ALDEN, N.Y. - Soon-to-be 8-year-old Alannah is a former NICU baby who decided she didn't want presents for her birthday this year. Instead, she's giving back to Women and Children's Hospital.

She told her mom she wanted to celebrate by starting a blanket and book drive. The donations will go to babies born this month - especially those in the neonatal intensive care unit.

It's a place Alannah's family, unfortunately, knows all too well.

Alannah spent the first 80 days of her life in the NICU, fighting for her life. She was born at 31 weeks with a rare birth defect. Doctors told her parents, she wasn't going to make it, but they refused to believe it.

They were with her every day, but they couldn't hold her. Instead, they brought books and read to Alannah so she could hear their voices.

She couldn't wear clothes because she was too little and fragile and connected to a lot of wires and tubes, so they brought soft blankets to put under and around her.

That's why Alannah chose to collect books and blankets. Her family knew the comfort these simple items can bring for families with babies in the NICU - the place that gave Alannah a fighting chance eight years ago.

She collected 131 blankets and 115 books, and she hasn't even picked up all of the donations yet. Her original goal was 50 of each.

If you have any questions you can email Alannah's mom, Heather Rust, at