A shriek erupted from the corner of the room and hysterical laughter ensued.
“I got three sixes… three sixes,”
Jessica Lariz squealed with delight and astonishment from her table tastefully decorated with a lime green seashell in the corner of the room. Lariz was a charter dice roller for Bunko for Babies.
“It’s not gambling,” she stressed, “you just roll for the numbers.”
Besides being a dice roller, Lariz also serves as the Program Director for Healthy Start. She works with The Florida Keys Healthy Start Coaltion, who hosted the event, to identify challenges in pregnancy and high-risk babies.
“One expecting mother I’ve been working with since last fall developed HELLP syndrome, and she had to immediately be flown to Miami by helicopter,” Lariz explained. “ That’s a $24,000 medical service that does not include the cost of delivery and care there.”
HELLP is a variation of pre-eclampsia and stands for Hemolytic Anemia, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelet count.
It does not matter how much money you make, emphasized Arianna Nesbitt, CEO for Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition, you can still be susceptible to a challenging pregnancy.
“The goal is to make sure there’s a healthy pregnancy and, in turn, a healthy baby,” Nesbitt said. “We serve anyone thinking of conceiving, pregnant women and infants through the age of three.”
Last year the organization spent $30,000 on prenatal care, and this year, the Coalition has committed $50,000 towards assisting expectant mothers and their babies.
“I just had three more applicants walk through the door this evening,” Nesbitt remarked. “Each application means a healthy baby for which we earmark $1,700.”
Two catalysts are making the Coalition a more integral player in pregnancy; one is the rising number of uninsured residents, and two is what Nesbitt called the middle of a baby boom. Extra money must be set aside if a cesarean section birth is planned.
“The number of people calling for assistance with needs is mind boggling,” Nesbitt said.
To pad their coffers, Bunko for Babies made it’s inaugural debut at Key West’s Doubletree Grand Key Resort this month.
Lariz is confident the philanthropic social event, which only costs ten dollars per player, will get rolling and quickly gain momentum
“There’s no skill. You just roll and it’s all luck.”
Nesbitt is hoping it becomes a monthly event the first Wednesday of every month in the Middle and Upper Keys as well.
“If this is done at three locations every month, and each venue raises $2,000, that’s three more healthy babies per month, and thirty six more families we can send through prenatal care.”
Lariz describes the progress of the uninsured pregnant woman, who also has a language barrier, Healthy Start began working with this past Fall.
“She was worried about changing diapers and burping, just general concerns, and in no way was she prepared for the operations and medication her newborn daughter had to endure. But I visit them at their home in Key West and the baby girl is gaining weight, giggling and laughing.”
That gives everyone at Bunko for Babies something to smile about.