Every five years, Missoula Community Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) holds a reunion, and this year's promises to be bigger than ever.

Director of Marketing Geoff Peddicord explains the importance of the event.

"All the parents and the kids that have graduated from the NICU are invited to come on down and have a celebratory picnic and event down at Caras Park," Peddicord said. "I believe this is our third or fourth event, and the last time, five years ago, we had over a thousand people there. It's hard to imagine, but when  you think of all the NICU babies and parents that we graduate every week and then times that by five years, you can understand why there are so many who attend."

Peddicord said the NICU cares for the most vulnerable of all patients, premature babies, and the bonds that develop between parents, families and staff tend to last a lifetime.

"In this atmosphere the relationships that form and the bonds that are created are some of the strongest you'll see in all of healthcare," Peddicord said. "It's amazing to see these families that haven't seen their NICU nurses in five or six years, they just burst into tears, they run to them, there are huge hugs, and it's really quite emotional and something very special to see."

The event is Sunday, July 27, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Caras Park. There will be live music, food, Big Dipper Ice Cream, games and lots of fun for the entire family. The event is especially for former NICU patients and their families.

Missoula Community Medical Center Marketing Director Geoff Peddicord