Hundreds of NICU families graduate at Q2 Stadium

Hundreds of parents and children of all ages stood in line for the opportunity to cross the stage as NICU graduates.

"We waited in line for about 30 minutes for my daughter to put on her little cap and just walk the stage. There has got to be hundreds of families here," said NICU parent Emily Fite.

Families from across central Texas made their way to Q2 Stadium on Sunday to celebrate, support and reunite with former NICU patients.

"Our little NICU grads get to celebrate their journey entering this world and how hard they had to fight to stay in it, and we get to reunite with medical personnel that were in the hospital with us," Fite said.

"It is just a long journey," Kelli Kelley, founder and CEO of Hand to Hold, said. "Hand to Hold comes alongside these NICU families and walks that journey with them. We have a mental health peer specialist to work in all of the NICUs. They are at their baby’s bedside and supporting them through those very difficult times."

Graduates walked across the stage in green hats every hour. The ceremony served as a memorable moment and a milestone for many.

"The NICU is the neonatal intensive care unit, it is the ICU for teeny tiny babies. To meet your child and become a parent in that environment, you can't picture a sunshining day like today," Fite said. "My daughter was born at 34 weeks, weighing 3 lbs 15 oz. She had a 37-day NICU stay. She is 18 months old now."


"We just had a dad graduate with his son," Kelley said. "He told me he was in the NICU. He was born at 24 weeks and his son was born at 24 weeks."

This founder said this is the second year the event has been held. The crowds are continuing to grow each year, and more graduates cross the stage.

"Today is all about really celebrating all these NICU grads overcame, and all they are yet to become, reaching all of those major milestones," Kelley said.