story and photos by Lauren Leatherby, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Dickson Street’s Garden Room was decked out in patriotic colors for the Jackson L. Graves Foundation’s annual Red, White & Baby Blue event
on Friday (June 29). Guests sipped drinks and dined on hors d’eouvres while listening to the bluesy tunes of local band Leah & the Mojo Doctors, all while raising money to improve the quality of life for both infants in neonatal
intensive care and their families.
Angie Graves, co-founder of the Jackson L. Graves Foundation, was excited to introduce the night’s special guest, Dr. Amir Lahav, director of a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate in Boston.
Graves spoke about his research goals for optimizing brain development and the long-term outcomes for extremely premature infants.
Lahav found inspiration for the lab after his own children spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. In 2007, Lahav’s wife delivered twins after only 25 weeks. Together, they weighed less than 3 pounds, and the doctor didn’t think they would make it, Lahav said.
Five years later, Lahav’s twins are thriving. Because of his first-hand experiences, Lahav has dedicated himself to improving the quality of life for children born prematurely, seeking further to eliminate problems down the road that stem from prematurity.
“We want to make better survivors,” Lahav said. “We need to give them the best environment to grow.”
Much of Lahav’s research surrounds the importance of a mother’s voice and heartbeat to the development of a healthy child.
Hosts James and Angie Graves began the Jackson L. Graves Foundation after their first born son, Jackson, was born prematurely at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 2004 and died four months later. The foundation works to enhance the quality of life for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit and provide family support for relatives
of the infants.
The Graves Foundation recently celebrated the opening of a new wing at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital complete with an expansion of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The wing includes private rooms for infant patients’ families and a playroom for the patients’ siblings. The foundation’s push for private rooms came from the Graves’ past experiences.
“When Jackson was in the hospital, we just thought that private rooms would have been such a benefit to have,” Graves said. “While private rooms don’t affect the quality of the care the infant receives, for the family, it could be the difference between night and day.”
One of the private rooms has even been named after Jackson.
Tickets for the event began at a very affordable $30. Several items and packages were raffled off throughout the night, including a party for 16 in the Cox Communications box at a 2013 Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball game. Proceeds from the raffle will go to the Lahav Lab’s research.