Rik, Cefus and myself were treated to a tour of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital's NICU recently as part of our Children's Miracle Network fundraiser.

I am very familiar with the NICU, since my little Shaylee was born at 31 weeks and weighed 3.1 pounds. She was put on a ventilator and needed to be in an isolette. She spent seven weeks in the NICU, where a bond seems to develop with the NICU nurses that's hard to describe. But I'll do my best.

It's one of the most difficult things to do as parent -- leave the hospital without your baby and trust that they will be cared for with love.

The nurses at the NICU not only take care of your baby, but to some degree they treat the whole family as patients.

During Shaylee's stay in the NICU we developed some great friendships with a few of the nurses and during our visit to the NICU a few of them were working. One of those nurses, Dianna, has the same birthday as Shaylee. "Dan The Gentle Giant" was working, too, as well as Kristin.

The feeling of being back in the NICU was overwhelming and I was fighting back tears. Even though it's been eight years since Shaylee was there, it felt as though it was yesterday. To this day, I can still hear the sound of the alarms on her monitors.

Shaylee is a happy, healthy 8-year-old little girl with no health issues from being born prematurely. She has one ear that sticks out more because it tended to get folded up in the oxygen tube that went from her nose and wrapped around her head.

We are truly blessed that she has no health issues, but not all premature babies are that lucky. For those babies and kids we are fortunate to have Children's Village right here in the Yakima Valley, providing support services. It's a great relief for families not to have to travel to Seattle for these services.

The money we are helping to raise will go toward things needed in the NICU and at Children's Village.

I'm truly honored to be a part of Team Sam now. It feels like I'm paying it forward and in some weird way saying "thank you" to those wonderful nurses.

You can still donate to Team Sam. Click the link below: