By Mike Kolakowski, President and CEO of KBE Building Corporation
Last week I had the opportunity to see how the work that my company, KBE Building Corporation, performs every day can make a profound and fundamental difference in the lives of others.
The project, Alex’s Library, is no doubt the smallest project we’ve ever built. Just 90 s/f, the library is a little larger than a small office. We converted the space, with the help of many others, to a parents’ resource library and quiet study. The library is located off of the main entrance to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UCONN Health Center in Farmington, CT.
It was a simple enough request; Adria Giordano at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center contacted KBE to see if we could help convert the tiny office into a library. Funding would come in part from The Baby Alex Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization established by parents Nicky Schmidt and Erik Skulte, following the premature birth of their son Alex.
“Pretty straightforward,” I thought when the request came in. KBE has a long history of taking on projects similar to Alex’s Library. We also make an effort to financially support many programs focused on helping children and their families. We agreed to donate our project management services to this project without hesitation.
We collaborated with Tecton Architects, which donated its design services, and five other subcontractors with whom we’ve worked frequently over the years.
The library design provided by Tecton Architects called for a fresh coat of paint, installation of recessed bookshelves, soft lighting, and a new wood floor. We coordinated with the Medical Center staff, performed the minor demolition, updated the mechanical and electrical systems, and completed the new finishes. Four weeks later, the library was completed.
A few weeks and a furniture delivery later, the new library was ready for the grand opening. I had a little speech prepared, nothing too fancy. But when I arrived at the hospital that morning for the ribbon cutting, I met a very captivating and engaging young man named Alex Skulte, age 8 – the “Alex” in “Alex’s Library.”
It was then that I realized this tiny job, that was a piece of cake for my team to accomplish, made this young boy and his family incredibly happy. Moreover, this project will provide a lasting benefit to parents trying to deal with the very challenging and trying days of a child’s premature birth and subsequent care in the NICU.
Alex’s mother, Nicky Schmidt, delivered an incredibly moving speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She informed us that Alex had been born at just 26 weeks gestation and weighed under 2 pounds. After five months in the NICU and numerous surgeries, complications, and challenges, Alex was able to head home with his parents. There were undoubtedly dark times throughout Alex’s recovery period, but Nicky and Erik never lost hope. The Baby Alex Foundation’s Alex’s Library initiative grants other struggling parents with children in intensive care access to inspirational stories and informational reading material to help ease their pain and find solace.
I’m proud that KBE continues to support important causes year after year by providing financial support, hands-on construction management, and countless construction services. Each opportunity we receive to help those in need means a great deal to me and my employees, but building Alex’s Library was a unique joy. Working with The Baby Alex Foundation and meeting the very courageous young man who inspired it really made a difference to me. I realized that the rough and tumble world of concrete, bricks, and steel that KBE works in every day has a very real and tangible human benefit. I was able to witness that benefit first hand when I watched the smile and joy on Alex’s face as he wielded the heavy scissors to cut the bright ribbon and open the library. It was priceless.