The Ytreberg family and Holy Cross School community recently presented a check for $1,659.57 to a representative from Golisano Children’s Hospital to benefit the neonatal intensive care unit.
In 2007, the Ytreberg family lost their first-born son, Jackson. He was born two months premature, and spent 31 days being loved by his family and cared for by NICU staff.
“He had to have a surgery two weeks after birth and he didn’t make it,” said Denise Ytreberg, Jackson’s mother. “We ended up all being able to be there with him. We have felt, ever since that day, that because of everything the NICU had available to us, we had that time with him. We have always been extremely grateful.”
Joshua Ytreberg was born two years later, followed by Teagan Ytreberg another two years later. In 2017, Tristan Ytreberg made his way into the world two months premature. Born with a bleed in his lung, Tristan was not likely to survive. But with the help of the doctors, nursing staff and supportive school community around them, Tristan lived.
The family often looks for ways to honor Jackson’s memory and celebrate Tristan’s life. Starting in the summer of 2018, Joshua and Teagan came up with the idea to lead a “Star Wars”-themed Jar Wars fundraiser at Holy Cross School. They created a PowerPoint presentation to pitch the initiative to Principal Mary Martell.
“As a school, we teach our students to use the gifts we receive from God in service to others,” Martell said. “We do a service project each month. Many of our service projects are initiated by our students, and we paired the Jar Wars fundraiser with Red Ribbon Week to help our students see the connections between making good choices and doing good for others.”
Joshua and Teagan collected jars throughout the summer, decorated them with photos of their siblings, and assigned a jar to each classroom for the weeklong fundraiser. The fundraiser kicked off around Jackson’s birthday and the Holy Cross School immediately got behind the initiative.
Students, faculty and staff shared their spare change, and 10 students emptied their piggy banks for the project. One young boy needed help getting off the school bus because his book bag was too heavy, according to the Ytreberg family.
“I liked Jar Wars, because we got to help a lot of babies that are sick in the NICU,” Teagan said.
Joshua said he enjoyed preparing the jars and creating the PowerPoint, and was motivated to “help babies in the NICU like his brothers.”
“It is inspiring to see philanthropy in action with a young generation,” said Meghan Barnhardt, associate director of community affairs at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “The students here understand the importance of giving back to their community, and they are so hands-on and into the process. It’s also humbling to see families who suffer a loss and still feel that connection with the hospital, wanting to give back to help other families heal and come together as a community.”