By Brenda L. Holmes
Lori and Justin Hill wanted to spread the word about the March of Dimes and what the agency does to help families. Serving as Family Ambassadors allows them to do just that.
As ambassadors for the organization, the Hills share the story of the loss of their infant daughter and how the organization helped them start the healing process.
The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.
Donna Colon is the senior community director for the March of Dimes Indiana Chapter. She helps the organizations find Family Ambassadors.
“When our families relate their stories, it makes it so much more personal,” Colon said. “The Family Ambassadors help people connect.”
She said it also helps to localize the annual walk-a-thon fundraiser.
“The walk represents the community coming together,” she said.
The Hills have lived in their Plainfield home for seven years. Lori has been in the Plainfield area for more than a decade.
“And my family opened the Hills Cobbler Shop out on (U.S.) 40,” Justin said. “We’ve always had a connection to Plainfield.”
The couple is still healing from the loss of their infant daughter, Mary-Catherine Gayle, who should have been born in 2010.
“We found out we were pregnant on Feb. 28, 2010,” Lori said. “On June 16, we found out we were having a girl. We also learned that her skull had not formed correctly.”
Their infant daughter had a neurological disorder called annasophlicic.
“The rest of her was perfect,” Lori said. “She had 10 fingers and 10 toes but we had to make the decision of whether we could take her to term.”
Physicians advised the couple that Lori’s health was also at risk. She gave birth on June 24.
Lori said she learned that the complications were caused by not having enough folic acid.
According to the March of Dimes website — www.marchofdimes.com — folic acid is a B vitamin. If women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce their baby’s risk for birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
Folic acid works only if taken before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may know she’s pregnant.
“The website helped a lot,” Lori said. “It helped me learn about how to be a healthier mom and how to have healthy babies.”
She said the chat feature and seeing other families’ stories on the website were therapeutic for her. The website helped her want to become involved in the organization.
“I wanted to take our experience and turn it into something positive,” Lori said. “I joined the March of Dimes in January 2011 and did the walk in May 2011.”
The March for Babies is an awareness and fundraising opportunity for the community.
With the support of friends and family, the Hills were able to raise more than $3,000 at the walk.
“We had a lot of support from our family,” Lori said. “It helped me doing the walks.”
Justin said being involved with the March of Dimes has been a good experience, even though it can be sad to hear the stories of the other families.
Another way families have been able to communicate non-verbally is through a system of colored beads they wear at the march. Families who have lost children wear one color, those who have had premature children wear another color, and those whose babies have birth defects wear a third color.
The couple say that the March of Dimes has been very helpful through their grieving process and they hope and pray to have a child when the time is right.
“We still keep her ultrasound picture on our refrigerator,” Justin said. “And we have her ashes. She’s still with us.”
Lori said they continued to keep their pregnancy journal until after her passing.
“We also kept the many cards and some of the flowers we received,” she said. “We also had her baptized at St. Susanna by Father Kevin.”
“She even has her own rosary,” Justin added.
The 2013 March for Babies Hendricks County is May 5 at Hummel Park in Plainfield. Registration is at 1 p.m. and the walk will start at 2 p.m.
The goal for the Hendricks County walk is to raise $50,000 to help win the battle against prematurity, infant mortality, and birth defects. Participants will walk or run the three-mile route.
The March of Dimes is also planning the 75th Year Anniversary Signature Chef Gala for Nov. 1. A cocktail hour will start at 5:30 p.m. and the doors for the gala will open at 6:30 p.m. The location has yet to be announced.
For more information about upcoming MDA events, contact Donna Colon by calling 285-0199 or by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.