JOPLIN, Mo. — Dozens of local families gathered today in Joplin (Sunday) – taking time to reunite and celebrate.

Freeman Health System held a “NICU Reunion” – in conjunction with celebrating the 30th anniversary of its NICU center.

The event saw around 35 families who all had babies in the unit at one time – and are now celebrating the growth and milestones.

Today’s reunion gave the families and the medical staff a chance to catch up – and see how the kids are doing now.

One mother – Stephanie Tripp – had a son who was in the NICU in 2016 for an extended amount of time.

She tells us – the relationships built during that time with the nurses and other staff meant so much to her.

She mentions how they took time to always keep her updated – and keeping her connected with her son using cameras so she could always see him.

“He was our first child, so we didn’t know what to expect. We were scared. So, we didn’t know what was wrong with him or why he had the problems that he did. We didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. And so, it’s scary, especially when you’re not staying in the hospital anymore, so you have to leave your child,” said Stephanie Tripp, had a baby in the NICU at Freeman Health System.

“It’s just such a vulnerable time in their lives, you know. Their kiddos are very sick, they’re with us for weeks to months on end. So, it’s just so special to get to see the kiddos several years down the road and like, see how well they’re doing and they’re thriving,” said Kalseji Reeves, Freeman Health System, Dir. of Maternal Child.