When a baby is facing a health crisis, they become the center of attention. But 7Everyday Hero Lauren Huttner, 16, focuses on something else: the family anxiously sitting in the waiting room.
"Families often have to stay in the NICU for a week to several months," she said. "During that time it is really important to have books to escape what's going on in the hospital."
Huttner donates children's books to the NICU waiting room at Denver's Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
"Books are a really good way to escape reality," she said.
Huttner said she knows siblings of the babies in the NICU can get restless just sitting in the waiting room.
So, every few months she returns with new and gently used books.
"We had 'Harry Potter,' we have the 'Twilight' series," she said.
The books are great for the young siblings, but also for the parents and grandparents who are likely worried about the newborn in the hospital.
"I think the parents of our NICU patients are mostly in a state of stress," said neonatologist Dr. Jan Kennaugh. "So, to see someone come and give their time and energy to bring books that helps their family — it's wonderful for families to see in a time of crisis in their lives."
Christie O'Neill visits the hospital and said the books have been a "wonderful blessing."
"We have read practically every book in that library," she said.
Huttner started the book program in 2013.
"When I was 12, I was looking for a project for my bat mitzvah and I wanted to have a direct impact and see that impact play out," she said.
Four years later, she's still making an impact.
"I get the books from my mom's office, which has a bin, and then I also go to book sales," she said. "Just coming back and bringing more books back is really important just so people have a way to escape."
Kennaugh said siblings need attention, too, and books create a good diversion for them, while also supporting their reading skills.
"Whether you want to read 'The Avengers' or 'Nancy Drew,' there are so many ways to escape all the scary stuff that's going on in the hospital," Huttner said.
To learn more about the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, click here.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Mitch on Facebook here and Twitter here. Nominate a 7Everyday hero here.