GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Richard Solomon Jr. is a squirmy bundle of joy. He bobbed up and down excitedly on his mother's lap, gazing around Spring Park Coffee with curiosity. He babbled something that …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Richard Edwards ll. is a squirmy bundle of joy. He bobbed up and down excitedly on his mother's lap, gazing around Spring Park Coffee with curiosity. He babbled something that almost sounds like singing. His laughter cut above the sound of coffee beans grinding behind the counter and the busy morning chit-chat.
"He's a happy baby. He's a very nosy kid, for sure," said his mother, Taylor Edwards. "Just a miracle."
Of course, every parent feels their child is a miracle, but Richard isn't like most children. No one expected Richard to survive.
"They brought us into a room once and told us no baby his size had ever lived," Edwards said.
But Richard beat the odds.
Born at 27 weeks and four days and weighing less than a pound, Richard's diapers were smaller than a pack of chewing gum. To date, Richard is one of the smallest babies ever born at Wolfson Children's Hospital, a part of Baptist Health.
"He didn't have to come home on oxygen. He didn't have to be incubated. He didn't have any brain bleeds. Our doctors don't understand it. He's a miracle," Taylor said.
Richard spent 124 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was discharged on Nov. 17, 2021. He will be 2 in July.
Richard is now almost 18 months old and currently attends feeding, physical and occupational therapy and "is making amazing improvements" at his home in Green Cove Springs, according to his parents and nurses. Furthermore, Richard is being honored as part of the Wolfson 55, a group of children selected annually to represent all the others who received care at the hospital in Jacksonville.
Known as the "Wolfson 55," each child and family has a unique story about the strength and hope it takes to fight a health battle. These children will be the focus of this year's Wolfson Children's Challenge charity event, to be held on Jan. 28.
This year's challenge event will also feature a marathon, as well as shorter runs. The Marathon will begin at 121 Financial Ballpark, 301 A. Phillip Randolph Blvd. in Jacksonville along the St John's River.
"It is a relay. It's a 55k relay, so basically, everyone runs a 5k loop," said Wolfson Children’s Challenge Event Coordinator, Chris Busby. "There will also be a fun run at 2 pm. We do a one-mile lap around the stadium. It's really fun. Everyone gets a metal. Everyone gets celebrated. There are pictures of all of our Wolfson 55 honorees along the race route."
Individuals and teams of all abilities and fitness levels can participate in various races and fundraising opportunities at the 14th annual event, celebrating current and former patients of Wolfson Children's Hospital of Jacksonville and raising funds for lifesaving care.
"You get to run on the water and then downtown. While that's going on, there are tent set-ups. There are amazing family and children's activities," Busby said. "Everyone gets to participate; even if you don't run, it's a great way to catch up with people. You see doctors and nurses. They love seeing the kids."
Busby’s son Chase was a 2019 Wolfson 55 honoree. Now, he wishes to pay it forward and give back to the Wolfson community.
“We did our first Wolfson's Children Hospital relay in 2016. Since then, we did it every year, even during COVID. We’ve had anywhere from three to seven teams,” he said.
This year, the Wolfson Children's Challenge hopes to raise $125,000. All proceeds benefit the Wolfson Children's Challenge Endowment and help fund the purchase of lifesaving trauma equipment and technology for the hospital’s most critically ill and injured patients.
"We've raised about $55,000 in the last eight years. All of that money goes back into capital projects for the hospital," Busby said.
The race has raised more than $4 million since its inception in 2008 and has helped fund several projects.
"They upgraded the trauma center to a tier one, the first one in the area," Busby said. "And they just finished an MIBG Therapy Room on the Oncology floor for treatment for neuroblastoma – a very rare, aggressive brain tumor.
“The amount of radiation the children receive during treatment, you have to suit up just to go into the room. Imagine if you're a child, this is a very isolating, scary experience. So they actually created a side room for the parents and family members. They have two-way communication so the parent and child can talk while they de-radiate."
They will also continue to expand the NICU for overnight guests. There will be space for two parents to sleep, full showers and bathrooms, and a room on each floor where NICU parents can bond and seek joint care.