Winnebago County News Briefs

Chronicle Media

SwedishAmerican’s Caring Canines therapy dog team is recruiting new team members. The next team audition will be held on Feb. 16 in the Conference Center at SwedishAmerican Hospital.


Mercyhealth opens small baby unit

The region’s only Small Baby Unit, caring for the area’s smallest babies, is now open at  Mercyhealth Hospital-Rockton Avenue (Rockford Memorial Hospital).

Over the last few years, Mercyhealth’s Neonatal Intensive Care team, along with input from past patients and families, has been researching the development of a Small Baby Unit to improve long-term developmental outcomes among the region’s rare micro-preemie population, born less than 27 weeks gestation or weigh less than 1,000 grams (or 2.2 pounds).

The unit includes six bed pods and allows for a highly-specialized neonatal intensive care team to work in a separate wing of the neonatal intensive care unit which was specifically constructed with special lighting and noise reduction to keep stimulation to a minimum.

Speaking is only done in hushed voices, an attempt to mimic what babies would experience if they were still safely tucked in the mother’s womb. The Small Baby Unit encourages more skin-to-skin touch therapy, called Kangaroo Care, an evidence-based practice that only parents can provide which is proven to aid in growth and development.

“The main goal of the Small Baby Unit is to replicate the mother’s womb,” said Gillian Headley, MD, neonatologist and medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mercyhealth. “The unit aims to decrease overstimulation of the most fragile and smallest babies by incorporating much lower noise levels, lighting and more touch therapy.”


‘Black American Voices’ readings  at RU

The English Department at Rockford University hosts its eighth annual “Read Aloud of Black American Voices” this month. The event’s organizer is taking a more experimental approach and increasing focus on engagement for 2017.

Michael Perry, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, says he’s lining up some guest readers from the community for the public event, but ultimately he hopes to encourage a two-way dialogue.

“We’ll focus in on some passages, and then we’ll use that as a springboard for wherever the discussion takes us,” said Perry, adding, “My goal is to shine a light on a different aspect of African-American literature, and hopefully get more people to engage.”

“Read Aloud of Black American Voices” will take place in Fisher Chapel on the Rockford University Campus, 5050 E. State St., from noon-1 p.m. and 3-4 p.m. on Feb. 9. Readings also scheduled from 3-4 p.m. on Feb. 23 and noon-1 p.m. on Feb. 24.

For more information, contact Perry at


More security with United Way tax help

United Way of Rock River Valley has announced enhanced security features to MyFreeTaxes designed to further safeguard taxpayer information. MyFreeTaxes is a free, safe and easy way for anyone earning $64,000 or less to file state and federal taxes.

For the past eight years, United Way has partnered with H&R Block to provide free tax filing services for federal and state taxes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since that time, the partnership has helped more than 750,000 taxpayers claim every deduction and credit they deserve. These tax breaks that lead to refunds provide important opportunities for individuals and families in the Rockford region to build their financial stability.

Taxpayers earning less than $64,000 can enter their data through, which links to a secure H&R Block website, making it easy to complete their taxes from home, at work or on mobile devices.


Hospital recruiting new therapy dogs

SwedishAmerican’s Caring Canines therapy dog team is recruiting new team members. The next team audition will be held on Feb. 16 in the Conference Center at SwedishAmerican Hospital.

In order to attend, canine teams must be a registered with a national therapy dog organization.

The first Caring Canine visit took place in 2010. By the end of 2013 the program had resulted in a total of 29,400 interactions with staff, patients and guests and 2,450 volunteer hours had been given to the program.

Caring Canines teams currently visit patients in several areas of SwedishAmerican Hospital and the Heart Hospital at SwedishAmerican, as well as the Center for Mental Health, SwedishAmerican Medical Center/Belvidere, and the new SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center. Additionally, dogs make appearances at various special events.

Time slots are available at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.. Pre-registration is required.

For more information and to register, call Deb Schwarze or Claudia Aschbrenner at (779) 696-2166 or send an email to


40th Garden Day coming to NIU center

The 40th annual garden day, Gardening for Food, Flowers & Fun returns to Rockford on March 4 at NIU Rockford, 8500 E. State St.

The one-day event offers inspiration, ideas, and innovation for area gardeners. U of I Extension educators, Master Gardeners, and other plant experts will present a variety of education sessions and hands-on workshops.

Registration is $40 per person and includes lunch, a keynote presentation and attendee’s choice of three additional education classes. Register online at or by calling the Winnebago County Extension Office at (815) 986-4357.

Attendees will select three classes to round out their day. There are nine unique education sessions to choose from including, herb overload, comparative trials at Chicago Botanic Garden, co-existing with backyard wildlife, pruning apple trees, floral therapy, Japanese garden design, vegetable gardening, a floral design workshop and native pollinators. 

Keynote speaker Richard Hawke, Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Evaluation Manager, will discuss “Proven Perennials for Northern Gardens.”

–Winnebago County News Briefs–