The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 2, 2013

Playing for Preemies entering 4th year

Proceeds to benefit Huntsville NICU

By Kim West

— When Lauren Bates entered the world on March 5, 2010, she weighed the equivalent of a 44-ounce soft drink and had spent less than 28 weeks in her mother's womb.

Bates, the daughter of Ardmore residents Rusty and Kristin Bates, stayed 52 days in Huntsville Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and spent six weeks under home quarantine.

“She weighed 2 pounds, 12 ounces — she quickly lost weight, but kept fighting,” said Rusty, an assistant principal and athletic director at Ardmore High School.

Lauren’s initial struggle to survive and subsequent success story spurred her parents to start Playing for Preemies Night as a way to show their deep gratitude for a daughter who is now a healthy and thriving 3-year-old.

The fourth-annual fundraiser will be held in conjunction with the Nov. 1 football game between Ardmore and West Limestone in the regular-season finale for both schools.

The Ardmore athletic department, Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund and Huntsville Hospital Foundation are co-sponsoring the event, with all proceeds going to the NICU.

Black and pink T-shirts are being sold through the front offices at Ardmore, Cedar Hill Elementary and Johnson Elementary. All three schools are also staging “Pie the Principal” promotions during game-day pep rallies.

“We are so grateful for the work that goes on at the NICU, and we are excited about the opportunity to give back to such a great group of people,” said Rusty, whose wife is the guidance counselor at Cedar Hill. “The NICU will always be a special place for our family.”

The Hospital Foundation will set up an informational and donation booth, with the game starting at 7 p.m. at Cooper Field. Lauren will be among several former NICU patients to serve as honorary captains during the pre-game coin toss.

Playing for Preemies has raised $11,591 since 2010. For more information, email

Did you know?

Among 3.9 million babies born in the U.S., 11.7 percent were born prematurely, according to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control.