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March of Dimes fundraiser leads up to April walk in Forsyth County

CUMMING — Bentley Blackman was named after his father’s love for cars and for the fact that his parents would have bought several of the vehicles by the time they brought their son home from the hospital.

The newborn went through months of intensive care after being born at 27 weeks and weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces.

Even though his parents were told at 17 weeks pregnant he had a 1 percent chance of survival, they did not give up.

The Blackmans were honored as this year’s ambassador family for the Forsyth County chapter of March of Dimes. The group kicked off its 2016 March for Babies campaign Wednesday at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

“This is our chance to tell our story and show the impact that Bentley’s birth had on our family, because it wasn’t just him and it wasn’t just me. It was all of us,” said Sarah Blackman, who attended the luncheon with her now 21-month-old son, her husband and their four other children.

“So many people wanted to help and do something, and there was so little for anyone to do. Now I can say this is it. This is how you can help other babies like Bentley by donating to March of Dimes.”

The nonprofit raises funds to support research and treatments, some of which directly benefitted the Blackman family.

“His lungs were very underdeveloped because he had no amniotic fluid, which helps develop the lungs,” Blackman said. “That was one of the things that helped him to be able to eventually breathe on his own.

“It was a long road with oxygen, but if we hadn’t had that medicine, there’s no way he would ever have survived that first day.”

Wednesday’s event, which also featured speakers from the hospital and recognition of last year’s top performers, showed photos of the Bentley and the Blackman family during his months in the hospital.

One picture showed his hand wrapping around his mother’s, covering only her fingernail.

Day nine was the first time Blackman could change her son’s diaper, while Day 11 was the first time she could hold him.

He was being transferred to Scottish Rite Hospital for surgery, Blackman said. Nurses knew he might not make it so they felt bad for the mother and let her hold her son.

Throughout the next few months, local teams made up of families, schools and businesses will raise money for the cause, with 75 cents of every dollar going to research and medicine.

One in 10 babies is born premature, said Amanda Meeks, March of Dimes chair for Forsyth County.

Everything will lead to a Walk for Babies on April 22 at Piney Grove Middle School.

Six months later, Bentley is off oxygen support and can breathe on his own.

“I just don’t want more mothers to have a story that doesn’t have a happy ending,” Blackman said.