Aspirus NICU celebration kicks off - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Aspirus NICU celebration kicks off

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RIB MOUNTAIN (WAOW) -

Children who once fought for their lives in the hospital celebrated life Thursday.

They gathered with their families at the annual Aspirus NICU celebration in Rib Mountain to share their big hopes for the future.

15-month-old Eli Leary is enjoying life. But a little more than a year ago things weren't so happy.

"My son was born at the gestational 31 weeks, so we were there for about a month," said Danielle Leary of Wausau.

He was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, at Aspirus Hospital in Wausau.

"He would make strides and then every once and a while have him fall a few steps back so it's definitely just a challenge of waiting," said Leary. 

Now little Eli is moving along just fine. He smiles, giggles, and loves high-fives.

"He's developmentally exactly where he should be for his age, size-wise is where he should be for two months premature," said Anthony Leary of Wausau.

The 4th annual Aspirus NICU celebration brought families, like Eli's, together to share their own hopes for the future.

Hospital leaders say the NICU has served almost 2,000 babies since 2006.

"It's just great to see how the kids are doing and to celebrate their lives together," said NICU Manager, Sue McDonald.

The party took place at Doepke Park in Rib Mountain.

"Smiles and a good time and that the families could reconnect," said McDonald.

Eli's parents spent the day remembering how their little boy has come so far.

"He was born at two pounds, so we crossed NFL off the list right away," said Anthony Leary.

They say they're just happy he's here. With a chance to follow his dreams.

Organizers say the event continues to grow. They say next year they may have to find a new venue to make room for the growing crowd.

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