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Touching lives – Spring Green Festival

Touching lives - Spring Green Festival
March 29, 2014 - A time for fun & giving

By Auveed Bagheri Cawthon and Beth Volpert

Spring festivals are the very best. They offer hope that better weather is ahead and that the winter blahs are fading.  This year will mark the fourth annual Spring Green Festival in Historic Downtown Lawrenceville on March 29, 2014 beginning at 8am -  6pm and it's already touching lives.

Dr Leslie Leigh, one of the neonatologists at GMC, educates the complexity of neonatal  care during a tour for New Lawrenceville.

Join these Sponsors & Friends of  New Lawrenceville/Spring Green in raising money to donate to GMC”s NICU Unit – a dedicated neonatal ambulance! Become one today for a great cause! Visit

Lawrenceville resident and Spring Green Festival’s founder, Vanessa Churco says, “Spring Green is a great way for the community to get out in March and celebrate. We have something for everyone and draw a diverse crowd with everything from a 5K/1Mile run to a car show and bed race around the square. This is an all-volunteer festival and all profits go to charity.” 

Historically the event draws over 10,000 people and is a great day to bring your family and friends for a day full of activities. Spring Green is once again hosting the Chick-Fil-a 5k and family fun run, Family Promise Bed races, Southeast Wheels Car and Motorcycle show, arts and crafts vendors and lots of great kids activities and food.

The New Lawrenceville Spring Green Festival has a couple of special goals in mind this year. All monies raised through sponsorships, vendor booths, and donations will be donated to help purchase a neonatal ambulance dedicated to serving Gwinnett Medical Center and continue to support Family Promise, the area’s only family-based shelter. 

With a day full of fun family activities, GMC’s Cathie Brazell, Director of Women’s Services, is excited about the possibilities surrounding the fundraising efforts on behalf of a dedicated neonatal ambulance that will be available to serve the community. “We transport about 100 babies a year,” says Brazell. “Any time we have a need to transport a baby, time is of the essence.” 

“As always, we are humbled by the support of the Lawrenceville Spring Green Festival,” said Leslie Leigh, MD, one of the neonatologists at GMC. “Those event proceeds will be used to help GMC purchase a NICU ambulance insuring that transportation is readily available to our tiny patients. This specially designed ambulance can easily accommodate twins or potentially carry a parent, thus removing their anxiety. In addition, it could be outfitted with the supplies and equipment specifically needed for these fragile patients such as loading/unloading equipment that helps promote a smooth transition.”


When GMC identified the need for a dedicated NICU ambulance, the community responded. With a cost in excess of $100K, the ambulance will be outfitted with the most necessary items for supporting an infant in need of transport. “We believe the Spring Green Festival is an amazing way we can work together to help bring a fantastic new asset to our hospital and community,” says Rodney Camren, Founder and Director of New Lawrenceville. 

New Lawrenceville’s decision to donate all of its proceeds to GMC’s NICU unit for the purchase of a dedicated neonatal immediately hit home with several of its members. The announcement was made at the January networking meeting, Tom Vooris with quickly became the first Platinum Sponsor by donating $5000. Tom has triplets that spent time in a NICU Unit and understands how important neonatal care is and how it affects the entire family  

In February, GMC’s NICU unit hosted the networking meeting and gave tours. It was a memorable night and reunion for one member in particular, Michael Yi.

During the tour, Dr Leigh, one of the neonatologists at GMC, recognized and welcomed Michael Yi back. Michael is the father of twins born at GMC-NICU, over 4 years ago. This was Michael Yi’s first time back.

“It was a tough first time coming back and I am humbled Dr Leigh quickly remembered. This is a special place,” says Yi.

Michael Yi’s twin daughter Lanai in GMC’s NIICU unit 4 years ago.“My twins, Keanu and Lanai, were born at Gwinnett Medical Center NICU (GMC-NICU) at just under 25 weeks. Keanu, my son, was the first born at 11:00am at just under 2lbs and Lanai, my daughter, was about 1.5 lbs. They were born on July 4th in 2009. Due to their premature status they were immediately admitted to the NICU where their complications began to multiply. They both had heart surgery at GMC NICU and both had collapsed lungs that did not let them breathe on their own,” says Yi.

The average stay at the NICU is two weeks, Yi’s twins spent a total of 98 days there. 

Michael Yi’s twin son Keanu in GMC’s NIICU unit 4 years ago.“It was a very difficult time that eventually would affect the physical, emotional, and financial well being of our family. Our marriage did not survive and our finances suffered but our children were blessed and thankfully made it through. They have some minor medical and developmental issues but they otherwise are living happy and healthy lives. I am now happily married again to a woman who loves them as her own, she is a gift from God.” says Yi. 

