It’s no secret that becoming a mother changes you. As a nurse practitioner, I’ve seen it firsthand from the countless families I’ve helped as they brought new life into our community. Each mom has had her own challenges, but there is always beauty in the beginning of a relationship with a child.
I also have another lens through which to view motherhood: today marks the second Mother’s Day that I will celebrate with my daughter. She was born just before Mother’s Day 2020, amid the unknowns of a pandemic that would change all of our lives. While that was unnerving to me, I knew my daughter would be welcomed into a family that loved her and had a robust, supportive network.
At Sarasota Memorial Hospital, we often repeat the adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s not hard to see how a strong social circle plays an important role in helping a mother raise a child. It’s important for parents to build relationships not only with their children, but also with the people in their support systems.
For our community, the emphasis on relationships has been equally valuable. Three years ago Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Sarasota Memorial Hospital spearheaded an effort to ensure our newest and most vulnerable moms have access to the support they need during their babes’ critical early years.
Known as “First 1,000 Days Sarasota” – a moniker that refers to the crucial development period for a child’s brain and health after birth – the initiative started off with a handful of community partners. But it quickly grew to more than 75 local nonprofits, parents, health care providers and other early childhood organizations.
Today we are excited to share that this initiative is being expanded to our surrounding region in Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. Welcome to the world, “First 1,000 Days Suncoast”!
Now regardless of where you live in our area, a mother or caregiver can visit our digital parent portal –www.first1000dayssuncoast.com — to sign up for free resources like food, transitional housing, health care, job training and more. Parents can also sign up for free tips and fun activities to grow their babies’ brains.
To highlight these efforts, we have launched a “Color the Community” public art campaign that is focused on celebrating babies and their families. We encourage families and community partners to create and share works of art inspired by these fundamentals of early learning:
- Maximizing love and managing stress.
- Counting, grouping and comparing.
- Talking, singing and pointing.
- Exploring through play and movement.
- Reading and discussing stories.
Artwork can range from sidewalk chalk doodles to finger-painting or even macaroni pictures. You can tag @First1000DaysSuncoast on Facebook and Instagram – or use hashtags #First1000DaysSuncoast and #ColortheCommunity. There are also opportunities for your children to win prizes.
Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to shape how well children will learn and grow. But we can all change our community for the better by giving mothers and caregivers the support they need to help their children flourish.
Dr. Chelsea Arnold is the initiative coordinator of First 1,000 Days Suncoast at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.