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'Holiday Magic' fundraiser nets $42,000 to aid premature babies

By Laura Hampson , Lake City Reporter

1055 days ago   Article ID# 1298894
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March of Dimes

LAKE CITY, FLORIDA (Lake City Reporter) - In the United States, one in eight babies are born prematurely. Tuesday night about 400 people gathered to raise money for healthier babies worldwide at the March of Dimes Holiday Magic 2011 Signature Chefs Auction.

For the seventh year, the event brought business leaders and community members together to bid in silent and live auctions at the Rountree Moore Toyota showroom. All auction items were donated to March of Dimes and bidders often pay more because the money goes to a good cause, said Maureen Lloyd, event co-chair.

Between company donations, ticket sales, and auctions the event raised over $42,000, surpassing the fundraising goal, said Sky Wheeler, community director for the North Central Florida March of Dimes Division.

Auction items included decorated Christmas trees, vacations at beach condos, sightseeing flights and diamond jewelry. Chefs from area restaurants, bakeries and catering companies offered samples of their specialties.

Across the country, March of Dimes divisions hold similar signature chefs events, said Betsy Trent, executive director of the North Central Florida March of Dimes Division, which covers nine counties. November is Prematurity Awareness Month and it’s a great way to focus on premature birth education and research, she said. Premature babies can have lifelong problems.

“This is just an incredible event in the Suwannee Valley area,” Trent said.

Krystale Defee, a Florida Gateway College nursing student, volunteered at the event because she has seen first hand what March of Dimes does for babies.

Her son, James, was born eight weeks early and weighed just three pounds. Until his birth her pregnancy had been normal, she said. He was a month old before he could be held, said Defee, of Mayo. Seeing James hooked up to tubes and monitors in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Shands in Gainesville took a toll on her and her husband, Jimmy, she said.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” she said.

She said James is now doing well, but will always develop at slower speeds than other kids his age.

Seeing nurses work with NICU babies made her realize she also wanted to be a neonatal nurse, Defee said. She will graduate from FGC in 2012.

During the event Walmart of Lake City made a $3,000 contribution to March of Dimes. Hernando Mendoza, store manager, said he has seen premature babies in both in his native Columbia and the United States and was happy to support the March of Dimes.

Terry Baker, general manager of Potash Corp - White Springs, donated $10,000 to March of Dimes on behalf of the company. “Each of us as parents realize how important children are as the next generation,” Baker said. “It’s the right thing to be a good community partner.”

Guest speaker Zac Cook, of Lake City, said he was grateful for the work March of Dimes does, especially after he and his wife, Amanda, had triplets. Their daughters were born at 34 weeks, shy of the recommended 39 weeks but considered good for triplets.

March of Dimes research has significantly reduced the number of premature babies and birth defects, he said. “We prayed every night for three happy, healthy, beautiful babies.”

As owner of United Fundraising, a school fundraising company, Cook said he often travels for work. “Every time I walk in the door it’s like getting rushed by a peewee football team. There’s nothing like it.”

Copyright 2014 Lake City Reporter   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1055 days ago   Article ID# 1298894

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