The Blood Center has various partners throughout the community who help us save lives and continuously accomplish our mission. Recently, we hosted a blood drive with a new partner whose mission is as honorable as any and whose story is profound.
The MILA Foundation was founded by Mike and Maria Cantu-Gonzales in honor of their daughter, Mila, whom they lost due to complications from her premature delivery. The entire experience of having to live in the NICU and not knowing the future of their child opened their eyes to hardships that families go through every day. It also turned their grief into inspiration to help as many people as possible who have to deal with what they had to.
“I had never experienced life in the NICU. I had never known anyone that had to live in the NICU; it was all new to me,” Maria said. “My husband and I realized what an emotional rollercoaster it was and how from one day to the next you never knew if they would make it or not. When she passed, I knew that I wanted to do something to help the other families that were experiencing what we were experiencing.”
The MILA Foundation works with families at Texas Children’s Hospital that have been affected by a micro-preemie birth or infant loss. Families affected by micro-preemie births and infant loss both receive care packages from the MILA Foundation, but the best gift the foundation provides is information, support and encouragement for the families. Helping the families deal with the stressful emotions and to heal from the experience is what drives Maria’s passion.
“It is a very rewarding experience. You never know who you will be able touch and be able to help. Just the other we were able to pray with the staff who were going through a lot. It’s difficult for everyone when a baby is lost. To be able to encourage the families and staff really feels like we are serving our purpose,” Maria said.
Partnering with The Blood Center is the MILA Foundation’s latest step in helping the families who are struggling with the pain of the reality in which they find themselves. Maria is excited about what the partnership means for the many families who need not just the MILA Foundation’s help, but also the help of the community to make sure that the infants have the blood supply that they need to fight their medical battles. Blood donations helped Maria and Mike spend time with their daughter that they might not have had without it, and it is important to them that others get to experience that time as well.
“Because of generous donors we were able to spend seven weeks of life with Mila. That was a priceless gift our family was given,” Maria said.
The MILA Foundation had a great start to their blood drive initiative by exceeding their projected numbers by 55 percent. The foundation plans on having two blood drives a year with the next one scheduled for the last week of September 2016.