Student organization gives back while bringing awareness to anencephaly

When third-semester Meridian Community College Associate Degree Nursing Program student Jacob Whitney learned that his friend and co-worker at Steve’s on the Square in Philadelphia, Amanda Richardson, was expecting, he and his co-workers at the long-time clothing business were thrilled.

Sadly, though, joy turned into sorrow for 18 weeks into the pregnancy, Richardson learned that baby Mamie Ellis Richardson was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition that affects one in 10,000 births. Affected infants are born with the absence of a skull and brain, making them unable to survive. Richardson and her husband, Justin, made the difficult decision to carry their daughter to term with hopes that when the time came, her organs could be donated to save the life of another infant.

“Justin and I knew that we couldn’t take our baby home, so we wanted to give a family that might could a better chance of taking their baby home,” said Richardson. Mamie was born in November and passed away shortly after that.

Whitney wanted to tangibly express his sympathy at his friends’ loss and make a difference. Each semester, MCC’s Organization of Student Nurses (OSN) contributes to a cause within the MCC community. Whitney, who will graduate in May and serves as vice president of the OSN, spoke with his fellow officers, and they decided to take on the challenge of raising money to provide a scholarship to a fourth-semester graduating student in the Associate Degree Nursing Program.

To raise funds for the scholarship, students sold “tickets to class.” Some ADN instructors require a particular assignment to be completed the night before class to sit through the class the following day. Students could purchase one ticket, which served as a “get-out-of-jail-free” pass for the assignment of their choice at any time throughout the semester. T-shirts were also designed and sold to fourth-semester students, and proceeds from the sale went towards the scholarship fund.

Once these projects were completed, OSN had raised $700, which made it possible to present two scholarships to deserving students. At the December 2019 ADN pinning ceremony, scholarships were given in memory of Mamie Ellis Richardson to bring awareness to anencephaly. Brad Palmer and Chenille Hewitt were recipients of this newly-established scholarship.

Unfortunately, due to her weight, Mamie’s organs were unable to be donated. Still, with the persistence of her parents, Mamie has paved the way for the future of fatally diagnosed infants and organ donation. Organ donation had never been researched for fatally diagnosed babies in Mississippi because most have other problems. In Mamie’s case, her organs were healthy and unharmed; this made her otherwise a perfect candidate.

The Richardsons attended the graduation ceremonies, and were deeply touched by the decision to honor their daughter’s memory.

Richardson said, “Months ahead of time, one of our very best friends started working on the scholarship at MCC. We had no idea about it. He put hours of work, meetings and fundraising into it, but he did it. Not for me, not for Justin, but Mamie. To bring awareness to anencephaly, which he knew was very important to us.”

Photo: At the December graduation, Organization of Student Nurses officers pictured left: Miranda Warner, Jacob Whitney presented Justin and Amanda Richardson parents of Mamie Ellis Richardson a certificate; also pictured are the recipients of the scholarship Chenille Hewitt and Brad Palmer.

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