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News Community Cornhole tournament to benefit premature babies

In an effort to raise money for the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mission Hospital in Asheville, the Tye Blanton Foundation will be holding a cornhole tournament on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Town of Canton Armory in Canton.

"Our goal is to have 40-plus teams registered to play Cornhole, but ultimately to raise $1,500 for the Tye Blanton Foundation," said Nathan Lowe, event coordinator.

The Tye Blanton Foundation offers an array of gifts to NICU parents, from preemie clothing to overnight essential bags and gas cards, because after all, no one prepares to have their baby early. The foundation also provides items like swings, bouncy seats, mobiles and bedding to the unit to make the babies’ stay as comfortable as possible. This even includes coloring books for their siblings and assuring their families are not forgotten each holiday.

Babies who are being cared for in the NICU are rare in the fact that they have never made it home to the nurseries that have been lovingly prepared by their parents. While the tournament proceeds will go to Mission Hospital's NICU, the NICU serves babies all over Western North Carolina, including those from Macon County.

The Tye Blanton Foundation was created after State Trooper Shawn Blanton, father of a 17-day-old preemie, was shot and killed in the line of duty. From Blanton's son Tye's four-and-a-half month stay in two NICUs, until Tye's untimely death due to complications from severe birth defects combined with prematurity, Tye's mother, Michaela Blanton Lowe, had firsthand knowledge of what was missing for preemie parents. The recently widowed mother who had lost both her husband and son founded this unique foundation to honor two loved ones lost in her life while helping other preemie parents like herself. This nonprofit is going strong five years later and continues to grow.

"Often times parents of preemies feel as though it is difficult to feel like a mom or dad when there is always a nurse or doctor taking care for your child. Something simple like dressing your child, changing their diaper, or changing the linens in the incubator or crib gives their baby an identity while helping parents feel like mom or dad," said Lowe. "We provide those little things to help parents stay afloat during their baby's stay in the NICU. No one plans for a preemie... at those baby showers, preemie or micro preemie onesies are not given. That is where we come in. The Tye Blanton Foundation is there to help parents by giving onesies to even the smallest of babies weighing barely a pound, or providing toiletries to parents who rushed in for that unexpected delivery several weeks early and hadn't packed a bag. We even provide gas cards for parents living more than 50 miles away, and restaurant gift cards so parents who have been stuck eating hospital food every day for months can step out and regrasp their sanity and get a nice meal away from the hospital."

According to Lowe, the Tye Blanton Foundation is intended to offer security and comfort to both the parents and families of babies born prematurely. "It’s really those little things that help our preemie parents stay afloat in the most helpless of situations," she said. "Our non-profit is a unique foundation that provides an assistance different than any other organization out there. It is something that is lacking in our medical society, yet very needed."

Since its inception in 2009, the Tye Blanton Foundation has touched the lives of every baby who has been born into NICU at Mission Children's Hospital. "Our focus has been on those infants who experience a stay greater than two weeks in the NICU," said Lowe.

Proceeds from the cornhole tournament will directly benefit the Tye Blanton Foundation. The tournament will have two divisions: Doubles and a Women's Doubles. The main division, the division that will win the cash, is open to men and women alike. If there are women that only want to play against women, that's what the women's division is for. Prizes for the Main Doubles Division will be $350 for 1st place, $250 for second place and $100 for thirst place. Winners of the Women's Division will be awarded gift certificates and gift baskets. Registration begins at 11 a.m. and bags will fly promptly at 12 p.m.

Cost to enter the tournament is $40 per two person team for either division of play. The tournament will be a double elimination tournament, and will be held indoors to prevent being affected by inclement weather.

In addition to the tournament, drinks and snacks will be available as well as Tye Blanton Foundation merchandise. "We will also have a DJ, Tye Blanton Foundation merchandise for purchase, as well as food and drinks," said Nathan Lowe. "We will have a 50/50 airmail box, where the person who makes the most out of eight bags will win 50 percent of the pot."

For more information or to pre-register, visit www.tyeblanton.com.





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