Hand to Hold

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Overcoming Stage Fright
by Kelli Kelley, founder

I was thrilled when I learned Hand to Hold had been accepted to participate in Philanthropitch 2017 – until I learned I would only have three minutes and five slides to present our mission. I would be presenting to seven judges and an audience of up to 900 people including community leaders, venture capitalists, and potential investors. No notes. No podium. Just me and a microphone.

Kelli pageantMy mind flashed to a memory of my brand new white patent shoes slipping and sliding as I ran around the catwalk of the 1976 Junior Miss Rusk County Beauty Pageant. I did not stop at the designated marks on the stage to wave at the judges. I clutched my ugly red, white and blue carnation bouquet tightly in my sweaty hands and made a beeline for the exit! I did great in the rehearsal, but once the lights went down, my boney little knees buckled and I bolted.

I was determined not to make a repeat performance at Philanthropitch.

I picked out the shoes first. I knew I could draw strength from four-inch heels. I then turned my attention to writing the perfect pitch. The process reminded me of a phrase attributed to French philosopher Blaine Pascal that translates to, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It is damn hard to deliver a powerful, informative, game-changing speech in three minutes flat. But with the help of the Hand to Hold staff and the guidance of the Philanthropitch and Mission Capital support team, we whittled and cut and tweaked and lamented until we got the pitch just right.

And then I practiced. I practiced while on the treadmill. I practiced wearing my four inch heels. I practiced while I drove. I practiced before I went to sleep and before my eyes opened each morning. I begged friends and family to let me practice for them until one by one they each rolled their eyes and told me they just could not hear it again!

On event night, I admit I thought about bolting a few times. But, there was too much riding on those three minutes. Instead of clutching a bouquet, I held up a nano preemie diaper designed for babies weighing less than two pounds. I walked onto the stage, looked right into the eyes of the judges, and I told them that up to 70 percent of NICU parents experience challenges with anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD. I told them that a parent’s mental health has a direct impact on the baby’s developmental outcomes. I told them that despite new guidelines for mental health services for NICU parents, access to these services is critically lacking. And I told them how Hand to Hold’s simple model has a tremendous impact in the lives of the families we serve. I closed by emphasizing that with the opportunity to participate in Mission Accelerator, a five-month program designed to fast-track the growth and impact of nonprofits in Greater Austin, and grants from investors, we could touch the lives of an additional 30,000 families by 2020.

kelli philanthropitchAnd while my heart may have skipped a beat or two, my feet stayed perfectly planted because this was Hand to Hold’s time to shine. We have a lot to be proud of. We still have a long way to go, but we have an amazing staff, board, volunteers, and donors who are dedicated to improving outcomes of NICU families. So instead of slipping and sliding, I walked my four-inch heels across the stage to accept our Ticket of Admission into the 2017 Mission Accelerator Class and collect our $30K in prize money. It was an amazing experience!

Special thanks to Dan Graham of Notley Ventures and Matt Kouri and the amazing staff at Mission Capital and Philanthropitch. And thank you to those who came out to support us, those who voted for us and to my patient friends and family for listening just one more time! Look out world, here we come!

Thank you all for your support,


Kelli Kelly Interviewed by Devin Thorpe of Forbes

devin thorpe

Devin Thorpe, contributor to Forbes Magazine, interviewed Kelli for his YouTube channel and podcast, Your Mark on the World. In the interview, Kelli and Devin talk about how Kelli's personal experiences led her to being a leader in social entrepreneurship whose mission is to provide parents with vital support during a NICU stay and beyond. Read the full article and watch the YouTube video here: The Painful Story of a Reluctant Entrepreneur.


NICU Moms Celebrated on Mother's Day

mother's day

This Mother's Day, Hand to Hold brought the celebrarion to NICU moms at St. David's Medical Center and St. David's Womens Center of Central Texas. The moms were treated to a delicious lunch, sweet treats, cards, goody bags and more! Thanks so much to the Hand to Hold team for making this Mother's Day a little brighter for this special group. 

