With community donations, Tree House: A Place for Families becomes a home away from home for Illinois couple
The best gifts often come in tiny packages. Anthony and Sara DeLegge first learned of their life-changing gift — a precious preterm baby girl — during an unexpected call from American Adoptions.
“They said, ‘We have an adoption opportunity for you. You have 24 hours to get on a flight to Tacoma, Washington, and come and sign some documents and adopt this baby girl,’” Sara recalls.
The DeLegge household became a whirlwind of activity to get everything in order, and Sara was soon on her way from Chicago, Illinois, to the City of Destiny. At the airport, Sara discovered that she and Anthony could stay at Tree House: A Place for Families while in Washington. The philanthropically funded family housing is just steps away from MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where baby Kennedy would receive care over the next four weeks.
Care and comfort at Tacoma General Hospital’s NICU
During the next month, expert NICU nurses and providers cared for Kennedy, while she grew strong enough to thrive on her own. Reflecting back on this experience, Anthony and Sara were moved by the level of attention showed to the littlest DeLegge.
Kennedy’s care team “didn’t know that she was going to end up with a family because she was there for a month before we got there. If we hadn’t gotten there within the 24 hours’ notice, she would have gone into the foster system,” Sara explains. So, “they had bought so many outfits — Kennedy came home with a full wardrobe. The nurses were almost fighting over who got to take care of her, who got to feed her and give her baths. She was loved from the second she was born.”
The DeLegge family also found the NICU care providers to be kind and generous with their time and knowledge. Given the tight adoption window and COVID-19, the pair had little time to prepare for parenthood and naturally had some pre-baby jitters.
“The nurses in the NICU (became) my parenting class,” Anthony shares. “They were a wonderful asset. Even though we were there for longer than we had originally hoped for, we had the time to learn how to be parents. So that when (Kennedy) came out, we had a lot of confidence that we knew how to take care of her. I’ll be forever grateful to the nurses at the NICU.”
Finding a support system in Tree House
With long days spent in the NICU, Tree House served as a serene place of rest and refuge for Anthony and Sara. The DeLegges were set-up in one of 40 private rooms, complete with a phone, Internet, cable TV, DVD player and personal bathroom. Water and juice were always on hand, which was crucial for Sara’s health issues. Free laundry facilities also meant the two could pack less and wash Kennedy’s clothes themselves.
But it was the Tree House staff’s warmth and compassion that truly made it a home away from home.
“Honestly, just having the people there to say a friendly, ‘How is your day going?’, ‘How’s Kennedy doing?’” had a huge impact, Anthony says.
“They were my support system,” Sara adds. “They made our Christmas and New Year’s memorable when we couldn’t be there with our family or our friends. It really meant a lot to us.”
Anthony and Sara’s gratitude extends to all those who have donated to Tree House and helped them have one less thing to worry about.
“I don’t think we could have afforded to stay in a hotel on top of paying for the adoption, all of the medical expenses, the flights, food, the legal fees, just everything,” Sara says. “We couldn’t have made it without you guys.”
The DeLegge family plans to pay it forward and give to the Tree House every year on Kennedy’s birthday — a legacy honoring how they came to meet their fast-growing, life-loving bundle of sassiness.
You can give to Tree House and help families like Anthony and Sara’s stay close to their recovering, ill or injured loved one. By providing the comforts of home, Tree House allows families to concentrate on what matters most.
About The Author
Shelby is a Senior Communications Specialist with the MultiCare Foundations department. More stories by this author