Val Saltzman is a longtime, well-known Westporter. A Staples grad, now teaching science in Bridgeport, she also teaches skiing in winter, swimming in summer, and officiates high school and college sports.
When her sister died of breast cancer, Val became a fierce fundraiser for that cause.
Now she’s added another organization to her list of activities. Tiny Miracles helped Val and her husband, William Nealon, even before her twins were born.
That was 20 months ago — 11 weeks earlier than expected. Mikaela was just 2 pounds 10 ounces. Beckham weighed 3 pounds.
Tiny Miracles — a non-profit offering emotional support, practical assistance, supplies and information to parents of children born prematurely — was there for Val during her long bed rest.
They were there too during the infants’ hospitalization, and after they finally went home.
Tiny Miracles also helped Carrie Cromwell-Hunt. The Westporter’s twins were even smaller than Val’s: Mason was 2 pounds 2 ounces, Eloise an almost unfathomable 1 pound, 12 ounces. Both were 13 inches in length.
As soon as they were born, they were connected to wires and tubes. Finally, Carrie and her husband could hold one of them, every other day.
But complications followed. Carrie and her husband were on a roller-coaster ride that never seemed to end. At the same time, they were caring for an older child at home.
A couple of months later, a Tiny Miracles parent visited Carrie in the NICU. The new mother was having one of her lowest days — and that’s saying something.
The TTMF parent had been in a similar situation 14 years earlier. She’d had 26-week-old twins, after giving birth to an older girl.
“It was the first time I met someone who knew what this all felt like,” Carrie recalls. “I suddenly didn’t feel so alone and lost.”
The Tiny Miracles mom showed pictures and shared stories of how well her girls were doing. “If they could get through this, then my twins could too!” Carrie thought.
Throughout her babies’ long NICU stay, Carrie met someone different each week. The women got her through what had been a lonely, frightening time. Today, both children are doing great.
Tiny Miracles does the same good work for 1200 families a year. Many live in Westport and Weston. As their children grow and thrive, some mothers become TTMF volunteers themselves.
In a little over a decade, the low-key organization has made a huge, life-changing impact.
This Friday (May 6, 6:30 p.m.), Tiny Miracles celebrates its 11th anniversary gala, at The Inn at Longshore. The event will raise awareness of TTMF, and help it help even more families in need. The goal is to expand to more hospitals, with hopes of becoming a national organization.
There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and live and silent auctions. A DJ provides dance music. There’s a lot to celebrate .
Just ask Val Saltzman, Carrie Cromwell-Hunt — or any of Tiny Miracles’ now happy, healthy kids.
(For more information on Tiny Miracles’ “Club Miracles” gala, click here.)