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Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among infants in the United States, and the Central Valley has the highest preterm birth rates in California. Across the state, the preterm birth rate is around 8.6% — however, in Fresno County, that number jumps to 10.1%, the worst in the state.

For the families of infants born premature, the road is both a huge emotional and financial hardship. The Amelia’s Angels Fund at the Central Valley Community Foundation hopes to ease some of the financial burden of the families of premature infants so they can focus on their child, not hospital costs. The fund aims to provide toys and other items for infants and children in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units (NICUs and PICUs) and financial assistance to their families to aid with costs associated with food, lodging, travel costs, or, if necessary, funeral expenses.

“We were fortunate to have the help of [our] family and friends, [but] know that not everyone is lucky enough to have the support system we had,” says Christina Rodriguez, mother of Amelia and founder of the Amelia’s Angels Fund. “[Through Amelia’s Angels] we hope to be that support system for those who need us.”