Hazleton teen overcomes personal obstacles to provide warming comfort for newborn babies

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The pandemic has certainly given us more than our fair share of sad news from our local hospitals, but now we have a story that shows signs of life.

An amazing local young woman whose contribution to those in need serves as an inspiration to all of us.

“It’s very awesome to help somebody in need,” Girl Scout Gabriella D’Amato said.

14-year-old D’Amato is no stranger to helping the community as a Girl Scout. To earn her Girl Scout Silver Award, the Hazleton native sought help from the community by collecting homemade hats for newborn babies at Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton.

“I am visually impaired and blind. So, a lot of the community helped me,” D’Amato said.

The project is personal to Gabriella and her family, reminiscent of the first three months of her life spent in the neonatal intensive care unit. Gabriella and her two siblings were born premature at 24 weeks. Gabriella lost her vision, and her brother and sister passed away shortly after birth.

“It honors my brothers and sisters. They passed away after birth and stuff. And I wish they would’ve survived it,” D’Amato said.

“We are donating the hats in memory of her sister and brother, Giovanni and Giada. They all would have been 15 years old this year. So, the project is also special because it’s in their memory,” Gabriella’s mother, Marie D’Amato said.

Gabriella’s story captured the hearts of people across the nation. She received handmade hat donations from Arizona, Florida, and Philadelphia, in addition to our area. And since Gabriella’s blindness makes it hard for her to knit, dozens of volunteers pitched in to make the hats.

“This is gonna supply the babies that are born at Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton for the next three years with their caps. So, she’s gonna put a smile on people throughout the whole region,” Lehigh Valley Health Network Northwest region president Terry Purcell said.

800 babies are born each year at the hospital’s family birth and newborn center. Gabriella and her mom hope the hats bring comfort to mothers and newborn babies. After completing the 50 hours of service needed for the project, Gabriella hopes to encourage other girls to achieve their goals and overcome obstacles.

“I think all women should be fierce, all Girl Scouts should be fierce,” Gabriella said.

Gabriella turns 15 Friday. She hopes the hat drive will become an annual event.

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