Eight years ago, Addi Byrd was born 10 weeks early and weighed approximately 2 pounds. The first few months of her life were spent in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati.
Addi’s mother, Kate Byrd, briefly described what it was like seeing her child in that unit.
“That time was really dark,” Byrd said. “It really made us dark.”
Addi was able to make a healthy recovery. Now, she is using her story to help other premature-born children.
Kate recalls spending her days in the hospital, reading to her newborn daughter. Years later, Byrd said she and Addi came up with the idea to help give back to other children.
“We pretty much knew when she was in the NICU that we wanted to give back,” Byrd said. “There was always a gift that was left by her bedside by other families and organizations that really helped us out.”
Every year in Addi’s birth month of September, the Byrd family holds a book donation drive through their PayPal and Venmo accounts: @books-with-the-byrds.
The book of choice? Addi’s personal favorite, “Cuddle Bear” by author Kane Miller.
Addi’s reason for loving the book isn’t far off from her own personal mission.
“I like that [Cuddle Bear] helps people,” Addi said, “and he gives a lot of hugs.”
Kate followed up with Addi in wholehearted agreement.
“This year, we plan on donating the plush toy and the book together,” Byrd said. “We both definitely like how [the book] talks about hugs and making people feel better.”
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Last year, the Byrds had a plan of gathering up seven $100 donations to buy books for Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. This year, they’re shooting for a much higher goal.
“Usually we have the donation up for a couple of days, but this year, she had such a huge and enormous goal, that we needed a bit longer,” Byrd said. “...I’m proud to say this year, we’ve reached our goal of $8,000.”
The Byrd family’s annual donation has caught the attention of the media, too. Local news stations such as WLWT 5 have covered the story for the past two years. Last year, the family made an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show.
Byrd said this newfound recognition has not only led to more donations, but has also inspired others to take up their own causes to support NICU children and their families.
“It’s pretty emotional when we go every year to donate the books,” Byrd said. “We’re all in tears, and it’s so nice to have the moms we help reach out to us. Given all the attention, we’ve also inspired so many others to have book drives that occur after they hear about Addi.”
Byrd said while some donations came from Oxford locals and businesses, a sizable portion were from outside of the immediate area. One of the local organizations included Miami University’s synchronized skating team.
“Miami skating girls were really awesome,” Byrd said. “Each one of them reached out to us, some of the girls even got together with us, it was just a really special moment.”
By the end of this year’s donation drive, the Byrd family will have donated over 300 Cuddle Bear books and plushes to children in the Good Samaritan Hospital.