Elk River mom makes holiday care packages for patients at Maple Grove NICU

An Elk River woman is bringing the spirit of Christmas to her local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, eleven years after her son was delivered prematurely.

Deanna Gregoire started ‘Rylan’s Reindeer’ in 2013 with hopes of delivering some holiday cheer to NICU families at Maple Grove Hospital, following her son Rylan’s two-week stay there.

Rylan, who is now 11 years old, was born at 34 weeks gestation. Gregoire says from her time spent in the NICU, she recognizes the items that will be helpful to parents.

"I know how scary it can be, and I can’t imagine spending Christmas there," she said.  "And so I thought, what could I do to bring some joy and smiles to their lives?"

Gregoire starts collecting donations for the care packages every July and says the north metro community has been extremely generous over the last decade. 

"It's just sort of word of mouth, and it spreads like wildfire," she said.

Baby items made specifically for premature babies and things that make mom and dad’s life easier during long hospital stays are among the many gifts packed into the care packages.

"Handing them off and seeing how grateful the nurses are… it’s the best feeling ever," she said.

She said she’s received inquiries to expand ‘Rylan’s Reindeer’ to other hospitals – a request she is considering next year.