Helping the NICU babies their daughter didn’t get to be with for long

Parents wanted to honor Grace by giving books to children and supporting equal opportunity for literacy starting with the tiniest babies.

Books and words have always been important to Carter and Sara Ruml. When it came time to put together a nursery in anticipation of their daughter’s birth, they settled on a children’s book theme.

After baby Grace was born in June 2019, she experienced some unanticipated complications and had to be transferred to Norton Children’s Hospital, where she only lived for a few short hours.

Carter and Sara knew right away they wanted to do something to bring meaning to Grace’s short but cherished life and to honor her legacy. They wanted to give books to children and support equal opportunity for literacy starting with the children who would have been Grace’s peers — the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Norton Children’s Hospital.

“Books can be magical,” Sara said. “What better way to honor Grace than to extend that to kids who may or may not have that opportunity.”

With the support of friends, family and many people they’ve never met, the Rumls raised funds to start the Grace’s Books program.

“It’s the community’s money in honor of Grace,” Carter said. “So we feel a huge sense of obligation to our donors to be effective in carrying out the fund’s mission to be pragmatic and useful.”

Starting kids early with books and reading

Carter and Sara partnered with the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation to create Grace’s Books, which is modeled after similar programs they researched across the country. Reading to babies as soon as they are born — or even before — allows for special bonding time, learning and language development.

Each family in the Norton Children’s Hospital NICU will receive a Grace’s Books canvas tote bag with a new children’s book and bookmark. Also included is information and guidance for parents and caregivers on how to read out loud to their baby at various stages of development. They also will receive a parents’ guide to library services and resources and a library card application from the Louisville Free Public Library. The book and additional information will be available in multiple languages.

“We are thrilled to be able to think we could help families going through some of the worst days of their lives have an outlook for something they could do to help their child,” Sara said. “I can’t change an IV, but I can read to my child, and that’s important, too. It’s something tangible they can do to help their child.”

Carter remembers the profound pressure they felt upon suddenly finding themselves in the NICU with baby Grace when they had no idea that was in their potential array of outcomes. The donated gifts they received from volunteers through the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation during their time of need in the NICU helped make a very difficult situation easier, according to Carter. He hopes Grace’s Books will provide a source of comfort for parents, in addition to support for the children.

The Rumls hope to expand the program soon to the Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital NICU.

In addition to supporting NICU patients, the Rumls want Grace’s Books to support older patients. Book carts will make the rounds of other pediatric units  to give new books to patients to enjoy while in the hospital and to take home.

How you can help

Go to NortonChildrens.com/Donate and write in “Grace’s Books” as the designation. Or find out more by calling.

(502) 629-8060

To reach more kids, they also are expanding the program to provide new books for patients at pediatrician offices of Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. They also plan to create a Grace’s Books app to make books and information about the value of reading for children even more accessible. The Rumls hope the program will continue to expand locally, regionally and even nationally.

One of their favorite things about the program is how it lends itself to all levels of support and involvement.

“Even the smallest kids can bring a book to school to donate,” Sara said. “If you can pass on your favorite book to someone you don’t even know — that’s kind of awesome. It gets kids excited to say, ‘This is great, you’re going to love this.’”


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