Local mom on 'Good Day' mission after infant's death

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 8/19/21

“If you had told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be, I would not have believed it,” said Wyndmoor resident Martha Sharkey.

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Local mom on 'Good Day' mission after infant's death

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“If you had told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be, I would not have believed it,” said Wyndmoor resident Martha Sharkey.

CEO and founder of Today is a Good Day, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of babies and their families in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of area hospitals, Sharkey’s trajectory was born of need. Back then, Sharkey, now 40, served as executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA). “I have always been in nonprofit sector,” she said. “Before working with the CHBA, I worked in events and development at the Franklin Institute.”

The premature births of the Sharkey’s twin daughters in 2010 was the event that changed her career path. “Our girls weren’t due until March 8, 2011,” she said. “Claire Josephine and Mary Gladys were born at Abington Hospital on Nov. 14, 2010.” Each infant weighed just a little over one pound. Mary passed away one week later. After 103 days in the NICU, Claire came home.

Rather than being crushed by loss, Martha and Paul Sharkey founded Today is a Good Day in 2014. The name came from an expression the Sharkeys often heard doctors and nurses say when visiting the NICU, “Today is a good day for Claire.”

Their mission? To make the road for other parents of infants in NICUs easier. They do this by providing care packages to NICU families, listening sessions for parents, direct financial support and connecting parents virtually via “Philly Preemie Parent Network.”

Sharkey continued to work as executive director of CHBA for another three years before making the difficult decision in 2017 to work full-time as CEO of her nonprofit. The reach of Today is a Good Day is based in southeastern Pennsylvania but includes Nemours in Delaware, Virtua in New Jersey and Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

During the pandemic, Sharkey challenged her board to “Think outside the box. All of us experienced the strain of the pandemic. We reached out to our hospital partnerships and asked what they need. How can we help your families and healthcare workers?

“We purchased iPads to be used for virtual rounds and 5,000 masks. One hospital used the funds we gave them to buy voice recorders so that parents' voices could be placed next to their babies.”

Last Thanksgiving, with the support of Fresh Market, Today is a Good Day distributed 175 holiday meals to families in NICUs. Last year they launched “our first podcast series as a resource for families to hear stories from other families with infants in NICUs.

“We also focused on grant opportunities available for our organization,” said Sharkey. “We were able to secure grant funding through various foundations, including the Crozer-Chester Medical Center Medical Staff Fund. the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, and others. In addition, we host team-building programs locally and nationally with organizations and companies.”

On Aug. 10, those who have experienced child loss attended the Greater Philadelphia Interfaith Remembrance Service.

“The organizations participating have very different missions, but they all share a tragic common bond, loss of a child,” said Sharkey.

On Oct. 18, the 5th annual Ralph Schrager Memorial Fund Golf Outing will take place at Commonwealth National Golf Club in Horsham. “Dr. Shrager was a well-respected neonatologist who saved thousands of babies’ lives in our community for over 30 years,” said Sharkey. “This event, in partnership with Today is a Good Day, supports the Abington Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in numerous capacities. Register at todayisagoodday.org/events

The Sharkeys welcomed their full-term daughter, Martha Rose, in 2015. Three years later, they were expecting a son who was born at just 34 weeks and only survived 91 minutes. “When people ask, I always say we have four children,” said Sharkey.

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