Miracle Babies has a special place in Tamara Lafarga-Joseph’s heart.
She knows firsthand what it’s like to wish for a miracle. Her grandson was born at just 24 weeks.
Max spent five months in the neonatal intensive-care unit, had several surgeries and 27 blood transfusions, and was on a myriad of medications. Today, he is a happy and healthy 13-year-old, whom Lafarga-Joseph lovingly calls “Miracle Max.”
“It was probably one of the most traumatic, unanticipated type of experiences that just affects the entire family on so many levels — emotionally, physically and fiscally,” Lafarga-Joseph said. “I really gained an appreciation for what the baby goes through, what the families go through.”
Max’s journey inspired Lafarga-Joseph to start working with Miracle Babies more than three years ago. The San Diego-based organization provides support and financial assistance to families with critically-ill newborns in the NICU.
Lafarga-Joseph is a founding member of Miracle Circle, an auxiliary group that supports the work of Miracle Babies through fundraising, community outreach and advocacy.
“I’d do anything to help Miracle Babies,” said Lafarga-Joseph, who has resided in Rancho Santa Fe since 2004. She previously lived in La Jolla.
Lafarga-Joseph has a long history of giving back to the community.
Originally from Spain, Lafarga-Joseph came to the United States when she was 9 years old. She grew up in the Midwest and earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s in exercise physiology from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
In the 1990s, Lafarga-Joseph settled in San Diego, when she studied gerontological counseling at UC San Diego. For 20 years, she helped rehabilitate and train people, including professional athletes and Olympic stars such as basketball player Stacey Augmon, boxer Mike Tyson (Junior Olympics) and skier Tommy Moe. Specializing in hydrotherapy, she traveled the globe to speak on the topic.
Lafarga-Joseph has also worked as a real estate investor and developer, paramedic, teacher and artist. Currently, she is focusing on her art. She works with a variety of mediums, from acrylics to ceramics.
“I’m in the renaissance of my life, I like to say,” she said with a laugh. “It’s the golden, wonderful years, where I have the time to focus on art and philanthropic work.”
Lafarga-Joseph has donated much of her time and talents to philanthropy.
After college, she taught health and nutrition for six months in Mexico. For two years, she also served as a health and nutrition missionary to the Mayan people in Guatemala, where she lived in a mud hut with no electricity or water. She learned to speak K’iche’ or Quiché, a Maya language of Guatemala, and helped birth babies, immunize people, and teach others about nutrition and sanitation.
More recently, Lafarga-Joseph has served on the board of the Foundation for Women and has served as an event chair and volunteer for the Moores Cancer Center, where she worked with terminal cancer patients. She has also coordinated events and supported Rancho Coastal Humane Society, St. Germaine Children’s Charity and Sharp HealthCare, among other local institutions and organizations.
“I believe that we are here to help others and to leave the world better than we found it,” she said.
Miracle Babies will celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Miracle Circle Auxiliary on Feb. 24 at La Valencia Hotel.
Sponsored by Stemcyte, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Breakfast will be served at 10:30 a.m., followed by the program with keynote speaker and CNN Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker. The event has already sold out.
“Miracle Babies resonated with me because it is so close to my heart,” Lafarga-Joseph said. “I lived it.”
For more about Miracle Circle Auxiliary, visit miraclebabies.org/MiracleCircle.