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Jessica Ballou, Published April 14 2012

In honor of babies: March brings families together to raise money, awareness about premature births

FARGO - About 600 walkers gathered Saturday morning for the March of Dimes’ annual fundraiser, March for Babies at the Fargodome.

“This is the largest fundraiser we have,” said Jamie Kasal, a community director for the March of Dimes in North Dakota.

“I just love the sense of community and that people come together to support the cause.”

March for Babies this year involved walking around the Fargodome concourse for an hour.

“The walk is in honor of the 64 babies that are born premature every hour,” Kasal said.

Individuals, as well as both family and corporate teams, walked either in honor or memory of babies who were born premature.

After the walk and a lunch break, there was a closing ceremony with awards for best-decorated stroller, top youth walker, top walker, top family team and top team.

Dennis Millirons, president of Sanford Medical Center in Fargo and chairman of the event, said the area Dimes chapter expected to raise about $100,000 Saturday. Some of that will be used locally and some nationally for research to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

“This is just a fabulous event,” he said. “There’s wonderful weather, great moods … people just come out and have a great time.”

Matt and Margo Jensen of Ogema, Minn., who have walked in this event for four years, were chosen as this year’s March for Babies Ambassador Family.

“We choose one family that has been impacted by our mission,” said Ashley Gerner, community director for eastern North Dakota. “So often people think, ‘Oh, (premature birth) can’t happen here,’ but it does … it’s something that greatly affects our community.

“We hope people realize the importance of investing in the youngest in the community,” Gerner added.

The Jensens had quadruplets born after 24 weeks and two days. The smallest child weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces, and the largest weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces.

After spending five months in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the quads were able to go home; since then, the children have had no health issues. Their family team, the Jensen Quads, had about 40 people at Saturday’s event.

“It’s the highlight of our year with us,” Margo said about the event.

She said her children have been excited to be a part of the Baby March, as they call it, for weeks. This event was one of the quadruplets’ first outings after leaving the NICU a few years ago.

Aaron and Marcy Samuelson and their team walked in honor of their daughter, Payton, who was in the NICU in 2008 and would’ve been four years old this year.

“It’s very uplifting,” Marcy said about the event.

Tamilynn Fortier and her team walked for Fortier’s daughter, Stella, who was born after 27 weeks and 2 days at 1 pound, 7 ounces. After spending 16 weeks in the NICU, Stella was able to go home.

“She came home on Prilosec and that’s it,” Fortier said. “She’s eight months old now and off all medication.

“This isn’t like other walks in the past,” she added. “The kids can just go around and play. It’s totally different … it’s focused on the kids and celebrating the kids.”


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509