View All News >

Moments that Matter: Jessica Ritchie

December 18, 2023

Moments that Matter

I’ve had many, many moments that have mattered immensely to me during my time with the Foundation, but one moment has meant most to me personally. In October 2011 (prior to me being part of the Foundation team) we had our second son who was born with a congenital gastrointestinal defect resulting in him needing to have corrective surgery at one week old and subsequent hospitalizations.

Leading up to and following his surgery he was in the NICU at UPMC Harrisburg. His stay was a little over two weeks, which I recognize is a short stay compared to the weeks and months that some of our family’s face. Nevertheless, it was a highly emotional and exhausting time for us and the NICU team was amazing and incredibly supportive.

At the time, the Harrisburg NICU was a large open ward-style floor. The NICU service line had grown immensely over the years, which resulted in a cramped space with little room for privacy and staff workspace. It did however have great views overlooking the surrounding river and bridges. One late afternoon as I rocked my son, I could see the traffic building up on the I-83 bridge as it does every afternoon at rush hour. I remember thinking in that moment, I would give anything just to be able to sit in traffic and go about my day rather than be in the NICU filled with immense worry about my newborn and his impending surgery.

Fast forward to six years later in 2017, our son was a thriving and healthy first-grader and I had since been hired by the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation. Hospital leadership approached the Foundation with the plans to completely renovate the labor and delivery, maternity, and antepartum units, as well as build and expand a new NICU. By this point in my fundraising career, I had done several capital campaigns, but I knew the NICU would be the one that meant the most because of my personal experience as a parent of a NICU baby.

That fundraising campaign remains the easiest one I’ve ever completed, and I am still so grateful to the Grass Family for their leadership support to build the amazing space that is the Alexander Grass NICU. The new NICU is three times larger than the previous space and features an intensive care unit to treat babies that need the highest acute care, as well as fully private rooms that are much more baby and family friendly.

At the ribbon cutting in 2018 we invited past NICU babies to participate. My son attended as a “NICU Graduate” to cut the ribbon, which was such a special honor for both of us. As we were packing up from the event, I happened to look out the window and saw the evening commuter traffic building up on the I-83 bridge. It caught me off-guard, and I was immediately transported back to a few years earlier. It was such a meaningful moment for me as I thought about how much impact the Foundation team and our donors had made in constructing the new space and improving the patient experience for NICU families for generations to come.

We’re looking forward to the projects that 2024 will bring our way and I’m certain I have many more meaningful moments in the year ahead, but the NICU renovation will always remain close to my heart.

Written by Jessica Ritchie

President, UPMC Pinnacle Foundation

Jess Ritchie NICU Ribbon Cutting