Volunteer cuddlers provide comfort for babies at Valley Children's Hospital

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- There are a number of volunteer opportunities at Valley Children's Hospital, but one of the most coveted is to be a Cuddler in the NICU.

"Cuddling is what it is," said volunteer Tonya Riggs. "Holding babies, comforting them. Sometimes it's holding a sick baby, sometimes it's just holding them cause mom and dad can't be there or the nurse staff can't possibly split themselves in four different ways. In a nutshell, you cuddle and hold babies."

Riggs is a stay at home mom who also runs a photography business. She was looking for ways to reconnect and give back.

"I have three boys that I raised and it's been a long time since any of them have been little like that, but the nature of what I do for a living kind of lends its way. I've always had a special place for babies."

Sometimes volunteers cuddle for only 10 or 15 minutes with a baby, but it can be up to an hour or two.

"My world just closes off when I come here and I sit with that baby for however long it is," said Riggs. "I don't think about anything else but that baby. It's kind of zen! I'm not super religious, but I'm a believer and I think that at least with all the babies that I hold, I always try to say a little prayer and I think everybody needs to have a little prayer, whether it's that prayer for that baby to heal, for them to go home, whatever their needs are, that they be met, that there's wisdom and knowledge given to those taking care of them, and that's the little prayer I say."

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