She was a NICU baby 8 years ago, now she’s giving back, saying thanks.

May 7, 2017

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

I was sitting in the waiting area at the dance studio while my sweet Emma was in dance class. Little Ella and I sit there, in that room, for an hour once a week. So, we sit and chat with the other moms. It’s nice. We live in a wonderful community, filled with really nice people. Last week, one of the moms was telling me a story. She’d asked her 7-year-old daughter what she would like for her upcoming 8th birthday. You’d think the answer might be, a Barbie doll or some of those tiny little shopkins. Something like that. Maybe clothes.


Alannah told her mom she wanted some blankets and books to give out to babies in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Women & Children’s Hospital.

I know, right? What a sweet kid.

There is a backstory here. Turns out Alannah spent months in that very unit when she was born nine weeks early. She spent 80 days there. And it turns out, there’s a reason she’s asking for books and blankets. But, I am going to let Alannah explain that to you. She wrote a letter that she wanted me to pass on. Maybe you can help her? Maybe you’ll understand why something like this would be good for those babies. Their parents. And for Alannah.

Here’s her letter. Her words. Her hope. 

Hello to my community, my name is Alannah Pionessa and I will be 8 on June 8, 2017. My mom asked me last week what I wanted for my birthday and I told her that I wanted to give every baby born in June in the NICU at Womans and Childrens Hospital of Buffalo a brand new soft snuggle blanket, and a brand new story book. You see on June 8, 2009 I was born at Children’s Hospital 9 weeks early with a rare birth defect that effects many of my internal organs. I spent 11.5 weeks in the NICU before I came home to join my family.

I was so sick with many tubes and wires that my parents and grandparents could not hold me until I was a month old. All they could do for me was read to me because even touching my hands or head made me very upset. My mom read to me every one of the 80 days I was in the NICU. I also could not wear any clothes for the first few weeks until all my tubes came out, but the hospital blankets were scratchy and I didn’t like the feel of them.

My parents were able to bring in some nice soft blankets that my nurses laid me on top of to make me comfortable which made me relaxed so I could grow and get healthy. I want to help the babies and parents in the NICU because the NICU holds a special place in my family’s heart and they helped me get healthy. I want to bring smiles to the mommies and daddies faces because my mom tells me that sometimes the NICU can be a sad place for parents. My mom said we can definitely help out a few babies, but we couldn’t afford to give every baby a blanket and a book, but that she would help me find a way to reach my goal. So I am asking my family, friends and my community to help me reach my goal to give a brand new book and a brand new soft blanket to every NICU baby born in June (my mom says there are around 70 beds in the NICU) . I am collecting donations of new blankets, new children’s books or if you don’t want to shop, money donations and gift cards that i can go out and shop with my mom for blankets and books from May 1, 2017 to June 1, 2017. Donations can be dropped off at Paulter Chiropractic and Wellness at 13305 Broadway St, Alden, NY 14004. Hours are Monday 1;00- 7;00 pm, Wednesday 10;00 am- 6:00 pm, and Friday 10:00am – 3:00pm or at the Alden Advertiser at 13200 Broadway St. Alden, NY 14004, M T Th F 8:00am-5:00pm, W 8:00am-3:00pm If you have any questions you can email my mom, Heather Rust at My goal is to deliver the books and blankets on or near my birthday on June 8, 2017. Thank you for your generosity and donations!! Alannah Jane Pionessa

Isn’t that a beautiful letter?

That’s Alannah with a book and a blanket. Wouldn’t it be so amazing if she could get 70 books and 70 blankets for those sweet babies? Maybe you can help?

You can also drop books and blankets off at Pink Martini Gift Shop! 2455 Grand Island Blvd, Grand Island.  If you’re a business and would like to be a drop off point for folks, please let us know!

I just know Alannah is going to reach her goal. This IS the City of Good Neighbors.


And look how far this kid has come. Thanks to the incredible doctors, nurses, and staff at Women & Children’s Hospital. Thanks, too – to her mom and dad. And maybe thanks, if even just a tiny bit, to those soft blankets and entertaining books, too.

And we are so grateful to the wonderful folks at Rolly Pollies who always do what they can to help the community! They’ve offered to be a drop off point to help collect more blankets and books. If you can help – you can drop off at either location. 


Rolly Pollies of East Amherst
9630 Transit Road
East Amherst, NY 14051


Rolly Pollies of Orchard Park
4058 North Buffalo Road
Orchard Park, NY 14127


About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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    What a beautiful gift you are. I met your Mom at Buff. State(we both were working for HS). I will be sending gift cards. God bless you.

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    Auntie is so proud of the sweet and caring young lady that you’re turning out to be. You are such a special girl. I remember those days of you in the NICU and I remember the days you came home. You were so tiny, yet full of such strength and courage. I always knew you were going to make me a very proud Auntie one day, but I never imagined I would be so super duper proud of you! You have far exceeded my expectations of that dream I’ve always dreamed for you. Keep up the great job you’re doing and you’re going to make it very far in life and you’re going to make so many more people proud you know you. You’re an inspiration to others and a very positive success story! Knowing where you once were and seeing you now, shows me that there isn’t anything in this world that can beat you. If you get knocked down, you get back up and you try again, even harder! I love you higher than the sky and deeper than the ocean, times infinity!

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    Hi Shirley! Thank you so much for your kind words! Message me on Facebook and I will give you Alannah’s mailing address. Thank you for your support!

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    Thanks Aunt Dre for making mommy cry! Alannah loves you to Infinity and Beyond and forever and a day!!!!


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