Last updated: February 06. 2014 8:25PM - 704 Views
By Kevin Boozer kboozer@civitasmedia.com

Brooklyn Mobley, who was born prematurely, makes friends with Vaden Fitzgerald at the March for Babies luncheon.
Brooklyn Mobley, who was born prematurely, makes friends with Vaden Fitzgerald at the March for Babies luncheon.
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NEWBERRY — It’s all aboard for the 2014 March of Dimes March for Babies campaign in Newberry County.

Team captains met at Steven W’s on Wednesday to kick off the campaign which culminates with the walk on April 12.

Mona Carter, state director for the March of Dimes, encouraged the leaders to nurture relationships, saying that in doing so doing they would raise funds to help prevent birth defects in South Carolina.

She reminded them the research and awareness work for March of Dimes is important to this area, where one of six babies is born prematurely.

With a $50,000 goal the team captains have a job ahead of them in the weeks leading up to April 12. Social media, email, mailings, and old fashioned face-to-face contact are ways she encouraged the teams to work to help support the March of Dimes’ efforts to help mothers birth healthy babies.

“These teams are the backbone of March of Dimes. The team organizations are like conductors on this train, so we need you to be strong leaders (at your places of work and in the community,” Carter said.

She recommended teams have one captain for every 30 to 50 members. Individuals who raise $1,000 or more join the Circle of Champions.

New tools, familiar mission

A new sales tool this year for Newberry is the butterfly garden. Supporters can purchase blue butterflies for boys, pink for girls or purple for preemies and put the name of a child onto each cardboard butterfly. Carter said that tool has been successful in South Carolina and she expected it to work well in Newberry.

Online platforms that share personal stories and allow for credit card donations are another tool she was excited to get established in the Newberry area. There is a March for Babies App for iPhone and Droid phones.

Carter encouraged the volunteers to have fun recruiting, organizing and equipping their friends, family and co-workers to engage in the March of Dimes campaign.

For Beth Taylor with Newberry College, this is her first year as a team captain. She said the college is establishing a wellness program and she is working this fund raiser into that effort.

Etta Goodwin, a veteran team captain, uses her talent to design t-shirt which she sells to friends and co-workers. She has done so for years, designing them in ink and having a local shop print them up for her. Though that shop closed last year, she said she will find a new vendor and make more shirts this year.

Carter mentioned how employers benefit from the March of Dimes because babies born healthy mean parents miss less work and a lower overall medical cost for the child (12 times smaller cost compared to a premature birth).

Parents reach out, give back

Karen and Brian Fitzgerald are this year’s ambassador family for Newberry. June 18, 2012, despite receiving what she described as excellent prenatal care, Karen gave birth to her son at 30 weeks gestation. She had a rare condition called HELLP whereby her body actually rejected the pregnancy.

Brian, who is headmaster at Newberry Academy, said he never will forget the doctor coming into the room and telling him if they did not take the baby immediately that his wife and child would likely die within hours.

Their son, Vaden, spent six weeks in the NICU and six months wearing a monitor once he was released. His mother quit her job to stay home with him, but the family tightened their belts and made the financial sacrifices necessary for Vaden’s well being.

Since it was winter, the medical staff wanted Vaden to be kept away from crowds due to his preemie immune system. That meant the Fitzgerald’s spent their first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a threesome, having to avoid family gatherings.

“I had no idea what it was like to learn to check if my child was breathing at night or to teach a 33-month-old to use a bottle,” Karen said. The couple received guidance from medical staff and successfully navigated that journey.

In December 2013, Vaden received a clean bill of health. His parents continue to watch him for potential developmental delays, but he is an active, thriving child now.

She said doctors had no idea why she developed that condition and if she chose to have another child there would be added risk of premature birth, but she said she is comforted by the work of the March of Dimes that increases the odds for preemies.

“This experience changes you and makes you stronger,” she said. “We met some of the most amazing people in the NICU and other people touched by premature birth.”

To learn more about their story and to hear from others touched by similar life experiences, visit www.marchforbabies.org.

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