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Woodlands cheerleaders visit Memorial Hermann to spread holiday cheer

December 18, 2018

With their hair pulled back into high pony tails using white ribbons that made perfect matching bows, almost 20 ninth-grade cheerleaders from The Woodlands High School mingled in Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital lobby about a week before Christmas.

Each of them held a tightly wrapped handmade felt blanket, awaiting the moment they’d give it to a mother and baby in the medical center’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Cheerleader Bella McKinney said the girls on their team each picked out their own fabric and met together to make the blankets.

“It was a growing experience as we made the blankets together. We took three class periods off and made them,” McKinney said.

The freshman cheerleaders were delivering the blankets themselves to the families in Memorial Hermann’s NICU care as an act of compassion during the holidays. The idea came from Donna Roberts, their cheer coach and physical education teacher.

Roberts did the project once a few years ago, but has revived the effort so the girls can experience making the blanket and gifting it to the families.

“My girls have been so excited, and they were in awe. The hospital was so helpful and cooperative, they went above and beyond what I could have hoped for,” Roberts said.

Memorial Hermann’s Children’s Services Director Elizabeth Kutchback walked the girls to the NICU and explained to them how the staff cares for the babies.

Kutchback said they’re not always able to bring groups through, but that it was worth the effort.

“When a parent has been here a while, it’s just something special for their day. Obviously the babies can’t appreciate it yet, but the parents really love it,” Kutchback said.

After making sure the girls washed their hands and put on a face mask if they hadn’t had their flu shot yet, Kutchback took them back to the unit.

There, they met Kayla Clouse and her six-day-old twins, Brooke and Willow. The twins were born six weeks early at 5 pounds, 3 ounces and 5 pounds, 4 ounces.

The cheerleaders rolled a red wagon filled with blankets over to Clouse so she could choose one for each of her new babies.

Clouse shared that she had been a cheerleader in high school too, which got a reaction from the girls as they admired the twins.

“It’s a nice memory to have for such a stressful time,” Clouse said of the blankets she received.

Cheerleader Iza Jaranilla said that she hadn’t done anything like this before.

“I’ve never really thought of babies in the incubators before. It was a good experience though, especially during the holiday season,” Jaranilla said.

Roberts said that’s exactly why she asked Kutchback if the team could make delivering blankets to the NICU visit a yearly event—so that the cheerleaders can learn what it means to help others.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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