Broward County hotels welcome families of the tiniest storm refugees
Image via ABC News.

covid infant
Local hoteliers swung into action so Southwest Florida NICU families wouldn't have Alligator Alley between them and their babies.

The ravages of Hurricane Ian forced 23 babies out of Lee County’s neonatal intensive care to Broward County’s, so the state’s tourism marketing agency sprang into action.

Soon 19 hoteliers signed on to accommodate families free of charge so they could stay close to the tiniest refugees of the storm.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida reported having issues with the building’s infrastructure and a lack of potable water on Thursday, according to Local 10 in Pembroke Park. Hospitals losing power, losing water supply, and experiencing structural damage affected some 900 patients in Southwest Florida during last week’s weather event, according to  National Public Radio.

Evacuees from Southwest Florida’s hospitals included 67 babies, including triplets born at 27 weeks just a few weeks earlier, Fox 13 in Tampa Bay reported. And 23 of them were sent to South Florida facilities, Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Memorial Hospital Miramar, and Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines, according to VISIT Florida.

Heiko Dobrikow, the executive vice president of The Las Olas Company, said there was no question when Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA’s president and CEO asked for help so that families wouldn’t be across Alligator Alley from their medically fragile newborns.

“The answer was an immediate ‘YES,’ and we mobilized,” Dobrikow said, according to a prepared statement. “Within less than 12 hours, the Broward County Hoteliers committed to taking care of our Besides Dobrikow’s Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, NICU families were welcomed at:

— Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach;

— Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach;

— Costa Hollywood Beach Resort;

— Diplomat Beach Resort;

— Embassy Suites by Hilton Fort Lauderdale 17th Street;

— Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Fort Lauderdale;

— Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach;

— Hilton Garden Inn Fort Lauderdale Airport-Cruise Port;

— Hollywood Beach Marriott;

— Hotel Maren Fort Lauderdale Beach Curio Collection by Hilton;

— Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort;

— Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport;

— Renaissance Fort Lauderdale West Hotel;

— Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach;

— The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort;

— The Pelican Grand Resort;

— The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale; and

— W Fort Lauderdale.

VISIT Florida also set up a portal with Expedia to make it easier for hurricane refugees to find accommodations. Young said this mission holds particular meaning, however, and extolled the generosity of the area’s hoteliers.

“This incredible act of generosity from our hotel partners ensures that some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents are still able to get critical medical care despite being displaced by the storm,” said Young, who has led VISIT Florida since 2019. We sincerely thank these hotels for their donations to Florida’s NICU families and making such a positive impact on our state.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


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