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March for Babies gets under way

Ambassador family inspires participants

POSTED: February 8, 2013 12:29 a.m.
Autumn Vetter/

Matthew Shuman holds daughter Josie during the March for Babies kickoff Wednesday at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

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The Shumans are a family of three that should be much larger.

“What people don’t see is we’re actually a family of five,” Jessica Shuman said. “I should have three car seats and a minivan. Matthew should be pushing the double stroller, me the one stroller and us trying to struggle with the dog. I should be pulling my hair out trying to struggle with three children … but that’s not the case for us.”

Jessica and Matthew Shuman, both educators with the Forsyth County school system, are the proud parents of Josie, who will turn 1 in May. But sadly, the couple lost twins — daughter, Alice, and son, Drake — in 2011 after they were born premature.

The Shumans, the 2013 Forsyth County March for Babies ambassador family, shared their story with an audience of about 75 people Wednesday at Northside Hospital-Forsyth Women’s Center.

The group gathered to kick off this year’s local March for Babies effort, which is the largest fundraiser of the year for March of Dimes. The event is set for April 27 at Otwell Middle School.

Alice Shuman was born at 22 weeks, weighing just 13.4 ounces, her mother said.

“Her heart beat for an hour. It was very bittersweet for us, that hour,” Jessica Shuman said. “She never took a breath, she never made a sound, but she was perfect. Unfortunately, she was a perfect baby that was born too soon.”

A week later, Drake was born at 1 pound and 5 ounces. “And once again, he was born at 23 weeks, he was too little to live,” she said.

As a way to work their way through their grief and have something on which to focus, the Shumans decided to get involved with the local March for Babies effort.

“As were trying to pick up the pieces and mourn our loss, I began looking for something to do that would honor our babies,” Jessica Shuman said. “That’s when I found the March of Dimes. I started the team Angel Twins 2011 …we were able to raise close to $7,000 our very first year.”

The March of Dimes, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, works to ensure that all babies are born healthy.

Wednesday’s kickoff lunch began the fundraising season for March for Babies, which asks teams to collect as many donations as possible for the effort.

Team members gathered at Northside to pick up materials needed and to receive inspiration from a number of speakers, including the Shumans.

On May 18, the Shumans were able to welcome Josie Doriah to their family. Due to careful oversight by Jessica’s doctors, she was able to successfully carry her to 41 weeks gestation.

Today, the Shumans are serving as the ambassador family as a way to honor the memory of their twins while celebrating the efforts of March of Dimes that helped them have a healthy Josie.

“The mission of the March of Dimes gave us an outlet to turn the death of our children into something positive and something that prevents others from experiencing that world-shattering grief of losing a child to prematurity,” Jessica Shuman said.

Several other speakers also discussed the organization’s mission and shared encouragement for the teams. Among them was Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans, who is the honorary chairman of this year’s event.

Evans said ensuring the healthy birth of every baby is important for the school system, which each year welcomes about 3,000 new kindergarteners.

“One of the things that we know … is that children need to come to us ready to learn, whether it be physical development, academic development, social development, all of that is a part of the process of helping us to be successful,” he said.

“So we have a huge stake in ensuring that we work together with those in our community to bring children into our school system who are ready to learn. The better we are in that process, the better we’ll educate children.”

 

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