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Joanna Kay of Bee Mighty invites you to an upcoming gala in support of NICU babies and families!

People of Charlotte, please meet Bee Mighty! Bee Mighty provides funding for medical therapy and equipment to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) graduates. Bee Mighty was established so that families can focus on each other and concentrate on the development of their child without the added stress of financial ruin. The Bee Mighty Fund is a non-profit 501(c)3. You can meet Bee Mighty and the families they have helped at their upcoming gala this Saturday, November 2nd. Now let's get to know Bee Mighty through their Executive Director, Joanna Kay.

Nonprofits and changemakers are often born from an impactful event. Who or what inspired Bee Mighty to be the mighty force it is?

Candace and Michael Richter founded Bee Mighty as a fund under Novant Health’s foundation, after their personal experience with their son Shaw who was born at 27 weeks gestation in late 2012. The Richter family quickly learned that there are many families who cannot afford the care their NICU graduate needs in order to maximize their developmental potential and quality of life. 

Bee Mighty provides funding for medical therapy and equipment for children up to age 18 for time spent in the NICU. The funding is used to access critical equipment and interventional therapies in order to mitigate and manage any issues that arise from prematurity. Funding is paid directly to providers for therapy rendered or equipment purchased that is proven to aid in a child’s growth and development. In 2018, we received our independent 501c3 non-profit status and I was hired as the Executive Director—I am also a former NICU mom. Learn more about Bee Mighty's story here:

Parents often have to choose between the cost of care vs. the outcomes of their child. How did this difficult decision come into light and ignite a mission?

After 122 days in the NICU, the Richters brought their son home from the hospital. They quickly became overwhelmed by the doctor appointments and therapies needed to give Shaw the best chance for his development, both cognitively and physically. Then the Richters became a one-income household in order to maximize the opportunity for therapies for their son. Quickly, they realized private insurance would be exhausted after two months; they would then need to come out of pocket for physical, occupational, and speech therapies that were oftentimes twice a week with each appointment averaging $100/hour.

Families have to choose what they can afford for their child.

Candace asked every parent, doctor, and therapist how families afforded what their child needed and the consistent response was, “Families have to choose what they can afford for their child.” 

Bee Mighty was founded to give families peace of mind and lessen their financial burdens so that they don’t have to choose between cost and care, ultimately providing their premature children access to therapies needed for their development.

For people who have not experienced having a newborn in the NICU, what costs can you share that exemplify the critical need for support from organizations like Bee Mighty?

NICU children often have varying physical disabilities such as chronic respiratory and pulmonary issues. Infants with cerebral palsy often require customized splints or braces which require specialized medical supplies and equipment to help mitigate any short or long term conditions. These are just a few examples of the many challenges that children experience after being discharged from the NICU.

Studies have clearly shown that babies born prematurely have a much greater chance of short and long term wellness and life success if their developmental issues are treated timely and early. 

What have you seen families sacrifice?

In addition to the physical consequences of premature birth, families experience social, emotional, and financial challenges during long NICU stays. The March of Dimes concludes that the average hospital charges for newborns admitted to a special care nursery are approximately $76,000, with costs exceeding $280,000 for the earliest infants. Our goal is to help this population focus on their families instead of expenses.

Bee Mighty was founded to give families peace of mind and lessen their financial burdens so that they don’t have to choose between cost and care, ultimately providing their premature children access to therapies needed for their development.

How many families have Bee Mighty helped and in what ways?

Since inception, Bee Mighty has funded almost 300 babies in the greater Charlotte area and we hope to continue to see that number grow every year. In addition to financial assistance, Bee Mighty also serves as a support group for NICU families through various monthly outreach activities. Bee Mighty provides monthly dinners to families in the local NICUs at Levine Children’s Hospital and Novant Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC, to help spread awareness of our mission. While medical professionals can improve the survival of premature infants, family members are often left to mitigate the psychosocial effects, including sadness, fear, anger, anxiety, grief, depression and helplessness. Bee Mighty serves as a network of support, connecting NICU families with other graduate families. 

What does life look like after a newborn leaves the NICU? What does ongoing care look like?

This question is subjective. The NICU journey is a mystery and even the most specialized experts cannot predict the outcome of a NICU baby. Babies born at 24 weeks can be miraculously minimally impacted, while other babies born weeks later have severe complications after birth. It is uncertain and can change instantly in the NICU, which is partly why the NICU is such a terrifying experience.

Please visit our website to read outcome stories about our monthly Mighty Bees!

Can you share what the relationships with doctors and nurses are like in the NICU?

Nurses and doctors truly become like family when you are in the NICU—and those relationships continue to flourish even after leaving the NICU. The hospitals organize NICU reunions for families to reunite with their nurses, doctors, as well as other families who became part of their lives. Bee Mighty has a table at these events to engage with families and communicate our mission so that we can keep growing.

How can the Charlotte community get involved?

We’d love for you to join us at our biggest fundraising event coming up this weekend. The “Bee Something for Bee Mighty” gala will take place at Charlotte Country Club on November 2, 2019, in recognition of Prematurity Awareness Month. In addition, Bee Mighty is always looking for new volunteers to serve on committees or volunteer at events. Please email for more information. 

Websites and social media links?


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Check out Mixed Nuts: A story and discussion about diversity and inclusion for children



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