A South Mississippi Hero and the special children she helps

By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The staff of Ocean Springs Hospital's Rehabilitation Center wrote to us about someone who is not a co-worker, not a patient, not even someone they see every day.

One of the pediatric therapists, Jeanne Weeks, wrote, "She is very positive and loves to do things for her fellow man. She is a wonderful example of kindness, generosity and humbleness. She never wants credit for her consistent acts of kindness, but we feel it is merited."

That's why we recognize Nicki Baraboo of Ocean Springs as a South Mississippi Hero.

Three-year-old Levi Krystosek was born with a rare form of dwarfism. His mom, Dona Krystosek, says doctors told them he would never walk. But he and the therapists at Ocean Springs Hospital Rehabilitation Center proved the doctors wrong.

"Levi, when he started here, he wasn't walking," Dona remembered. "We've come a long way. The staff here is wonderful."

But the wonderful staff here said their hero is a woman who has enriched all their lives. They wanted to surprise Ms. Nicki Baraboo and thank her for all she does for the precious children born with so many gifts and challenges.

Miss Nicki used to bring her elderly mother in for rehab and was always drawn to the children she saw working so hard in the other room.

"The kids love her and they recognize a friendly face when they see her in the gym or just around the office when they're here working and it's a nice distraction for them," Pediatric Therapist Lauren Smith said.

For the past seven years, Miss Nicki has shown them extra attention and showers them with hugs and kisses. But on Easter and Mardi Gras, she showers them with gifts too. And Christmas time brings her hardest job of the year. She hand makes more than one hundred stockings and stuffs them with goodies.

Nicki Baraboo said with a grin, "I cut them, I sew them, I bond them, I paint them, I run them up here in batches."

Levi's eyes lit up with excitement when she handed him the big red stocking covered with gingerbread men. He couldn't wait to open his.

Therapy patient Christina Sammies said she'll keep her stocking forever. She saves them every year to remember Miss Nicki.

"I'm just going to keep it for memories because I already have a stocking hanging up," Christina Sammies said. "So I'm going to keep it to remember her."

The parents said their children will never forget a woman who goes out of her way to make a fuss over them when often times they are overlooked.

Mom Dixie Warren said, "Because a lot of the times, these children get out and people stare at them or whatever and they're left out of so many things."

Like the parents, Nicki sees the joy and courage the children can inspire in those who take the time, to get to know them.

Mom Kim Audo said "It's just so wonderful that someone else thinks of them in such a special way."

Dona Krystosek said Nicki Baraboo is one of those rare breeds who she has become honored to know since giving birth to her precious boy, Levi.

"I think she was another wonderful person that was brought into my life because of my child. I think she's wonderful," Dona said.

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