Four years ago, Doug and Katie Feimer of Yankton were weeks away from the expected arrival of their first child when concerns arose.
Without much warning and for unknown reasons, their son Luke was born at just 33 weeks.
“Everything had been fine up until the day he was born,” Katie said. “It was such a shock. You hear stories about it, but you never expect to be in that situation.”
Two years later, it happened again with the couple’s second child, Jacob, who was also born at 33 weeks.
With help from the March of Dimes — an organization that promotes infant health — the Feimers’ survived the experience and the two boys made a full recovery.
“I had always heard of March of Dimes, but it wasn’t until we went through our experience that we became more familiar with them,” Katie said. “They provide so much support and education about premature births.”
In recognition of the Feimers’ experience with March of Dimes, the organization has chosen the family as Yankton’s 2013 ambassador family for the local annual March for Babies event, a walk fundraiser which will be held Saturday at the Riverfront Event Center.
“They are our face for the March of Dimes in the Yankton area,” said Valerie Willson, community director for the March of Dimes in the Yankton area. “The Feimer family is a great example for what the March of Dimes does to help people.”
The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality, Willson said. In addition to promoting research in those areas, the organization also offers support and education to families.
That support was instrumental during the Feimers’ struggles, Katie said, as both her sons needed to learn to eat, gain weight and recover from jaundice in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.
“They provided us with a lot of information about what to expect,” she said. “They also had a person at the NICU we were at that would just come in and visit with the families and make sure that your questions were being answered. They also organized different things for the mothers to pull us together so you could see you weren’t going through it alone. They also had mothers there of children who were out of the NICU so you could see that people do survive the experience and the babies can do well afterwards.”
Today, Luke is an active 4-year-old and Jacob is a busy 21-month-old, Katie said.
“They are both doing great,” she said. “Neither of them have any lasting effects from being born premature. We are very fortunate.”
Katie said her family is honored to be named this year’s ambassador family for the March for Babies, and they are all looking forward to Saturday’s event.
“It should be fun,” she said. “It’s our fourth year doing it, and it’s always a good time.”
Registration for the March for Babies begins at 9 a.m. at the Riverfront Event Center, with the 3-mile walk starting at 10 a.m. The event offers food, music and games for children.
The 2013 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by Kmart, Farmers Insurance Group, Macy’s, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Actavis, Mission Pharmacal and United Airlines. Local sponsors include First Dakota National Bank, Shur-co, Sapa and Lewis and Clark Specialty Hospital.
Willson encourages everyone to attend the event, which will raise funds for a variety of March of Dimes programs.
“With help and support from Yankton, we can do our part to make sure babies in South Dakota are born healthy,” she said.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.marchforbabies.org.
You can follow Derek Bartos on Twitter at twitter.com/d_bartos