LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) At just 23 weeks and 4 days, in June of 2011, Tracy Pella had her two twin boys.
Tracy said, "My son Cohen passed away. Our son Cooper, who weighed 14.8 ounces survived and spent 134 days in the CHI Health St. Elizabeth NICU."
From that day on, it was a tough journey for Tracy and her husband Jesse. "It was very difficult, at the time I feel like we just put ourselves on autopilot."
As Cooper was being taken care of at the hospital, Tracy and Jesse, who are from Tecumseh, had to go back to work.
Tracy said, "We would make that drive everyday. We knew financially to support our family we had to continue to work, which was a very difficult decision."
Which is part of the reason they created the organization "Connected Forever." The mission is to support families who have experienced premature birth or infant loss through resources, education and emotional support.
Along the way, there have been signs that showed this is what they should be doing. The biggest one came on June of 2015 when they got a letter stamped June 1, 2015, the same day of their son's birthday. On that day they found out they got their 501(c)(3) status.
Obtaining that status allows donors to Connected Forever to reduce their own taxable incomes by deducting the amounts of their donations given, and reduce their personal income taxes.
Currently, Connected Forever is accepting applications for financial assistance through March 1st. Financial distribution will vary depending on requests and availability. Those who apply must have had a stay at a NICU in a Nebraska hospital during 2015 in order to qualify.
Connected Forever is also currently helping families through education. For instance, they are working with hospital staff to teach them ways to better deal with families staying in the NICU.
Tracy said, "We felt like we experienced a lot of the journey that a lot of NICU families go through. We just wanted to be there for other families. We wanted them to feel like they weren't alone. There was someone there that understands them, that supports them and just to be there in anyway that is needed."