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Marching on for babies
Celebration of healthy tots moves indoors
March WEB 1
Jessica and Matthew Shuman, holding daughter Josie, participate in the annual March for Babies on Saturday at Otwell Middle School. - photo by Jennifer Sami

The shift to an indoor venue Saturday couldn’t diminish the annual March for Babies’ celebration of healthy babies and the March of Dimes’ 75th anniversary.

The walk, held in Otwell Middle School’s gym, was bittersweet for Jessica and Matthew Shuman. In March 2011, the couple lost their twins, Drake and Alice, who were born months ahead of schedule.

Their daughter, born at 22 weeks and son, born at 23 weeks, were too small to survive, Jessica Shuman explained to a crowd of walk participants.

“We walk for our twins,” said Jessica Shuman to the crowd of about 300 participants. “We were trying to make something positive out of our tragedy.”

The couple also walked Saturday for appreciation. For the first time, they took part with a new teammate, their 11-month-old daughter Josie.

“Because of research and new medical technology, all funded by the March of Dimes, I was able to have a healthy baby,” Jessica Shuman said. “It’s the joy of hearing that healthy baby cry in the hospital that keeps us going as mothers and fathers.”

The cause drew Jenny Kooy to start walking seven years ago, long before son Jacob was born six weeks early. He weighed just more than 3 pounds when he arrived at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

“We had great care, and I think March of Dimes supported that great care,” she said, adding she hopes all babies are born after at least 39 weeks gestation. “And through the research and funding they do, the March of Dimes is going to bring us to that point.”

While the muggy weather didn’t dampen the spirit of the walkers, it did confine them to the school’s gym, where they took 36 laps to equal the original four-mile outdoor trek. The event still featured dancing, face painting, games, food and performances by the South Forsyth High School’s drum line.

Buster Evans, superintendent of the Forsyth County school system, served as the event’s honorary chairman.

The district, he said, was the second largest fundraiser in the state for the organization last year. He also noted each year, 3,000 students enroll in kindergarten in Forsyth.

“And each of those 3,000 children have been impacted ... by the March of Dimes,” he said.