“The Parent-to-Parent Program changed my life!”

The parent to parent helps provide support to parents in need at the NICU


When Kendria Armstrong-Andrews gave birth to her son Kaleb in 2007, she learned that he suffered from a serious medical condition that would require care at the The Gerber Foundation Neonatal Center at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, an hour from her home in Muskegon. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team connected Kendria to another mom whose own son, Luke, had been born in 2004 with the same medical condition as Kaleb. “And what a mom to be connected to,” says Kendria today. “Jill showed up and walked me through everything. And when I say ‘everything,’ I mean it.”

Providing support during an uncertain journey

No one imagines having their newborn stay in the hospital for weeks or even months after giving birth. The feelings of helplessness and worry can seem overwhelming for NICU parents as they begin to navigate their new family reality. At The Gerber Foundation Neonatal Center (NICU) at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, these parents do not need to walk this journey alone.

The Parent-to-Parent (P2P) Program helps provide the support that NICU parents need. Only those who have walked a similar journey can truly understand what having a baby in the NICU means. The P2P program pairs current NICU parents with experienced NICU parents, who provide mentoring and support during this challenging time.

The P2P staff provides extensive training and ongoing support for volunteers. They carefully coordinate the appropriate pairing of NICU parents with P2P volunteers to help ease the burden for NICU families.

Parents helping parents

Jill Boomstra was the parent volunteer who met with Kendria after Kaleb was born. Years earlier, another volunteer had walked alongside Jill in the same way upon Luke’s birth, so when the NICU called her, Jill was ready. “The first time we met,” recalls Kendria, “we met at a restaurant not far from hospital. When we got back to the hospital, Jill walked me through it all. ‘What do you need? Are you rested? Here’s the next step. Here’s how to manage that tricky treatment process.’ Jill was so helpful to me.”

Jill was more than willing to help relieve Kendria’s stress. “My experience with the P2P program had been so positive as a parent,” Jill says, “that I wanted to do what I could to help others who were walking the same path.”

Parent to Parent

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Philanthropy paves the way

The P2P program is 100% supported by philanthropy and your help is needed to sustain this program for generations to come.

We allocate $25,000 each year from the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Annual Campaign toward this program, and we are currently raising funds for a $500,000 endowment to ensure that we can meet this annual need into perpetuity. Your support can encourage families and make a difference in the lives of NICU parents—and their newborn babies—as they navigate a difficult time.

“The Parent-to-Parent Program changed my life!” says Kendria. “It gave me what I needed to get through those difficult earlier years, and it has literally sustained me to this day. Kaleb is 14 now, and thriving, soon to start high school. I never thought he would do the things he’s now doing. Jill has not only been a life coach to me; she has been a life sister.”

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Parent to Parent Program