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Marking Babies’ Milestones in the NICU

As she watched her twin granddaughters fight for their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Patti Ashmore was in a familiar place. Thirty-five years earlier, her son was a Benefis NICU baby, too.

“Just watching your child struggle, then your grandchildren, you just never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “We had moments we didn’t know if they were going to live or not.”

On the fourth anniversary of her granddaughter, Isabella, leaving the NICU after 160 days, Patti said her experiences inspired her to help bring a sense of normalcy—and even happiness—to other families with babies in the hospital. In ways small and large, donors and volunteers make a difference every day for families in the Benefis NICU.

“If I could do something for the NICU, I wanted to. It’s just a special place,”

–Patti Ashmore, NICU volunteer

Patti makes Halloween costumes for NICU babies. Her favorite costume was a ladybug, but Patti also made felt costumes for a hungry caterpillar, superheroes, candy treats, and a ballerina.

“Really the joy it brings to their families is what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s about bringing normalcy to a situation that’s scary and not at all normal.”

The costumes lie on the delicate babies, and their families can take them home as a memento.

The babies in their costumes are darling, and Patti said they help parents celebrate a milestone.

“A baby’s first Halloween or Christmas is a big deal. It needs to be celebrated even if your baby is not home yet,” she said.

Patti’s husband, Wiley Kendle, does his part for NICU families, too. He dresses up as Santa Claus and holds the tiny babies celebrating their first Christmas.

One of the most precious gifts to Benefis Health System is our volunteers’ time and labor. Our volunteers rock babies, knit hats, visit with families in the Emergency Department, answer phones, file paperwork, help customers in the gift shops, greet patients, enrich the lives of senior care residents, and help patients and families through Benefis Peace Hospice of Montana. If you’d like more information, visit


Click the image below to view our photo gallery

Benefis NICU Baby Photos


[Photography by David Rabenberg Photography, per Facebook post.]