Maddie (Donaghy) Francis
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Our Story

"A person's a person no matter how small" Dr. Seuss


My name is Maddie and NICU Cheer is my passion project that came about after my husband Aaron and I had a premature baby in 2016 and we saw a need for something that could brighten a NICU parent’s day especially on special celebration days. 


We have two wonderful kids. Lillian is our rainbow baby who was born full term in 2014 + Ashton who was born prematurely at 30 weeks in 2016.  They are the light of our lives.  Lily is in school now and Ashton is started at a specialist school in 2022. He still has ongoing hospital and specialist visits with multiple departments across two hospitals as we work towards a diagnosis. He is so happy despite it all and cracks us up daily with his mischievous ways. 


My wonderfully supportive husband Aaron is a  news photographer and we are so lucky to have him. It is such a cliché, but he truly is our rock and none of this would be possible without him.  In my life pre-children I worked as a lawyer and it was always my honour to work for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Queensland and Victoria, but after Ashton’s birth his appointments kept me too busy to return to that role. Then I started NICU Cheer and I've left my law career long behind and switched to working in Covid testing (to pay the bills) and focus the rest of my time and energy on pouring love into NICU Cheer! It unexpectedly took off right from the start and we've continued to expand each year and I absolutely love being able to bring cheer to other NICU families.

We have now deliver over 1,260 bags annually to following 10 hospitals.

Bags go to the
major NICUs at:


  • Mercy Hospital for Women

  • The Royal Women's Hospital

  • Monash Children's Hospital

  • Joan Kirner Women & Children's Hospital

  • The Royal Children's Hospital

And Special Care Nurseries at:

  • Northern Health

  • Ballarat Hospital

  • Dandenong Hospital

  • Sandringham Hospital

  • Casey Hospital

We deliver gift-bags on four special days of the year:

  • Easter Weekend

  • Mother's Day

  • Father's Day

  • Christmas Day

"Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life!"


Our aim

To bring some cheer on special days for parents of premature/sick babies in the NICU + Special Care Nursery & to let them know they're

not alone on this journey.

Maddie the NICU Cheer Founder hand drew our logo based on a picture of Ashton in the NICU.

Future plans include bringing more cheer on more days and starting deliveries for Valentines Day too

+ spreading the cheer to more NICUs

Our plans

Our logo

Why NICU Cheer

Special days like Christmas can be a tough time of year for some and that is particularly so for families who have a baby or babies in a NICU.  Our first year after having Ashton I remember thinking about all the parents in the NICU over Christmas and wishing I could let them know they’re not alone on this journey - and so the idea for NICU Cheer was born.


The following year in 2017 I started my NICU Cheer campaign putting out the call for donations of goods. At first I was just hoping for enough to fill a hamper to go in the parent’s break out room, but I received so many wonderful donations from family, friends, strangers and obliging companies that I was able to put together 61 gift bags (one for every cot at the Mercy NICU/SCN) as well as giant hampers for the parent and staff rooms.


By 2018 we had streamlined the collection process and refined what goes into the bags too. The 2019 bags were the best yet as we were fortunate enough to receive some lovely corporate donations and we delivered 188 bags as we expanded to 3 major NICUs that Christmas.


In 2020 we were going to do our first ever Easter & Mother's Day delivery, but Covid-19 had other plans.. but with some careful planning, protocols in place and sadly no volunteers we were able to make our inaugural Father's Day delivery of 222 bags for Dads in the NICUs right across Melbourne in 2020. By Christmas 2020 we had added another hospital and now we deliver 250 bags every delivery to the major NICUs.

In 2021 we have already successfully done our first Easter delivery and Mother's Day deliveries and will deliver for Father's Day & Christmas Day too

Delivering these little bags of treats is our way of giving back to the hospital and the staff who saved our son and also our way to pay it forward and hopefully bring some cheer to others who are where we have been. We know what it's like to be them and so if we can bring even a little joy or cheer up one parent each year we have accomplished our mission.


If you donate to NICU Cheer or have helped us in any way we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for enabling us to spread some cheer.


In 2020 we expanded to our 4th & 5th hospitals and now deliver 250 bags every delivery for a total of 1000 bags delivered every year. In the future we hope to spread NICU Cheer to even more hospitals and possibly on more days too  - watch this space.

Love + big hugs



Founder NICU Cheer


Spread the Cheer

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart!

Winnie The Pooh by A.A.Milne

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