Former NICU baby giving back with blanket and book drive for her 8th birthday


ALDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) — Seven year old Alannah Pionessa loves reading books, and being read to.

Alannah’s mother started reading to her shortly after her birth. She was born 9 weeks early with a rare birth defect. She spent 80 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Because of all the tubes, Alannah’s parents couldn’t hold her.

“The next best thing is to read so they learn your voice and they learn your comforting voice and just knowing that’s my mom,” said Heather Rust, Alannah’s mother.

They also wrapped Alannah in soft blankets.

“We noticed that once we put her on the nice soft snuggle blankets that she slept better and her breathing was better and she was just more comfortable,” said Rust.

At one point, doctors weren’t sure she was going to make it. Now as Alannah approaches her 8th birthday, she wants to give back to the same NICU that helped save her life.

“My goal is to get 70 blankets and 70 books,” said 2nd grader Alannah Pionessa of Alden.

She’s collecting brand new blankets and brand new books for her birthday, to donate to the NICU.

“This shows the perseverance of a child who wasn’t supposed to be here. Who defied all the odds and beat all those odds to prove that she’s strong and she’s here,” said Rust.

“I always want to help the babies because they are special to the family and special to the hospital,” said Pionessa.

You can make a donation at one of the following locations below, or email Heather Rust at

Rolly Pollies of East Amherst

9630 Transit Road

East Amherst, NY 14051

Rolly Pollies of Orchard Park

4058 North Buffalo Road

Orchard Park, NY 14127

Pink Martini, 2455 Grand Island Boulevard, Grand Island, NY

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