts Program” to help families feel more connected to their new babies in the St. Peter’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit.

From left to right, St. Peter’s Hospital NICU nurse Jacqueline Repscher, NICU nurse manager Kathleen White, girl scouts Jordan Foster and Hannah Strouse, and Women’s and Children’s Services director Carla Barberis-Ryan display the felt hearts Forster and Strouse made as part of their “Helping Hearts Project” for NICU families.

A pair of compassionate Girl Scouts from Clifton Park created the “Helpful Hearts Program” to help families feel more connected to their new babies in the St. Peter’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Girl Scouts Jordan Foster and Hannah Strouse led efforts to create more than 200 pairs of felt hearts for NICU parents. The idea is for moms and dads to wear the hearts for a few days to capture their scent, and then leave the hearts near their newborn’s crib so they may be comforted by the smell of their parents.

Babies born prematurely may be in the NICU for weeks or months. This time is often difficult for new parents, who have to return to work or other commitments and cannot stay with their newborn in the NICU.

The felt hearts are a way for these parents to feel connected to their newborns, even if they cannot physically be in the same room all day, Foster and Strouse said.

The two Girl Scouts, both 14, enlisted the help of their fellow members of Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York Troop 2177 and classmates at Shenendehowa Middle School to help make the hearts.

Each pair of hearts also includes a pamphlet, made by Foster and Strouse, which aims to bring comfort to NICU.

“Please accept this flannel heart as a gift of compassion for you and your new baby,” the pamphlet reads. “This heart was crafted and sewn by a Girl Scout or middle school student to give to you in your time of need. Please know that there are people thinking of you at this difficult time.”

Foster and Strouse, accompanied by their mothers, visited St. Peter’s Hospital NICU on August 25 to deliver and present the hearts.

They met and had lunch with Carla Barberis-Ryan, MHSA, MSN, RN, NE-BC, director of Women’s and Children’s Services at St. Peter’s Hospital, along with Kathleen White, BSN, nurse manager in the St. Peter’s Hospital NICU, and NICU nurse Jacqueline Repscher, RN.

The 15-bed NICU at St. Peter’s Hospital, a Level III facility, provides specialized medical care to newborns who require close observation and attention. The unit is staffed 24 hours a day with board-certified neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, registered nurses certified in neonatal nursing, and other clinical specialists.

To learn more about the St. Peter’s Hospital NICU, please visit:

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