As Father's Day approaches, my thoughts turn to my two children. My son Sam was born perfectly healthy and a robust 8.5 pounds some 18 years ago. Thirteen years ago, my daughter Mallory was born too soon to survive, and I still miss her not just on Father's Day, but every day.
Premature birth strikes many families -- over 500,000 every year in the United States alone, and over 15 million worldwide. Thankfully most of these babies do survive. But many face problems throughout their lives with their hearing and vision, walking and cognitive skills.
This Father's Day is a great time to remember that a healthy birth can never be taken for granted. It's also a great time to give back to the organizations and people that make healthy births possible, such as your local hospital or the March of Dimes, which is the leading nonprofit dedicated to healthy babies.
This Spring, March of Dimes has begun a new cause marketing platform to help raise awareness and funds for the organization. Called imbornto, the campaign celebrates the idea that every baby is born to do something great, and the March of Dimes is there to help get them off to a healthy start.
Since its founding in 1938, March of Dimes has supported ground breaking research and life saving advancements. Virtually every research breakthrough in maternal and infant health, from the vaccine for polio to lifesaving newborn screening tests, has been with the leadership, direction or participation of March of Dimes.
Today, the March of Dimes is focused on reducing premature birth, an issue that is very personal not only to me, but also to moms like my friend Melanie Hoffman. It wasn't her fault that her baby was born more than three months too soon. And there was no reason for her to feel like she let him down. But that is how Melanie felt and it's why she has spent the past nine years volunteering for the March of Dimes -- and trying to make up to her son Joshua for the fact that as a newborn, hospital staff tagged him a "micro-preemie" instead of using his name.
After Joshua was delivered, Melanie recalls, "The sheer terror and overwhelming shame I felt hit me with such force that every inch of my body shook. My first minutes of motherhood with my baby outside my womb and I was completely devastated by how I had let my own child down. My husband Lee and I couldn't be more terrified, and I was positive that after just 24 hours I had no more tears left."
Joshua was born at nearly 4 months too soon when Melanie went into labor unexpectedly. Doctors could not stop it and delivered Joshua who weighed only 1lb, 11oz at birth. Joshua wasn't expected to live. He spent 3½ months in the newborn intensive care unit. During that time, he faced many challenges common to babies born too soon. Melanie and Lee did not know if Joshua would ever walk or talk, see or hear.
But he's now nine years old. He has visual impairment with low field of vision. But that hasn't stopped Melanie from encouraging her son to do what he loves most -- reading, drawing, building things, swimming, riding his bike, and giving speeches at March of Dimes events.
And it hasn't stopped Melanie from trying to save other families from the worry-filled months while Joshua was hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit.
The March of Dimes helps all kids reach their full potential by funding research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs that ensure healthy births and early childhood development. The imbornto campaign is running now and will last until Father's Day, encouraging people to shop, dine and donate with our partners HSN, The Honest Company, Kmart, ProFlowers, Famous Footwear and Destination Maternity.
I think the March of Dimes is the prefect partner for companies that want to encourage purchases and support a cause for Mother's Day and Father's Day. After all, every time a baby is born, so are a mom and dad.