Sherri Shanahan holds baby Jesse in the hospital with baby’s father

Sherri Shanahan holds baby Jesse in the hospital with baby’s father

Nanaimo parents hope baby’s legacy helps others

NANAIMO – Fundraiser helps pay for baby monitor at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Organizers of the Jesse’s Gift fundraiser know exactly what they will do with money raised in memory of Jesse Darlene Shanahan – buy equipment for the neonatal intensive care unit of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Born nine weeks premature at two pounds, 12 ounces, Jesse died at just six weeks old. She leaves behind parents Sherri and Mike and older sister Marlee. Her death was sudden and unexpected.

“She was amazingly beautiful,” her mother said. “She never cried and had a special spark about her.”

Though the loss of a beautiful little baby is heart wrenching, Jesse isn’t moving on without leaving a legacy.

For the first five weeks and four days of her life, Jesse spent her time between the Nanaimo and Victoria NICUs. While in Victoria, her parents stayed at Jeneece Place, a residence for parents traveling to Victoria for their child’s medical care. Their 10-day stay left a lasting impression on Jesse’s mother.

“I was amazed that one girl, Jeneece Edroff, could accomplish such an amazing feat in fundraising and decided if she could, we could, too,” said Shanahan.

A nurse herself in the emergency department of NRGH, Shanahan understands the constant and ever-evolving need for equipment, so in Jesse’s name started raising money to purchase a central monitor, a piece of equipment that will provide nurses with another tool for monitoring infants.

“We received an incredible level of care at the NICU in Nanaimo and wanted to show how grateful we were,” said Shanahan. “The monitor will allow nurses to check in with each baby even when they are tending another infant.”

The cost of the machine is a hefty $60,000.

“When I heard the price tag my heart sank,” said Shanahan. “But I got a real boost when the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation said they would kick in half of the cost up to $30,000.”

The Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation, which fundraises to buy added equipment at the hospital, wanted to help after seeing the family’s strength, resilience and determination.

The NICU at NRGH draws infants from all over Vancouver Island and the unit is 80-per cent full or more at all times.

To date Jesse’s Gift has raised more than $13,500, with $6,000 of it coming from her celebration of life service. Shanahan said it’s helped to have an account set up at the three local Scotiabanks in Jesse’s name but that social media has played a major role in helping grow her daughter’s legacy.

“We have a account that’s raised over $5,000 and our Facebook page, Jesse’s Gift, has attracted more than 250 likes. People from as far away as the States are giving,” said Shanahan. “Some anonymously while others share their reasons.”

She added that the stories behind why people are donating vary but all have a common theme – one that she and her family firmly believe.

“What’s important in life is helping others,” she said. “It isn’t about stuff we accumulate, it’s about making life better for others.”

Jesse’s older sister, four-year-old, Marlee, is getting that lesson too. “She’s learning how important giving back is and is excited about turning over the big cheque.”

Jesse’s legacy is a message of paying it forward her parents hope will continue, even after the monitor is purchased.

To donate to Jesse’s Gift, visit any Scotiabank location in Nanaimo or visit The Facebook page is