Walking for every baby, every mother

Brynley Offerman is having a birthday party, and everyone is invited.

The soon-to-be-1-year-old baby girl from Fort Dodge will celebrate her arrival in this world just two days before the community comes together to participate in the annual March for Babies on April 26 at Dodger Stadium.

A fundraising campaign for the March of Dimes, the event is essential to the non-profit organization’s mission to supporting families and fund research to ensure the healthy delivery of full-term babies.

“It’s a wonderful event for families who have had premature babies or have worked with the March of Dimes,” said Lizzie White, communication director for the central division of the Iowa chapter, “but we also want new people to come and learn about us because we are an organization that touches everyone’s lives.”

It’s also going to be a bit of a bash for Brynley Offerman whose family is the ambassador family for this year’s walk.

She was born about two weeks early, but both she and her mother, Haley Offerman, suffered complications. After a mostly typical and uneventful pregnancy, it was discovered in week 38 that Haley Offerman developed a severe form of pre-eclampsia that could only be cured by immediate delivery.

Brynley Offerman was quickly taken to the nursery at Trinity Regional Medical Center where she was put under observation.

When she failed to thrive as expected, the decision to airlift her to the neonatal intensive care unit at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines was made but not before her lung collapsed. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with congenital double pneumonia that caused holes in her lungs. She was in the NICU for 17 days before she fought off the infection, healed and learned to eat.

Brynley Offerman is now a healthy and happy baby, said her father Billy Offerman, and the family is now helping to spread the word about the March of Dimes.

The Offermans were approached to be ambassadors by a friend who works for the organization – and at first they wondered why they were approached.

“We did not think she understood our daughter was not premature,” he said, “but then she listed off what the March of Dimes helps with and we realized we fit the bill.”

Specifically, the organization’s efforts benefited them in terms of the development of the medication for Brynley’s lungs and the comfort offered to him and his wife while their little girl was in the NICU.

However, the March of Dimes also touches lives in the general population through programs such as folic acid education to prevent birth defects, educating mothers on the importance of regular prenatal care, and newborn screenings for at least 30 serious health conditions.

Additionally, before the focus switched to premature births, the goal of the organization was to develop a vaccine for polio.

“Just come join us at the walk” Offerman said. “It’s about fun, it’s about healing and it’s about community. March of Dimes is there for every child and every mother. Everybody has been helped by what the March of Dimes has done.”