In a celebration of life by Miracle Babies Support Foundation, three community members will be spotlighted Saturday night during the nonprofit organization’s annual awards dinner gala.
Miracle Babies aims to help the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Schneider Regional Medical Center give quality care to critically ill, premature and sick infants.
The annual awards dinner not only raises funds to drive the mission, but also honors individuals who support the foundation and impact the community in their own ways.
Miracle Babies founder Cleone Boston started the foundation in 2001, two years after delivering premature twins. The older twin died two days after birth and Boston has since made it her mission to help newborns in critical condition.
Since its founding, Miracle Babies has donated more than $150,000 in equipment to Schneider’s Neonatal Unit. Beyond the medical equipment, however, the foundation is most known for the support it gives to parents and families going through the ordeal of saving a premature baby.
Among this year’s honorees are local businessman Pash Daswani and his wife, Kavita. A long-time resident of St. Thomas and an active member of the community, Daswani first put up his jewelry store in the early 1980s in the more obscure side streets off of Main Street. But hard work eventually paid off and they were able to move to Main Street itself, where thicker foot traffic lifted the business.
The Daswanis first met Boston in 2010 at a Masonic function where she was receiving donations for Miracle Babies.
“Immediately after she had spoken, Kavi and I were just so deeply affected by her speech,” Pash Daswani said. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to help this cause.’”
Supporting Miracle Babies has a special significance for the Daswanis, whose child Dhiraj, or DJ, was born with cerebral palsy. Now 19, DJ is unable to walk or talk and spends much of his time in a wheelchair, but is nonetheless loved and cared for, according to Daswani.
“I know that a lot of parents are not in that position,” he said, explaining that while they were fortunate enough to have been able to provide for DJ’s very specific needs, not all newborns with special needs are so lucky.
Daswani said that they have since been matching that initial Masonic donation to Miracle Babies, dollar for dollar, every year. Last year, the board of directors of the India Association and its president, Mulo Alwani, also decided to match the Daswanis’ yearly donation, essentially tripling the amount that the organization first received from the Masons.
From the time Daswani learned that he and his wife were being honored, he embarked on a campaign, urging his friends to attend the awards gala or to donate to the cause. Not one person came back with a “no,” he said.
“Every single person just plain out asked, ‘How can I help?’ and ‘How much do you want?’” he said.
The Daswanis said they are proud to be honored alongside two other dedicated community members, Charlene Kehoe and Cleopatra St. John.
Nine years ago, Kehoe founded Cancer Support VI, a local cancer support group that provides information and services to cancer patients and their families. Through the territory, Cancer Patient fund, managed by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, provides temporary financial support to uninsured or underinsured cancer patients.
St. John has spent years as a dedicated registered nurse at Schneider Hospital and will also be recognized at the event.
The awards dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the Mark C. Marin Center at Antilles School. The Daswanis are urging the community to come out to the dinner, not just for the honorees but for a foundation they believe is changing lives, one infant at a time.
“Truly and honestly, they do an incredible job,” said Daswani. “What they’re doing on a daily basis sometimes can mean the difference between a child living or dying.”