More Good Stuff

Could This Artificial Womb Revolutionize Micropreemie Care?

lambAn artificial womb tested on fetal lambs has gotten quite a bit of attention in recent weeks. Micropreemie dad Eric Ruthford weighs in on the ethics of the experiment, long-term consequences, and whether or not this could be a game-changer for micropreemies.

What Does a Neonatal Therapist Do?

sue ludwigWe spoke with Sue Ludwig, OTR/L, founder of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists, to find out more about what a neonatal therapist does and why a family would need to see one in the NICU. NICU graduate parents can find out more about pediatric therapy in this article: Your First Experience with Pediatric Therapy: What Can I Expect? 


This Road We Call Preemie Life

mom and sonSome refer to the NICU as a roller coaster, but life after the NICU? It can be best described as a road, complete with bumps and twists and turns. Beth Puskas shares her thoughts on this road we call preemie life, and what the road has held for her.

Connect With Us

Like us on Facebook!Follow us on Twitter!Watch us on YouTubePin us on PinterestNICU Family Voices 28nicu family forum 28

We've moved!

mailHand to Hold has moved into new offices! Please make note of the following address for future correspondence:

Hand to Hold
13740 Research Blvd., Suite G1, Austin, TX 78750

Welcome New Board Member, Dr. Harper 

dr harperPlease welcome the newest addition to our Board of Directors, Clio Armitage Harper III, MD. Dr. Harper serves as Vice President of Austin Retina Associates and has traveled the world teaching and performing surgery with local physicians in Haiti, China, and more. He lives in Austin with his wife, Ruthie, also a physician, and their two children, Holly and Beau. 

Tickets & Tables Now Available for 2017 Baby Shower Luncheon

baby shower logo

You can now purchase tickets and tables for our 4th Annual Baby Shower Luncheon here. For event information, visit our website.

Thank You, Early Bird Sponsors!

We'd like to thank these generous Early Bird Sponsors:

St. David's Healthcare
Austin Area OBGYN
Ronda Gray & Lana Macrum-Craig
Austin's First Steps
Heather & Patrick Nichols
Allie & Dave Alter
Austin Regional Clinic
Austin Retina Associates
Covert Chevrolet
J.E. Dunn Construction
Kelli & Michael Kelley
The Pemberton Family

Fayruz Benyousef Consulting & Megan Helmbrecht Consulting Haegelin Construction
Cook-Walden Funeral Homes & Cemeteries

If you or your business are interested in sponsoring the 2017 Baby Shower Luncheon, contact Jennifer at  JenniferHayhurst@handtohold.org.

Dates to Remember 

calendarJune: PTSD Awareness Month
June 18: Father's Day
July 4: Fourth of July (US) 
August: Breastfeeding Awareness Month

National Immunization Awareness
Children' Eye Health & Safety Month
August 1-7: World Breastfeeding Week 

Shop Amazon Smile, Support NICU Families!

amazon smileIf you're an Amazon regular, make your next purchase through  smile.amazon.com. Select Hand to Hold as your charity of choice, and .5% of each eligible purchase will go towards providing support for NICU families. 

Volunteer Opportunities

Kelli visits VictoriaVolunteer your time to write supportive notes to be given to families in the NICU now and to say thanks to NICU staff during special recognition months. Or virtually correspond with a family who has had an experience similar to yours by becoming a Helping Hand peer mentor. Whether you have a little or a lot of time, we have a spot for you to make a difference today. Get started.

Connect to Support on Your Schedule

Julie Cruz and hubbieA baby's NICU stay or loss can be a lonely and isolating experience. Let our experienced Family Support Navigators help you connect to information, resources and support to help make the journey easier for you. Send us a request to begin

Past Issues

Read past eNewsletters.

   About Hand to Hold
Hand to Hold logoHand to Hold is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization providing comprehensive navigation resources and support programs to parents of preemies, babies born with special health care needs and those who have experienced a loss due to these or other complications. 

Hand to Hold - www.handtohold.org - 855-H2H-NICU

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