Today, the twins weigh close to 50 lbs each, play sports, are enrolled in Pre-k, and will turn 5 years old this July 4th.

Today the Yi twins, (L-R) Keanu and Lanai are absolutely adorable!“I can never thank or repay the wonderful angels that are the nurses, doctors, and staff at the GMC-NICU! They made our stay as comfortable as possible, gave my children the best treatment technology and experience can provide, and are true blessings from God. What we all endured was a test of our faith but they are my two angels from heaven and I would not have it any other way,” says Yi.

“It’s the marriage of technology and personnel that leads to so many success stories, like the Yi family’s, who twin babies stayed with us for over three months,” according to Leslie Leigh, MD, one of the neonatologists at GMC. “GMC’s skilled personnel, including nurses and respiratory therapists in addition to ‘round-the-clock coverage of nurse practioners who are solely devoted to the NICU, are key to the healthy development of these very tiny, sick patients.”

“Many of our NICU babies suffer from a variety of issues like a highly compromised immune system, that leaves them unable to fight disease, or other issues that impact cardiac and respiratory issues that impact cardiac and respiratory functions due to a baby’s underdevelopment,” he continued. “To successfully treat these critical concerns, it requires specialized technology and skill.”

Thank you to the March 2014 New Lawrenceville media sponsors – 

Chrissy Thomas, RN, BSN and owner of About Face Skin Care says “It was such a great place then and it has gotten even better over the years as I have visited friends and family with their new little ones. It’s exciting to be a part of such an important cause for our community!”

Each year, Spring Green’s effect on the local charitable organizations has increased as participation by local businesses, families and churches has increased.

According to Rodney Camren, fundraising through the Festival has allowed them to give back to organizations such as the Lawrenceville Police Benevolent Society, The Central Gwinnett Cluster Foundation, The Huffman House, Special Needs School of Gwinnett, The Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation and Family Promise of Gwinnett. “To date, the group has given more than $10,000 to non-profit organizations in our community,” says Camren. 

Through sponsorships of the event and vendor booths, the Spring Green Festival offers the New Lawrenceville group the opportunity to raise money. Over the last two years, New Lawrenceville has donated $10,000. Not bad for an organization that grew from an after hour small business martini group to a monthly networking group that has grown to a database of 30,000 strong. New Lawrenceville is a free and open networking group and does not collect any dues and relies on donations from the business community, community partners, and volunteers. 

Among the many local organizations supporting the 2014 Spring Green Festival is the Suwanee Road and Pike Street Chick-Fil-A’s owner/operator, Mark Treadwell who is sponsoring the 5K and 1Mile race. To sign up please visit 

“New Lawrenceville is all about supporting the community by joining forces and supporting local businesses and organizations,” says Rodney Camren.

Family Promise’s Bed Race is a fun filled event with a focus on the major issue of homelessness in Gwinnett County. Your support will make a difference in the lives of families facing homelessness in Gwinnett County.  By supporting the Family promise of Gwinnett BedRace, you are ensuring that families can stay together, that children will have safety and stability, and that our community can work together to help end the tragedy of homelessness. Come cheer on local congregations and community Bed Race contestants.  

There are over 30 Gwinnett County churches that provide weekly housing, food, fellowship and transportation to the families who participate in the Family Promise program in addition to the volunteers and paid staff at the Family Promise Day Shelter.  Each week 50 to 60 volunteers from hosting congregations are required to provide weekly services.  

Community supporter Tom Wages Funeral Home couldn’t jump fast enough to build a bed for the Family Promise Races. Their entry last year, “Stiff Competition”, is indicative of the creativity that can go into creating a bed and the staff at Wages is looking forward to competing with local area businesses and clergy for the coveted awards. “The Bed Race will continue to benefit Family Promise,” says Rick Johnson of Wages. “There are no traditional shelter beds in the area for families and we feel this program is vital to the health of our community.” 

Vanessa Churco is very excited that some local Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) students are volunteering to help  be on hand to run the inflatables and other kid-friendly activities.

With the support of a number of community-minded groups, the festival will serve to entertain young and old alike as well as raise the needed funds to support the most at-risk of our local population. 

Without local support, a community is only houses connected by streets. A festival changes that by providing a “something for everyone” event located in the heart of the community. New Lawrenceville’s Spring Green will go on rain or shine on March 29th with plenty of activities and fun centered around the historic town square.

If you want to donate to the New Lawrenceville Spring Green Festival in raising money for the GMCF NICU dedicated ambulance got to

If you would like to  know more about what New Lawrenceville does in our community just join them on Facebook