Celebrating Roxanne, NILMDTS Volunteer of the Year 2022
by Kara Bussabarger, Program Manager
When Orlando resident Roxanne Baggott was in nursing school, she always knew she wanted to work with infants. What began as a cuddle volunteer during an internship in nursing school turned into a 30-year career in one of the largest Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) in the country in Orlando.
“I was always drawn to preemies, babies born early, and those who were sick and needed more care,” Baggott said.
As one might imagine, while working in the NICU for 30 years, Baggott saw many babies pass away and found that helping families with end-of-life situations became a calling for her.
“Because it was in those dark times that I found I could be a light for a family and make a dark situation a little bit brighter,” she said.
During those hard moments of when a family lost a baby, Baggott would walk alongside them, encouraging them to create even a few precious moments, like holding or swaddling their baby.
“Because it’s those memories,” Baggott said, “that can bring comfort and peace, and be a blessing to families later on.”
And it was the importance of creating memories for families that led Baggott to eventually volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS), an international non-profit that offers the gift of healing, hope, and honor to families experiencing the death of a baby through the overwhelming power of free remembrance portraits.
NILMDTS has gifted more than 70,000 complimentary portrait sessions in its 17 years of serving families. In 2022 alone, NILMDTS photographed 3,810 remembrance sessions. Baggott has been a part of close to 300 of those sessions in her 16 months of volunteering, either through photography or digital retouching.
Baggott first learned about NILMDTS when working in an Orlando NICU and witnessing firsthand the compassion and caring of a volunteer NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer who came and took beautiful photos of a baby that had passed away and a family in grief.
“When I saw that, and what he did, I knew I wanted to serve families that way as well,” Baggott said.
That is when she went online and learned about the NILMDTS Medical Affiliate program that offers continuing education units while training medical professionals to offer NILMDTS photography services in a hospital when a NILMDTS photographer is not available.
Baggott applied right away.
“I was blown away with the training,” she said. “Not only does the training give medical professionals continuing education units, but it contains so much information on how to work with families in grief and take photos. It empowers all nurses to say: ‘I can do this!’”
Upon retiring, Baggott made her No. 1 priority and goal learning photography and becoming a NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer. She soaked up and learned all she could, taking photography classes on her own, practicing taking photos of a baby doll, and working through and completing all the required NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer training.
Baggott didn’t stop there. She later learned Photoshop, working her way up to become a NILMDTS Level 3 Digital Retouch Artist (the highest level of digital retouching in the organization) in order to help more families by retouching the photos she takes as well as the photos taken by other volunteer NILMDTS Affiliated Photographers and Medical Affiliates.
“When I volunteer, I know I give a gift that can never be replaced,” Baggott said. “I have a heart for families, and all of the volunteers with NILMDTS do, too. We all have a common mission and passion and goal to serve families and offer them a priceless gift that is irreplaceable.”
Baggott said she didn’t realize until she started volunteering for NILMDTS how profound her volunteer service, and even her life, would be impacted by others that she has served.
One of her most meaningful photography sessions was her very first one when the child who passed away was an organ donor. In the hospital where she went to take photos, the hospital staff and family lined the hallways for a hero walk in honor of the child. She even remembers one gentleman saluting.
“It was just an honor to be a part of the story,” she said. “For me, I want to serve families during their darkest times, and while I do in fact do that, this has turned into so much more for me.”
Volunteering with NILMDTS has been life-changing and life-giving for Baggott. She believes so much in the NILMDTS organization and its mission, she even recruited her husband, Carl, to become a NILMDTS volunteer as an Assistant to Photographer so he can now accompany her on remembrance photography sessions.
“Words can’t even describe the honor I feel for this organization (NILMDTS) and what it stands for. It means so much to so many,” she said.
Helping others and serving families is at the core of who Baggott is, which led many to nominate her for the recent, first-ever NILMDTS Volunteer of the Year Award. Baggott was chosen as the prestigious “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year” recipient.
The nominators praised Baggott for her amazing, huge heart and passion for helping and caring for families.
NILMDTS staff member and Regional Coordinator Jess Weltner, who works closely with Baggott, said: “Roxanne brings positivity, encouragement, and such a calming presence to every situation. Not only does she serve families beautifully, but she is also always available to support and encourage fellow volunteers. Her kind words and willingness to serve in many capacities are inspirational, and I am grateful to have the pleasure of knowing her.”
Even though she has won this prestigious award, and has been a part of close to 300 sessions, either through photography or digital retouching, Baggott is humble.
“I am just one volunteer at NILMDTS. There are many volunteers who give so much,” Baggott said. “We don’t do this alone. We serve together. We are all on the same mission of giving all of our hearts and all of our honor to serve babies and families. I just hope I can be an inspiration to someone else if they are thinking about volunteering with NILMDTS.”
As she looks to the future, Baggott says she wants to continue to evolve to become an even better photographer and digital retouch artist in order to serve more families. She also is excited about serving with the NILMDTS Volunteer Leadership Team as a Medical Support Volunteer in order to offer additional ongoing support and advisement to Medical Affiliates, medical facilities, and NILMDTS volunteers on matters relating to hospitals and to keep NILMDTS in the forefront of their minds.