Paying it forward

. April 29, 2013.

Laura Hurst of Ypsilanti supports the March of Dimes for two very important reasons — her twins, Alex and Levi. Born at 29 weeks, the boys weighed less than 3 pounds each and were so premature, they spent over two months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “It was such a stressful and intense time,” Hurst says. “The surfactant therapy, developed by the March of Dimes, helped my babies’ little lungs to breathe.”

Hurst helped her mom collect for the March of Dimes in their neighborhood when she was young. But, once her boys were born she learned just how much the March of Dimes has changed since she was young.

“The March of Dimes doesn’t just stand for preventing birth defects or premature birth,” says Hilary Simmet, community director for the March of Dimes Ann Arbor division. “We want all babies to be born healthy. Everybody has been touched by the March of Dimes in one way or another.”

The organization established in 1938 to fight polio, developed the Apgar test to assess a newborn’s health, and established the Folic Acid Awareness Campaign in the late ‘90s. March of Dimes has also helped the regionalization of NICUs, developed the lung treatments Hurst’s twins received in the hospital, and advocated PKU tests done at birth.

Along with national efforts, the March of Dimes aids local outreach and research. In Washtenaw County, the March of Dimes awarded 2013 community grants to The Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti, and the Doula Connection in Ann Arbor, as well as larger research grants to the University of Michigan totaling more than $1.9 million.

“If you had a healthy pregnancy,” says Hurst, “chances are the March of Dimes had something to do with it.” She heard about the March for Babies after her sons were born, and the family started walking when the kids were about a year old. Now participating in their fourth year, mom, dad Anthony Gugino and the boys are still going strong. “We go out with our whole family. Our team is called the Super Gugino’s because our little guys were so puny, so skinny and so mighty when they were in the hospital, they reminded me of Super Grover.”
“The March for Babies is the largest fundraiser nationally,” says Simmet. One way to participate is the Hudson Mills event on Sunday, May 5, which will include plenty of activities for kids and families. The theme will be a “Birthday Party” to celebrate 75 years of the March of Dimes — from polio to prematurity. Free food, face painting, bounce house fun, games, giveaways, and more will be available.

“I love March for Babies because there are so many people coming out for such a great cause,” Hurst says, “For me this event is really powerful and inspirational.” It’s family-friendly, and the tone of the walk is very hopeful and uplifting, says Hurst. “We feel intensely grateful that so many people were involved in the movement before our babies were even born, so this is our way of paying it forward.”