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Family hosts book drive for NICU babies across Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — When Shecara Squires Reives and her husband Thomas Reives found out they were going to be parents for the first time with twins, they had no idea they what kind of journey they were in for. On June 9, 2017, Shecara had to deliver her boys, Rook and Carmine, at just 26 weeks.

“It was a whirlwind,” Shecara Squires Reives said. “I was in one hospital. They were somewhere else. Thomas was bouncing back and forth.”

Nine days later, they were devastated when Rook died. Carmine survived but fought for 165 days in the NICU.

“It was rough because you’re kind of a bystander in the NICU, not really a parent,” Shecara Squires Reives said. “They throw a lot of statistics at you in the NICU. A lot of big words. A lot of improbabilities.”

“At that point we thought we were all alone,” Thomas Reives said.

Carmine would go on to have several surgeries, including a tracheostomy. All his parents could do was wait. In a time where they had to get permission from hospital staff to even hold baby Carmine, there was one thing they were able to enjoy with him — reading.

This became the inspiration behind their first NICU holiday book drive.

In 2020, they asked friends and family to help them collect 500 books to donate to Riley Hospital for Children. The first drop-off, they brought in 387 books — and eventually, they would get a total of more than 1,500 books.

Thomas Reives said he and his wife were humbled by the response and realized a small project had just become something bigger.

“What exactly did we just get ourselves into?” he laughed.

However, Shecara Squires Reives noticed there wasn’t a space for books about what her family had been through, so the long-time writer and poet decided to do it herself.

“I wanted Carmine to see himself in the stories, but most importantly, as a successful character in the stories,” Shecara Squires Reives said.

“He’s really a celebration, he’s not a condition,” Thomas Reives said.

Inspired by Carmine and the son they lost, Shecara Squires Reives wrote a book called “Trach Baby and they founded Rook’s Books Publishing LLC.

The Reives family got bigger, adding kids Reaux and Tatum, and so did their efforts to help shed light on others with similar stories.

“Moving forward, we want to partner with other families to learn more about children who have different needs and tell those stories,” Shecara Squires Reives said.

In the meantime, they hope to reach their goal of collecting another 1,500 books for families of NICU babies across the city of Indianapolis.

“We brought Carmine home before Thanksgiving in 2017, and we started the drive just before the holidays last year,” Shecara Squires Reives said. “That’s what we hope to continue to do, is to give back in this holiday season.”

The Reives family encourages everyone who can to donate to the registry here.

Watch the video for the full story.