Here comes the sun!
At least that’s what Ella Sterling, child artist for the 2013 Wine & Food Fest thinks. Ella’s original watercolor painting will be auctioned at the Wine Fest Grand Tasting and Auction on February 23, 2013. Ella, now a healthy, active kindergartner, was born in March of 2007, nearly three months premature. She spent the first two months of her life in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Children’s Hospital.
Ella’s premature birth was totally unexpected, according to her mom, Sara Sterling. “I had a normal, healthy pregnancy, so when my water broke suddenly, I thought, they’ll be able to stop this and I’ll go home.” But, Ella had other plans. Born at just 30 weeks and weighing in at three pounds, Ella was rushed immediately from North Collier Hospital in Naples to The Children’s Hospital (in the special NICU ambulance purchased through donations). Sara requested an immediate discharge from the hospital and joined Ella that day at The Children’s Hospital. Taking an early leave from her teaching job, Sara spent every day at The Children’s Hospital.
Although Sara knew nothing about The Children’s Hospital prior to Ella’s birth, she was relieved that the hospital was so close to her home in Naples.
“If we didn’t have this facility here, we would have had to go to Miami or Tampa and rent a place to stay. Because the Children’s Hospital was so close, I was able to spend nights in my own bed and every day by Ella’s side.”
From the initial contact, the staff at The Children’s Hospital was able to put Sara and her husband James at ease. “The nurses were amazing, beginning with Marilyn, who picked Ella up as part of the transport team. She made us feel totally comfortable. All of the nursing staff was professional and caring. They didn’t just take care of Ella, they took care of my husband and me.”
“With a preemie, life is an emotional roller coaster, everything is two steps forward, one step back,” Sara said. “But, because of the staff at the Children’s Hospital, we were well-prepared to deal with the setbacks.” When Ella left the hospital after two months, she was sent home with oxygen and monitors, but Sara and James were well-equipped to handle their daughter’s medical needs. “The Children’s Hospital not only trained us to use the equipment, they provided us with a support network. We were able to call with questions and concerns whenever we wanted and the nurses would call us, just to check in and see how we were doing. We are so thankful that Ella wound up in Fort Myers.”
Wine Fest Chairman Dr. Steve Machiz says the children’s artwork is typically one of the highest-bid lots.
The Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest is a signature event of the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides funding to local charities serving local children. It begins the evening of Feb. 22, when local families host Chef Vintner dinners in private homes around Southwest Florida for invited guests donating a minimum of $1,000 per seat. Each dinner will showcase wines by featured vintners and culinary offerings from Southwest Florida’s finest chefs.
Then on Feb. 23, the chefs, vintners, dinner guests and others come together again, at the Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club for the Grand Tasting and Auction. Participating chefs prepare their favorite signature dishes to accompany the wine tastings.
The Auction features exceptional packages of special and unique wines, exclusive trips, amazing dining experiences and more. Last year’s event netted $2.3 million for Southwest Florida Children’s Charities whose primary beneficiary is The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. To view a video about Ella and an interview with her mother Sara, or for more information about the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest or ticket sales, visit www.swflwinefest.org or call 239-278-3900.