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Making the March personal: Local mom gives back to March of Dimes

Marnie Schuschke, Grand Forks, knows firsthand how much of an impact the March of Dimes foundation can have on a family. Her 18-month-old twin boys, Zak and Porter, were born on Oct. 2, 2011, eight and a half weeks premature. "Every day was affec...

Marnie Schuschle and her husband Mark play with their twin boys Zak (left) and Porter (right)
Marnie Schuschle, the ambassador for this year's March of Dimes March for Babies, and her husband Mark play with their twin boys Zak (left) and Porter (right). The twins, born eight and a half weeks premature, spent 44 days in an incubation unit and Marnie says that every day of their treatment was affected by the March of Dimes. (JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD)

Marnie Schuschke, Grand Forks, knows firsthand how much of an impact the March of Dimes foundation can have on a family.

Her 18-month-old twin boys, Zak and Porter, were born on Oct. 2, 2011, eight and a half weeks premature.

"Every day was affected by the March of Dimes," she said. "During their treatment, everything."

Every year, March of Dimes donates millions of dollars toward research of premature birth and birth defect prevention. This money is used to buy equipment and create techniques hospitals use to help premature babies like Zak and Porter. Communities nationwide hold March for Babies fundraisers to support the cause.

The Grand Forks March for Babies fundraiser will be held in the Grand Cities Mall on April 20. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the 3-mile walk begins at 10 a.m. More information can be found at www.marchforbabies.org .

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Long wait

Schuschke and her husband, Mark, had to wait days to be reunited with their newborn boys after birth.

"I couldn't hold them for 4 days after their birth," Schuschke said. "If they would have told me that during the pregnancy, I wouldn't have been able to comprehend it."

Weighing in at 3 pounds, 4 ounces and 2 pounds, 11 ounces, Zak and Porter spent 44 days in an incubation unit.

"They spent their first Halloween there," Schuschke said. "We were able to get them home just in time for their first Thanksgiving."

'A natural choice'

Ashley Gerner, senior community director of March of Dimes' North Dakota chapter, heard the Schuschkes' story and asked Marnie to serve as the local ambassador for this year's March for Babies.

"We always try to find a local face to the mission, and Marnie and her friends participated in the walk last year," Gerner said. "She was a natural choice (for ambassador)."

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"It makes it more real to hear from someone who has been affected (by March of Dimes)," Schuschke said.

As part of her ambassador duties, Schuschke, along with Gerner, has been making appearances around town, speaking to local organizations and the media. Gerner said she expects about 400 to 500 people to participate in the walk, and the group hopes to raise $50,000.

Gerner said she and Schuschke's appearances have been helpful during the build up to the walk.

"She's been fantastic," Gerner said. "She has an amazing story, and she tells it so well. It really tugs at your heartstrings to hear her talk about it."

Schuschke said she just wants to do her part to give back to the program.

"We were so focused on the day-to-day (process)," she said of her children's birth. "But we realized, after the fact, how much of an impact the March of Dimes had in the treatment and that whole process.

"I just want to go out and help as much as I can."

Program history

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The March of Dimes program was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938. Roosevelt, who was left unable to walk after contracting polio, sought to raise funds to eradicate the disease. According to reports, the name "March of Dimes" was popularized through the foundation's annual fundraiser, which suggested donors should give their loose change to the cause.

The popularity of the fundraiser was underscored in 1945, when federal legislation was passed to redesign the dime with the late Roosevelt's image on the front.

According to the March of Dimes' website, a safe and reliable vaccine had been made readily available by 1955, so the foundation took up a new cause: birth defects prevention.

The website states the current mission of the March of Dimes, which is celebrating its 75th year of operation, is "to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, infant mortality, and premature birth."

Call Jeffries at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1105; or send email to rjeffries@gfherald.com .

If you go:

What: March for Babies fundraiser.

When: April 20; 9 a.m. registration, 10 a.m. walk starts.

Where: Grand Cities Mall, Grand Forks.

Information: www.marchforbabies.org .

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