CAMDEN, NJ – Melvin Sheppard, 17, of Moorestown, NJ, returned to the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Nov. 6 to drop off the money he collected during his Pennies for Preemies initiative.
Every year for the past 10 years, Sheppard conducts a year-long penny collection and then donates the proceeds to the hospital as a way to show his gratitude for the medical care he received as a premature infant. Sheppard was born nine weeks premature at Cooper in 1997, weighing only 2.9 pounds.
“Being a preemie, it’s warming to help other kids in the same situation,” said Sheppard. “They have used my donations for a variety of things. Some of it has gone towards buying car seats and baby formula for mothers in need.”
Sheppard says his father inspired him to start the initiative when he was just eight years old.
“He wanted me to learn to help people. He asked me to donate my remaining birthday money to either Hurricane Katrina victims or to Cooper. I chose Cooper. I was the first to donate to their new wing, which we are standing in right now,” said Sheppard.
The staff at Cooper is excited to see Sheppard come back every year.
“Close to 15,000 babies in 23 years have been here. You are a remarkable young man. You were then and you continue to be,” Gary E. Stahl, MD, Head, Division of Neonatology, told Sheppard during the donation ceremony. “There are not many people like you. We are thrilled to be associated with you and your wonderful family.”
This year, Sheppard collected more than $200 in donations. Since he began his Pennies for Preemies initiative, Sheppard has collected and donated more than $2,200 to the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.