WHO:  Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPRMC) NICU and Circle of Hope NICU Foundation

WHAT: 2nd Annual Circle of Hope Foundation NICU Kangaroo-athon at Overland Park Regional Medical Center

WHEN: Through May 16, 2016 

Media interviews:  Available Friday, May 13 between 2:30 – 4 p.m.

WHERE: Overland Park Regional Medical Center, 10500 Quivira Road, Overland Park KS 66215


WHY: Sponsored by the Circle of Hope NICU Foundation, which provides social, emotional and financial support for parents with babies in the Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU, the 2nd Annual Circle of Hope Kangaroo-a-thon at Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU helps raise awareness of the importance of skin-to-skin contact with newborns. During the event, which concludes on May 16, parents with babies in the NICU are encouraged to hold them on their chest for extended periods of time. The event, which started on May 2, has a goal of providing 1000 hours of skin-to-skin contact to tiny preemies and critically ill infants. Since the Kangaroo-athon started on May 2, more than 500 hours have been logged by 45 families. 

Numerous studies from around the world have documented the value of the so-called “kangaroo care” for premature newborns.  The concept dates back to the 1970s, when a doctor in Colombia started advocating the practice as an alternative to incubators, which are not readily available in some parts of the world. Instead, mothers hold their newborn against the chest, skin-to-skin, with a blanket over the baby.

“Research has confirmed kangaroo care benefits for NICU babies, including improved heart rate, oxygen saturation, breathing, sleep, weight gain, breastfeeding and reduced crying,” says Kathleen Weatherstone, M.D., board-certified Neonatologist and Medical Director of the Neonatal ICU at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. “Research has also found positive associations with cognitive and motor skills, and psychosocial benefits, such as attachment and parental confidence.”

Many NICU parents, such as Katie Gonzalez whose son, Matthew, was born weighing one pound at 24 weeks in March 2011 testify that although kangaroo care is a simple gesture, it has immediate and lifelong benefits. 

“Matthew spent March through July 2011 in the Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU,” says Gonzalez, who helped to found the nonprofit Circle of Hope NICU Foundation.  “Even if critically ill babies such as Matthew can’t be held, any connection between those babies and parents is vital, whether it’s reading to the babies, hands on through an isolette or even singing. The bond is so important. The first Kangaroo-a-thon we held was so successful, we’ve decided to make it an annual event.”

“Overland Park Regional Medical Center is proud to have the most advanced NICU in Johnson County and to provide important events like the Kangaroo-athon,” says Kevin J. Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of Overland Park Regional Medical Center.  “And to have engaged parents like Katie and her army of volunteers in the Circle of Hope NICU Foundation is a priceless asset for the work we do with preemies and the community we serve.” 

The Circle of Hope NICU Foundation has a six-person Board of Directors comprised of former NICU parents and four advisory Board members that include neonatologists and other hospital experts.  It is the only organization of its kind to serve Johnson County.

For more information about Overland Park Regional Medical Center and its Level III NICU, which serves 13 counties across the region, visit oprmc.com.