Bel Air teen showers babies with gifts

It's not every day that a person makes a selfless and heartfelt donation to a hospital. It's even rarer when it comes from a teenager.

Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Schirmer is the exception. She chose to complete her National Junior Honor Society service project by donating to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit. Schirmer got the idea from a family friend who works for the hospital.

The Bel Air eighth-grader hosted a "virtual" baby shower online, raising $300 to purchase supplies. On July 8, Schirmer presented playpens, mobiles and handmade baby hats to the neonatal intensive care unit staff and patients.

"I donated to GBMC because our friend works there, and said that the hospital is always in need of things for the NICU," Schirmer said. "The things that we donated are not necessarily items that the hospital would purchase."

Her desire to give back to the neonatal unit also stemmed from a health scare she experienced as an infant. When Schirmer was 4 months old, she stopped breathing and was admitted to an area hospital.

"My parents told me how all the patients had to share the toys and chairs in the hospital," Schirmer said. "There was never enough stuff to go around so, hopefully, the playpens will help the babies in the NICU."

Nearly 500 infants, or around 10 percent of all infants delivered each year at GBMC, are treated in the NICU, according to hospital officials. An average stay in the NICU is about 16 days, but it varies for each patient.

Dr. Maria Pane, a neonatologist at GBMC, was on hand to meet Schirmer and spoke about how the donation will benefit the unit.

"It is important for newborns to develop their sense of eyesight tracking and the mobiles have such wonderful color schemes for this age group," Pane said. "They are also calming to newborns whose mothers cannot be with them every moment."

The teen's parents, Kristen and Buddy Schirmer, helped their daughter to organize the contribution. They said she has given to charity many times over the years, including donating toys to the needy and making jewelry for an auction for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Kristen Schirmer said that her daughter had been given several generic service project ideas but that she wanted to do something meaningful and help as many people as possible.

"Cassidy has a heart of gold and will do anything to help if she can," Kristen Schirmer said. "When Cassidy likes an idea, she will run with it and finish the project without cutting corners."

While the 13-year-old said she would like to become a figure skating coach and an engineer, she would also like to continue her work with charity, possibly by hosting another virtual baby shower.

"At GBMC, we feel that every baby — even those who come under extenuating circumstances — should have their births celebrated," Pane said. "We are so thankful to Cassidy and her family for this wonderful and generous gift."

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