Chocolate used to raise money for local NICU

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In 2003, Anna Quayle was born prematurely and only enjoyed 11 hours with her family. In 2004, Star Quayle, her mother, celebrated what would have been Anna’s first birthday by hosting the first Chocolate Extravaganza. Since that time, the annual Chocolate Extravaganza has grown dramatically, raising thousands of dollars each year for neonatal intensive care units and pediatric units in Utah County.

This year’s event, organized by the Utah Valley Healthcare Foundation, drew hundreds of guests to the Vivant Conference in Provo on Friday night.

The event included a silent and live auction with items ranging from baskets of chocolate to a vacation to a 15th century home in France that sold for $2,600.

Rosalee Howard, from Benjamin, donated local honey from Sidney B’s Honey.

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]“They need the support,” Howard said. “Things are expensive, and babies are precious.”

While perusing these auction items, guests enjoyed food from various chef stations. From a spiced pumpkin soup with chocolate swirl to shrimp dusted with cocoa powder, nearly all the stations incorporated chocolate into their dishes.

The night ended with a performance by Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand.

Even the band jokingly joined the auction, offering to auction off a date with drummer Bart Olson.

“Who’s got 10?” Shupe said.

Proceeds from the event are donated to the NICU and pediatric units of Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Orem Community Hospital and American Fork Hospital.

Gordon Lassen, this year’s Guardian Angel award recipient and respiratory manager, reminded guests of the impact their contribution has.

“I just simply want to tell you that what you’re doing here is right,” he said. “It changes outcomes of children’s lives and the lives of their parents and families. We’ve seen it over and over and over again.”

Because of the high birth rate in Utah County, these units are some of the busiest in the country. Last year more than 1,600 children spent their first day of life in Intermountain Healthcare’s Utah County NICUs.

In both units, doctors, nurses and other staff place the infants family at the center encouraging parents to participate in their child’s care as much as possible.

Megan Sturges, the Utah Valley Health Care Foundation executive assistant, said the work touches her on a daily basis.

“Every single day I know I’ve made a difference; everyone on our team has made a difference because of events like this,” she said. “It’s really empowering. You’re like, ‘I want to help out more.’”

Doctor Stephen S. Minton, the head neonatologist, has cared for around 21,000 babies during 32-year tenure at the hospital. He said the experience creates lifelong relationships on both sides.

“When you get the opportunity to share both the sadness and the joy it’s a very, very powerful thing,” he said. “The staff and the parents and all of us take care of the babies together. We admit families not just babies.”

Michelle Sharader, a Provo resident, was a member of one of those families. In 2004, she gave birth to quintuplets at only 23 1/2 weeks. Within a week, all five had passed on.

“We watched the doctors and nurses just love our kids and do everything they could to save them,” Sharader said. “They put their heart and soul into their work; and when your in such a fragile state, trying to watch your children survive and there is nothing you can do, you watch these employees do everything they can.”

Sharader and her husband have donated the house in France for the live auction for the past four years.

“In a small way we do this because we still love [the staff] even though our experience didn’t turn out they way we wanted it to,” she said. “When your children die, you have so little to remember. … We have good memories because of them.”

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