PENSACOLA — More than 400 children and family members gathered Sept. 30 at the annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reunion of The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart.

The Children’s Hospital’s annual NICU reunion allows families to reconnect with the nurses, doctors and team members who cared for them throughout their journey, as well as with the other families with whom they may have grown close.

Dressed in costume to celebrate this year’s “Candy Land” theme, guests enjoyed games, story time, crafts and snacks, as well as indoor and outdoor play areas.

For many event volunteers, such as the Vignes family, The Children’s Hospital’s annual NICU reunion is not only a celebration; it is also an opportunity to give back.

Chloe Vignes delivered her son, Ripley, in an emergency C-section two months before her due date. Ripley was born weighing only 2 pounds, 10 ounces and 15 inches long. Ripley stayed in the NICU for 28 days before he was discharged home.

“Our experience at Sacred Heart was remarkable, and it’s hard to imagine what we would have done without the NICU,” said Chloe. “They just welcomed us with loving arms. They are still a part of our family today. That’s why we do all we can to support the current NICU families who are in the same situation that we were."

Chloe and her husband, Beau, have served on the planning committees for the Sacred Heart Foundation’s annual Preemie Cup and The Children’s Hospital’s annual NICU reunion. Today, their son Ripley is a healthy and happy kindergarten student at Gulf Breeze Elementary School.